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Defensive Strategies: Part 2

August 30, 2011 Defense No Comments

Defensive strategies: Part 2
By Wayne Anderson
Oct 30, 2001, 11:14


Hockey is a game of motion, and where the puck or ball goes determines what a player must do on the floor. Once the opposition crosses the red line, a system of defensive zone coverage must take effect. The same concepts of containment, support, pressure, outnumbering, and the transition game that we use in the offensive zone then become critical in the defensive zone.

One of the keys to a good defense is players who come back and back check when the opposition is breaking down the surface. Always try and force the attack of the opposition away from the prime scoring areas—the slot and any place inside of the defensive zone faceoff circles. The closer the play gets to the net the more tenacious the defensive attitude should become.

One of the keys to any success—offensive or defensive—in hockey is communication.


The one-on-one should be thought of as an individual battle—him against you. Containment, forcing the player to the outside and taking away the skating space, is the key to the one-on-one. As the defender, you must keep your body between the puck or ball and the net, and learn to use your stick effectively. In roller hockey the stick check is your most effective weapon.

Some do’s and don’ts when defending the one-on-one:

Do watch the player’s chest or stomach. Don’t watch the puck.

Do force the puck/ball carrier to the outside. Don’t allow the player to cut back inside on you, or give up the inside lane.

Do size up your opponent and be patient. Don’t keep backing up deep into the zone.

Try and surprise the offensive player with sudden, quick moves, but don’t over extend to poke check. In other words, stay balanced.


The biggest thing that one must remember when faced with an outnumbered attack is to force the puck/ball carrier wide and stay in between as many players as possible. Usually we can only be effective staying between two players, although sometimes the opposition makes our job easier by staggering straight across the rink. In that situation we can cover all of their players.

We must also talk with our goalkeepers and understand during a two-on-one, or other numerical inequality, who will take the shooter and who will cover the pass.

A normal two-on-one should unfold something like this: Puck/ball carrier comes down one side and the defense forces him/her wide. A second offensive player joins the rush and the defender stays in between the two players—trying to cut off the passing lane. The goaltenders are usually responsible for the shooter, and the defenseman is responsible for forcing the player wide and cutting off the pass.

The main objective when we are faced with numerical inequality is to try and delay the opposition as long as possible, with the hope and expectation that the rest of your team will come back (quickly) and help out.

Even when defensive strategy is executed properly, the opposition still has a very good chance of scoring. Obviously, the best way to defend a two-on-one is not to allow it to happen.

In the defensive zone

Some keys when playing defense in your own zone while skating four-on-four or five-on-five:

Pressure the puck/ball carrier at all times. The space and time available to the puck carrier must be kept to a minimum.

The offense must be contained, and not allowed to move the puck/ball into the prime scoring area. All defensive players must be on the defensive side of their opposition, and force them to the outside.

Don’t back in too deep. This causes nightmares for the goaltender. Let the goalie see the play. Position the defense to prevent rebound shots and to gain possession of the puck.

If you adhere to these simple principles, you should experience good defensive zone coverage regardless of the system your team uses. l


Wayne Anderson is Managing Director of Huron Hockey’s roller hockey schools.

This first appeared in the 08/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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