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The ice surface of a hockey rink is divided into several sections, or zones, which are delineated by the blue line. The red line, however, divides the ice down its center horizontally and is crucial to many aspects of the game. The red line indicates, among other things, center ice where the opening face off of every period as well as face offs after goals take place. These face offs take place in the middle of the red line, at the face off circle. Most importantly, the red line –- also known as the center line –- is used to determine icing calls.
Icing occurs when an offensive player shoots the puck from behind the red line and it passes the opposing team’s goal line. Because the goal line is also red, icing can most easily be recognized if the puck passes two red lines after an offensive player shoots it. Once the puck has been iced, a defensive player must touch the puck before an offensive player in order to stop play. In some leagues, no-touch icing is observed and the play is whistled dead after the puck crosses the goal line, regardless of whether the defensive player touches the puck. Once the puck has been iced, the play is dead and both teams cross the red line to the other side of the ice for a face off.
The red line used to play an important role in one rule of hockey called the two line pass. If a player passed the puck from behind their defensive blue line to another player who was on the offensive side of the red line, the play was whistled dead and that team was considered off sides. Recent rule changes in the National Hockey League (NHL), however, have made this type of pass legal. The red line is no longer considered in the two line pass rule, and instead only the blue lines are considered.
One final feature of the red line is the referee’s crease. This is an area on one end of the red line that has no effect on regular play. However, when play is stopped and the referee must consult with the scorekeepers, he enters the referee crease, an outlined area around one end of the red line in which only the referee may stand. If a player enters the referee crease during this time, that player can be ejected from the game. This area around the red line is intended to keep players from interfering with official scorekeeping or refereeing of a game during disputed calls.
Why is the Red Line dotted and not solid?