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Positioning in Hockey – The Definitive Guide to Ice Hockey Positions (With Images)

Positioning in Hockey

Do you love hockey and want to know more about the sport? Are you looking for a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand guide to positioning in ice hockey?  In this post, I dive deep into all there is to know about positioning in one of the world’s most popular team sports.

I aim to provide valuable insight into positions such as center, left wing, right wing, left defense, and right defense. All the important details, from puck control and stick handling skills required for each position, are laid out for your easy reference and understanding.

Key Takeaways

A Brief History Of Ice Hockey Positions

Since 1897, the game of ice hockey has evolved significantly. The original seven positions in ice hockey were known as rovers, centers, and point men. Rovers shared a double duty of defense & offense and played in every zone of the rink.

Centers typically held an offensive position while also performing some defensive duties when needed. Meanwhile, point men had a major offensive role and acted as gatekeepers to help launch an attack from their own side of center ice toward the opponent’s netting.

In 1924, Canada developed its first set of diamond-shaped player positions with three forwards (left wing C & R) and two defensemen that formed its then National Hockey League rules NHL Team formation In today’s modern age, four lines form which includes two wings (Left Wing LW & Right Wing RW), one forward for each position (Center).

On defense two players stand at either side (Left defense zone & Right defense zone), with one goaltender standing behind them in front of the net ready to save goals from any attacking attempt made by opponents coming down from offense.

Today, technology has advanced driving high-speed machines. Coaches adapt tactics, emphasizing creative positioning over force. This benefits puck carriers offensively and defensively. Skillful maneuvers pass defenders using accuracy. This increases teams’ chances in achieving game-winning goals.

Positioning in Hockey - Deep Dive

In Ice Hockey, positioning is moving about your teammates and opponents to get an advantage. Positioning is a key skill for all players but becomes especially important for goalkeepers, defensemen, and centers.

The six positions in Hockey are:

  1. Goalie

  2. Defenseman

  3. Center

  4. Left Wing

  5. Right Wing

  6. Power Play Specialist/Penalty Killer (this position is not always considered a distinct position, as players from any position can be utilized in these roles)

Ice Hockey is played with two teams of six people each. Each team tries to get the puck forward into the opponent’s net while preventing them from scoring. Two teams play against each other in alternating periods of 20 minutes, with a 5-minute break between periods.

The ice is divided into five zones: defensive zone (home), neutral zone (middle), and offensive zone (far away). In addition, there are six different positions: goaltender (goalie), defensemen (left defenseman and right defenseman), left wing, right wing, and Center—and they’re all important.

The relationship between a Winger and Center can be very beneficial for your team—but it takes time for both players to learn how to work together effectively.

In this blog, I’ll discuss what makes these two players different from one another so that you can better understand how they interact during playtime!

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Three Zones in Ice Hockey

three Zones-in-Ice-Hockey

The blue line is one of the two lines that divide the rink into three zones: the offensive zone, the neutral zone, and the defensive zone. The blue line runs parallel to the boards and is located approximately 64 feet (19.5 meters) from the end boards, dividing the rink into the offensive zone and the defensive zone.

Then there is goal crease, which I will explain later in this guide.

It is the ice surface that’s usually divided into these 3 zones. These zones are often called the “D-zone” and the “O-zone.”

The defensive zone is the area of the ice where your team’s goaltender guards their goal net. The neutral zone is the middle of the rink between the blue lines. This is where most plays occur. 

Finally, the offensive zone is where an opposing team tries to get their puck into your net with only one defender in front of it at all times.



Goalies are the last line of defense. They have special rules, equipment, and roles. For example, goalies can use their hands to stop pucks traveling at high speeds; other players cannot. Goalies also wear special equipment that gives them extra protection from hard shots from opposing team players.

An ice hockey goalie plays a difficult position on the ice, responsible for protecting the goal and stopping the opposing team from scoring. In addition, they must be able to move quickly from side to side, as shots can come from both the left and right sides of the ice.

Additionally, the goalie position differs from the other players, as they are the only player on the ice specifically tasked with protecting the goal.

Defensive Zone

The defensive zone is the ice area closest to the net and at one end of the rink. In hockey, it’s where defensemen are stationed and responsible for protecting the goal and clearing the puck out if necessary.

The defensive zones are the sections of the ice between the center ice and the opposing team’s goal. This is where the game’s best players can shine, as they are constantly under pressure from the opposing team trying to score. 

The Defensive End in Ice Hockey

It refers to the area of the ice in front of a team’s own goal. The defensive end is where the defensive players, including the goaltender, focus their efforts on preventing the other team from scoring.

The defensive players in this area are typically forwards who are tasked with playing a more defensive role, such as blocking shots and checking opposing players. They are also known as the defensemen. 

They play in the defensive zone, and their main objective is to prevent the opponent  team from scoring and to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. They are also responsible for making the first pass out of the defensive zone to start the offensive play.

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Defensemen in Hockey


In hockey game, the defensemen help the goalie (goaltender) by preventing opposing players on the other team from entering the defensive zone. As such, both the left defenseman and the right defenseman play a crucial role in stopping goals from going into the net. They chase down puck carriers and apply body checks to force them off of their game. 

Left defensemen and right defensemen are the last line of defense and are often called upon to defend the goal. They often have more skilled players than other positions on the team and are typically taller than the forwards. They should block shots as much as possible.

To protect against breakaway attacks, both the defensemen will always try to place themselves between an attacking player and their goal. They also use their stick to pass back and forth with a teammate when attempting to clear out opposing players from around the other team’s net.

The defensemen are also responsible for the box formation by positioning themselves at the top of the face-off circles, while the forwards play a more conservative role, dropping back to help out in the defensive zone.

Defensive Positioning

Defensive positioning in hockey is a game of strategy. You have to know where you are at all times, and you have to be able to talk with your teammates about where you are going to be and what you’re doing.

Left defensemen, right defensemen, and playing defensemen are all positions that a player can play on the ice. They all involve being in the defensive zone, but they do different things, and other players usually fill each role.

The right winger and the left corner also play offense by taking faceoffs from the side boards when their team gain possession of the puck, which puts them in a position to score and defend their goal from attacking forwards who want to take it away from them.

Both these hockey positions are also responsible to get shots on the net by passing lanes.

Play Defenseman

A play defenseman is usually one who can play both ways well enough that it does not matter which side he plays on; however, there are some teams where it may matter more than others depending on how much weight is placed on each position’s responsibilities within different systems.

Neutral Zone

Neutral Zone in Ice Hockey 1

The neutral zone is that area between the two blue lines where the puck must be kept. It’s a game of possession, and teams need to work together to get the puck into their offensive zone (the area between their blue line and the red line of the opposing team).

You’ll see this happening most often when there’s a stoppage of play—whether it’s because someone got injured or there was an icing call or whatever else—because that gives players on both sides a chance to regroup.

Even if your team doesn’t have possession of the puck in this zone, you still need to know what the other team might do next. Is he going for another pass? Will he try skating with it himself?

If so, what angle should I be covering him from in case he gets past me? These kinds of questions can only be answered by watching how other players are moving around during those moments when they don’t have possession, either.

If you notice someone taking off with his stick on his backhand side while no one else is blocking him off, then chances are good that something bad could happen soon!

Offensive Zone

The offensive zone is where all the action happens. The area below the red line and in front of your net is called the “zone,” as it’s a place where you’re allowed to have your stick on the ice. In fact, any part of your body can be there as long as your skates aren’t touching any part of the blue lines or boards.

In this area, players get plenty of chances to create scoring opportunities for their team. Just don’t use your stick in an attacking position unless it’s obvious that you’re going to shoot and not pass or fake out someone else with a fake shot – otherwise, they’ll call icing on you (which means stopping play).

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Left Winger

The left wing, or simply left winger, is a forward position in ice hockey. Left wingers are generally expected to score more goals than other forwards and be more involved in playing offense. They typically work for a team’s skilled hockey players (forwards) instead of defensemen or goalies.

Left Wingers should lock down the opposing team’s right defenseman or intercepting the puck passes between the two. They are viewed as an offensive-minded position requiring speed, quickness, creativity, and physicality.

A good left winger needs to have fast skating speed, strong puck handling skills, good hands, and the ability to create plays off of their teammates’ passes or shots on goal.

Right Wing or Right Wingers

A right winger in ice hockey is a player who typically plays on the right side of the ice during the game. Right wings are usually considered offensive players and their main role is to score goals and create scoring opportunities for their team.

They are responsible for shooting the puck, getting it to the net, and scoring goals. The right winger is also responsible for passing to their Center when they’re open. So if you’ve got a great shot, this position may be good for you!



Centers, who are often referred to as the “engine” of a hockey team, are players who are responsible for controlling and managing the flow of play on the ice. Centers must be able to skate fast, handle the puck easily, and shoot it where they want it to go.

The Center’s role is very crucial in the game. They must be reliable passers who can deliver accurate passes to their teammates at any time. They also need to be effective shooters in order for their team’s offense strategy to work efficiently. Therefore, centers must have both good hands and a good vision on the ice in order for them to succeed effectively in their positions.

Hockey Player Roles

The Center is the most important position on the ice because defensemen can only score with a pass from a center. The Center should be able to pass, shoot, and skate. He also needs to be able to play both sides of the ice.

The winger should start in his own end with puck possession and then skate up to help his team’s defensemen regain possession of the puck. If this doesn’t work, he must backcheck quickly so that if they do lose control again, they will have someone back there ready for them (backchecking).

The winger should always stay with his defensive zone partner. They must stay close enough so as not to allow opponents any room around themselves. And provide support through passing or shooting opportunities into open areas on the net.

Instead of trying too hard at first glance, which might cause deflections leading nowhere but off-target shots by accident instead!

The Winger-Center Relationship

The winger-center relationship is the most important on the ice. Both positions are crucial to winning games, but they play very different roles in a hockey team.

The Center is the playmaker who uses its positioning and vision to create scoring chances for their hockey team. They must be able to see what other players are doing, anticipate where they’re going, and be able to pass them the puck when they’re open in a way that lets them take advantage of it without missing an opportunity to score themselves.

The winger needs good skating skills so he can keep up with his teammates as they move around with possession of the puck. He also needs good stickhandling skills so he can protect it from opponents who try to steal it away from him on defense; this makes for more opportunities for him later on offense when he gets back into possession himself after stealing it from someone else!

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Three Forwards in Hockey

In hockey, the three forwards are typically made up of one Center and two wingers, one on the left side and one on the right side. These three players are responsible for scoring goals and creating offense for their team. They play in the offensive zone and are expected to be strong skaters, puck handlers, and shooters.

The Center is usually the playmaker of the three forwards and is responsible for taking face-offs and setting up scoring opportunities for their teammates. The wingers are responsible for getting the puck to the front of the net and scoring goals. They are also expected to defend and backcheck when the puck is in the defensive zone.

The three forwards often work together in order to create scoring chances. They may pass the puck back and forth, looking for an open teammate or a shooting lane, or they may use their speed and skill to carry the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

While the three forwards are primarily responsible for an offense, they are also expected to play a role in defense by backchecking and helping out in the defensive zone. A strong forward line will be able to contribute at both ends of the ice.

Note: together, the centers, the forwards, and the two defensemen require a high hockey IQ to be able to play and win the game strategically, especially during the power play and penalty kill.

The Extra Zone in Ice Hockey: Goal Crease


The crease is the shaded blue area in front of each hockey goal. It serves as a boundary for the goalies and an area where they are allowed to play with the puck. If any other player gets into the crease with his stick or skates while play is going on, they will be penalized by having a penalty called on them.

Now Let's talk about other roles in hockey games: Team Captains

The Captain is the leader of the team and is responsible for discussing calls with the referee if there is a disagreement. Or explaining the team’s strategy during timeouts. Team captains in ice hockey wear the letter “C” on their jerseys.

Any player can be a team captain in ice hockey, except for the goalie, who has special privileges as a field captain.

If a captain is unable to play for any reason, the alternate Captain is in charge and leading his team while the other one addresses his own job with the coach.

Usually, the alternate Captain is on standby if the Captain needs to leave the game or is unable to play. If two or three alternate captains are on a team, then all but one of them will wear an “A” on their jerseys.

So which is the most important hockey position?

It’s important to remember that ice hockey is a team sport, and every position is critical to the team’s success. A well-rounded team with players who excel in their respective positions and work together as a unit is typically the most successful.

However, some positions like Goalie may have more of an impact than others depending on the situation or the team’s style of play.

Communication And Coordination Between The Players

Effective communication is a crucial part of any sports team and more so in hockey. As the game requires execution of well-coordinated actions by players, team members must develop skills to both understand calls from fellow teammates and respond accordingly.

Besides verbal cues such as words, shouts or whistles, nonverbal forms of communication — like body language gestures — can be used to direct other players on an ice rink.

To enhance productivity through effective coordination among its members, a study conducted in 2015 in soccer teams revealed that passing activities were responsible for 63% out of all forward interactions between two or more teammates on the field.

In line with this research result, USA Hockey Coaching Manual for Disabled Amputees also emphasized the importance of understanding each player’s strengths and weaknesses at various positions and placing appropriate people around them when developing teamwork strategies (USA Hockey Inc).

Moreover, good team chemistry can help build trust among players which would eventually benefit their performance; resulting in cleaner passes, smoother breakouts through neutral zone transition drills as seen in basketball, greater puck possessiveness near corners within offensive zones during power plays activities.

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Understanding and Responding to Calls

hockey Players

Effective communication and coordination among players is an integral part of the game of ice hockey. Without effective teamwork, it can be difficult for teams to achieve success in this fast-paced sport.

Communication in particular plays a major role when it comes to positioning on the ice as teammates must work together to find the ideal spot on either offense or defense.

Being able to recognize your teammate’s calls quickly can help you dodge defenders while also providing support during defensive play. It’s important that all players have sound knowledge regarding positional cues, passing pathways, and basic techniques such as using opposing players as screens.

Knowing what calls each position requires permits quicker response times and allows coaches to more effectively place their teams when sudden changes occur during the course of competition.

Training and Development for Effective Positioning

Positioning in hockey is an essential skill, and mastering it requires serious training and development. Players must learn to read the game and anticipate moves by others on the ice.

There are various strategies that players can use to perfect their positioning in games. Through analyzing videos of past matches they can practice recognizing different plays as they unfold live with greater accuracy and speed.

Skaters should also attend hockey clinics or camps aimed at improving their technical fundamentals such as skating technique or puck handling ability – all factors that contribute to effective positioning during the match.

Goalkeepers require specialized instruction for maximizing both their qualitative technical attributes (like reflexes) but also quantitative performance stats (such as a good save percentage).

Consistent repetition helps train muscles for coordination on the ice; typically conditioning drills like plyometrics focusing on sprints from endline to endline improve power output while simulating realistic gameplay conditions!

Off-ice sessions also enable practice refining reactions with shooting exercises focused around hand-eye coordination which further hone interpretation of game patterns for great positional play once back on the rink top surface fighting for glory!


In ice hockey, the success of teams relies heavily on players’ and coaches’ skills, demonstrated through effective teaching of positioning concepts. Therefore, selecting the right coaches is crucial. Positioning is pivotal, determining puck control and player advantage. 

Comprehending positions, roles, and responsibilities lets players utilize strengths while maintaining game flow. Team coordination, achieved through various on-ice communication forms, including verbal cues, gestures, and timing, is essential for optimal positioning.