Man in the Middle: The Hockey Center

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By Evan Tabachnick

 

The sport of ice hockey is awesome, but it also involves constant learning of the fundamentals of the game. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when one moves from the wing to center, there is quite a bit of responsibility added to his or her game.

I went through this transformation first hand. Upon hanging up the pads, thus ending my goaltending career in favor of playing forward, my first thought was the freedom and seemingly carefree life a winger enjoys. In comparison to a goalie’s job, the two are just about polar opposites: Maximum defensive responsibility versus room for offensive creativity.

I always thought I had a knack for scoring goals, being that I began my hockey career on the wing and would frequently work on my hands and shooting skills, even during my goaltending career.

Almost all hockey players are familiar with the release one experiences when firing shots dangerously close to windows, garage doors, basement appliances, etc. Pumped to begin my new life as a goal scorer, my first few games out of the crease were fruitless, punctuated by endless criticism from the bench.

 

“I Am a Hockey Center”

“You’re too deep!” they’d yell, and way too often. Too deep in the defensive zone is what they were referring to. I just knew, as a goalie, you never get enough help back there. I felt bad for my fellow netminders and wanted to offer a bit of help. It took a few seasons of experimenting with my positioning before it dawned on me one night when I was asked to help out and play center. I am a hockey center!

It couldn’t have felt more natural. The pressure of a big faceoff brought me back to my days as a goalie, praying for my center to get the job done in our own zone. My stick effortlessly found its way into passing and shooting lanes as pucks harmlessly popped up over the glass. My offensive game started to blossom as well, finding my linemates on breakout passes as well as them finding me in front of the net for goals.

Although the hockey center is often grouped with the forwards, it is a very unique position with room for those on both ends of the spectrum. Some are more offensive; some are like a third defenseman. I like to think of myself as a two-way center, constantly adapting to the changing situation. My teammates would probably disagree. Regardless of your style, there is one thing all centers have in common: Responsibility. A center can be held accountable for everything happening on the ice—a goal scored, a goal against, a goal prevented—whatever the case may be. Responsibility is the name of the game.

Forwards: think of how you play and and how it relates to your current position. Wingers: maybe it’s time you took your responsible game to center. Centers, perhaps you’re caught up the ice too often and you should try playing on the wing.

It took me a little while but I now know my place, and that’s right in the middle. As a hockey center.

Evan Tabachnick officially hung up his goalie gear four years ago. He hasn’t looked back since.

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