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Basic Ice Hockey Positions Explained

Part of the Hockey For Dummies Cheat Sheet

An ice hockey team is made up of six players, each with a specific position and job. The job of offense is to score goals, and the defense is there to protect the goal. The following list describes each of the hockey positions:

  • Goalie: Perhaps the toughest position in all of sports, the goalie is the one player who can control a team’s confidence. His job is to keep the puck out of the net, and if he’s good, he can take his team a long way. Good goalies win championships.

  • Defensemen: A team at full strength has two — one on the left side and another on the right. Nowadays, there are three primary kinds of defensemen. One is creative and offensive-minded; he likes to handle the puck and lead the team up ice, but is not too physical. Another is defensive-minded, a stay-at-home bruiser who plays a physical game and doesn’t often venture out of his zone with the puck. And there are those rare athletes who are a combination of the two.

  • Right wing: He works the right side of the ice for the most part. He needs to be a physical player who is good along the boards and in the corner. He is responsible for the opposition’s left defenseman in the defensive zone.

  • Left wing: Traditionally a left-handed shot, but the NHL is seeing more right-handers playing this position now, a practice picked up from the Europeans. A right-hander has a better angle to shoot from when he’s coming in on his wing. Like the right wing, he needs to be able to dig out the puck from the corners and battle in front of the net.

  • Center: He quarterbacks his club at both ends of the ice. Must be good at face-offs and passing, and it doesn’t hurt if he's a good shot as well. Coaches want a lot of creativity in this position — and a lot of hockey smarts.

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