Utilize your skills best by understanding the different hockey positions in the game
By Hayden Blackwell
Hockey is one of the most exciting spectator sports in the world. It’s also incredibly fun to play. As with any sport, even more enjoyment of the game comes from having a solid understanding of the different hockey positions involved.
Here’s a look at the various positions in the game. We’ll also provide some tips on how to effectively play the position you may be interested in most, and give some examples of some of hockey’s great players in the game today.
What makes ice hockey so unique is that it’s a full-contact sport, all performed while wearing skates with blades that are merely 3mm-5mm thick. Professionally, the game is most popular in Canada and the US, with the National Hockey League (NHL) being the most well-known professional organization in hockey.
Each team is made up of at least 18 players, with six players—one of whom is the goaltender—on each side on the ice at any given time. (The exception being whether a team is penalized, having one or more players in the penalty box.) It’s each player’s responsibility to carry out their role and cover their areas, just like in any other team sport.
Millions of people watch hockey, and given its popularity it’s also a go-to sport for betting. It’s possible to get special offers and sportsbook bonuses for certain fixtures, particularly during the likes of the run to the Stanley Cup, the oldest and most coveted trophy in all of team sports.
The Various Hockey Positions
Here’s a look at the positions in hockey and the key facts on what to keep in mind. Just like in every team sport, it’s vital to have an understanding of the correct position of each player on the ice.
Center: The center position is one of the most important. Centers play in the most advanced position and are relied upon for goals and assists, with support from the wings. Their role involves competing in face-offs, which are breaks in play where the puck is dropped to regain possession and restart play. They also provide defensive support in putting pressure on the opposing team’s players. Many Stanley Cup-winning teams have excellent centers.
The top centers in the league today are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Wing: As with the defense, there are two wingers, each one occupying the right and left flanks. Wingers provide key attacking threats, driving down their lanes to get off shots. Wingers will often cut inside from the flank to drive in shots.
Wingers track back to clear the puck out of the corners; do all they can to block shots; and linger for the quick counter-attack in case possession is regained. This positions requires a good bit of defensive work too.
Some of the best wingers in the NHL these days include Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames; Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers; and Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild.
Defense: There are usually two defenders in the lineup of hockey teams, one playing on the left and the other on the right side. Defensemen provide vital cover for the goalie, blocking shots, making interceptions and disrupting the play. They also provide attacking support.
This means that defenders need to almost be all-around highly skilled players, but specialists in closing passing lanes and regaining possession of the puck. They also need to be able to pass on the breakout, and depending on the tactics employed, drive forward and attack too.
There have been many legendary defenders in NHL history. Debate still rages as to who is the best of all time, but some of the best currently on the ice are Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators; Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche; and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Goalie: This is arguably the toughest position in hockey. To put your body on the line as goalies do might make it the position that requires the most fitness and athleticism in all of sports.
The role the goalie performs is quite simple–keep the puck from crossing the line and lighting up the red light behind the goal. But there’s much more to it than that. With so many players zipping around them, goaltenders train long and hard to deflect shots in safe directions to prevent rebounded goals.
They also train extensively on their ability to read developing plays and focus on the puck. They need to be able to communicate effectively with their teammates too, given they can see the entire sheet of ice. And above all, they need to be fearless.
Some of the best goaltenders in the NHL include Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers; and Darcy Kuemper of the Colorado Avalanche.
Once you know where you want to be on the ice, it’s up to you to learn all you can about the position and get yourself in the best possible shape—both physically and mentally.
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