An Ultimate Guide to Hockey Positions and Their Purpose!  

When you look at the Ice hockey match, it might seem as if the game has no specific positions for the players and does not appear as an organized player’s game stage. But for each sport, ice hockey also has a definite set of positions for players to organize a proper match.

In ice hockey, there are multiple positions, and each has its responsibility and purpose. Each player’s position helps other players’ position, and the contribution of all these positions makes it best to win a game.

Hockey Positions

The ice Hockey match arena is set on five players’ positions, but six players are standing on the ice.

  1. Forward – 3 Positions
    • Center
    • Left Wing
    • Right Wing
  1. Defensemen – 2 Positions
    • Right Defenseman
    • Left Defenseman
  1. Goalie – Each team has one goalie to stop the coming puck into the net.

Let’s get into the details of the functions of these positions.

Forward – Center

The center position is, without doubt, the most important in the whole team, having a strong influence on the offensive zone and directing the games, as well as a key role on the defensive side. Center players’ game sense and vision are of high level, plus with the best stick handling and top-notch puck passing skills, they are the most valuable and high-class players on the team.

Purpose of the Forward – Center

The primary task of the center is to win the face-off. Winning a face-off is vital to gaining puck possession as soon as center players try to take the face-off, their wingers take control of the puck. When the puck is in the offensive zone, center players lead the game by dictating the play and great puck passes.

On the defensive side, they are responsible for countering the opposing team’s forward man, who is also taking much control of the puck. They are tasked to lock down the defensive zone slot area because they have the most surface area to look after or cover, ranging from their net to the blue line to the face-off dot.

Usually, the most popular Hall of Fame players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are center ones, including the current stars like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.

Forward – Left Wing & Right Wing

The left and right-wing almost have the same roles other than the side of their standing position. However, there can be variations in their tasks based on the system used.

The highest goal scorers in the team are wingers. They are the leading goal scorers in a hockey arena. The left Winger is great in wrist and slap shots, while the Right Wing is best in sniping corners and playing their master shots. They both are exceptional in suing their feet and controlling the puck with sticks, making a way to win the battle against opponents. In addition to these skills, they must understand ice vision well to find a safe place for an open shot.

Purpose of the Forward – Left and Right Wing

When the center man takes the puck, he is looking for a winger to pass the puck in a scoring position. They are assigned to carry the puck on the offensive side and set the game for their other players.

On the defensive side, they are responsible for clearing the puck and halting the opposing defense from getting into their offensive zone. If the puck gets into control of opponents, they do their best to go down the ice in a chance of breakout pass. Moreover, wingers stand between the blue line and face-off to guard their team and block the offensive team’s defensemen not to let them play a quality shot.

Left wingman comes with another responsibility in a defensive system known as a left-wing lock. He sometimes stays up high to play along with the left defenseman when another team exiting its defense side gives them a tough time transitioning from defense to offense zone, creating a turnover. The left-wing lock can quickly employ this to have scoring chances.

Defensemen – Left & Right

Defensemen, as with their name, is to defend their team by preventing opponents from scoring and making it difficult for them to transition from offense to defense. A good defenseman has a significant ability in reading to guess the game of the opposing team and where the puck is during the entire game. Defensemen have extraordinary skating abilities and are mastered backward skating. They are good at passing and shooting pucks, specifically when making breakout shots.

Purpose of the Defensemen – Left & Right

To stop the opposing team from scoring, defensemen work on these four points.

  1. Blocking of passing and shooting lines: a defenseman tries to stop any pass from getting to the goaltender.
  2. Interrupt the transition and breakout flow: with stick and body position tactics, they guide the players towards the outside, stopping them from entering the net. 
  3. Taking puck outside of defensive zone: a master defenseman has excellent skills in puck recovering from the hands of the opposing team and quickly skating it out of their zone or passing it toward forward for an offensive attack.
  4. Net protecting: defensemen bring the forwards out from the front of the goalie, who is countering the goalie and usually tangles their sticks with opponents by lifting the sticks.

Goaltender Position

The goalie is a crucial player in a team and plays an essential role in defending and saving his crew. A team can never play a match without the goalkeeper.

Purpose of the Goaltender Position

They are assigned one crucial task: to stop the puck from going into the net by applying any means possible. Goalies almost use all parts of their body to protect their net by preventing the puck even though there are other means to stop the puck, but as it allows them to use their body, they are manageable with that.

To face shots traveling at 100mph isn’t something easy but deadly serious that even Glenn Hull, like legendary goaltender, calls it “60 minutes of hell”.

A match win mostly counts on a goalie’s critical saves and sacrifices!

Position Numbers on Each Hockey Team

  1. Professional/ Official NHL hockey
  2. Mini hockey

Professional / NHL Hockey

In professional hockey teams like of NHL, each group or a roaster is composed of 23 players. Among them, 20 players get dressed for a game.

These 20 players broke down into 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 1 goalie. One backup goalie is also there if the coach feels the need to change if the goalie does not play well or has any injury during the game.

About 12 forwards, 4 center men are divided into 4 right-wing and 4 left-wing. And 6 defensemen break into 3 right defensemen and 3 left defensemen.

Mini Hockey

At the recreational or minor hockey level, an average team is comprised 14 players. Out of those, 9 are forwards, 4 are defensemen, and 1 goalie. 3 forwards and 2 defense lines will be on the ice arena. All players get dressed up for a game as there are negligible chances of injuries.

The Bottom Line on Hockey Positions

These three fundamental positions (forwards, defensemen and goalie) influence the game. Each plays a critical part during the game, battling and in, passing, and possessing the puck. Playing in these positions requires specific skills to make the players victorious.

Thus, the fusion of these position players’ skills makes the game outclass and turns it in their favor. Anyway, if you are new to hockey, try each position that will be fun and give a good experience to have a good understanding of the different skills of these positions.

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