What Do Defenseman Do In Hockey – Explained

By Alex Mercer

June 24, 2022

A defenseman or defender is a crucial player in many sports.  The role of the defensive player is to block the forwards of the attacking team from scoring a goal or being able to press and pressure the goalkeeper. The defense position is common in sports like hockey, soccer, cricket, and volleyball.

Today, we look at the role of defensemen in hockey, a sport loved by many.

In ice hockey, there are two defensemen on the right and left sides, respectively. The main role of the defensemen is defending the defense zone from intruding players looking to score. Defensemen help the goalie by guarding unmanned areas to prevent oncoming direct shots toward the goal post. This way, they make the goalie’s work easier.

Responsibilities Of a Defenseman

Defenseman in Hockey
via Wikipedia

In a successful hockey team, players must know their roles and responsibilities. To win games, players must communicate and commit to their parts. That way, the team works as a unit, and the players complement each other.

Below are the roles and responsibilities of a defenseman:

  • A defenseman neutralizes forwards in the defensive zone.
  • He is blocking shots aimed toward the goal.
  • A defenseman initiates breakouts from the defensive zone.
  • Defensemen force turnovers by intercepting the puck from the opposing players.
  • The defensemen protect and support the goalie.
  • A defenseman maintains a good defensive position between the player with the puck and the net.
  • An elite defenseman is a poise. He shows calmness during critical situations in the game, and the entire team remains calm too.

Types of Defensemen  

There are three types of defensemen. A defenseman is either skilled in playing offensively or defensively. However, some defensemen possess both skills making them hybrid defensemen.

A defensive defenseman may not score very often, but that doesn’t deem them unnecessary. A defensive defenseman is strong and a great skater, especially when skating backward. In addition, they fiercely protect their territory.

Skills Of a Defenseman Without The Puck

Here are common defensive skills they have:

  • Gap control – Gap control is when the defenseman closes the distance between him and the forwards with the puck. With good decision-making, the defenseman will challenge the oncoming forward and get him off the scoring area.  
  • Change of puck possession – A defensive defenseman will initiate a shift in puck possession from the opponent. The defenseman engages players before they are too close to the scoring zone. With confidence, the defenseman will outmaneuver the forward, get the puck and pass it to a teammate.   
  • Skating backward – A defenseman should have excellent skating skills, and it is advantageous if he can slide backward. With this skill, the defenseman attacks the opponent effortlessly.
  • Fighting or hitting – In hockey, fighting or hitting is how the defensemen stop opponents from scoring. These skills create an intimidating presence, and the opposing team cannot approach the net.  

An offensive defenseman has an aggressive style of play. Other than defending, an offensive defenseman will make offensive rushes with the intent to score a goal.

Skills Of a Defenseman With The Puck

Below are some of their skill set:

  • Rushing the puck – The defenseman can defend the net and at the same time play an offensive role. So, with his stickhandling and skating skills, the defenseman will rush the puck in a breakaway, making an offensive push with the intent of scoring.
  • Ability to shoot – Defensemen don’t get many chances to make shots on the rink. However, when they do, their shots are consistent and precise. In addition, they can score long shots.
  • Supporting the rush – By investing in the rush, an offensive defenseman will position himself strategically where he can receive a pass from a teammate. However, the defenseman should assess the situation before joining in the rush and leaving his post unguarded.  

A hybrid defenseman can balance both offensive and defensive styles, making them unstoppable. Defensemen can develop mixed skills by practicing and studying the game. A hybrid defenseman has the following qualities:

  • Foresight – The defenseman should anticipate a move in advance to use the opportunity to his advantage.
  • Versatile – Defensemen should be flexible enough to execute any role on the rink.
  • Quick decision-making – Hybrid defensemen can make quick judgments and decisions in the heat of the game.  
  • Aware – Hybrid defensemen are aware of their surroundings, know the puck’s location, and can easily track any player on the rink.

Positioning In The Defensive Zone

The opponent team can score better if the defensemen pull out of their position or zone. There are three zones the defenseman is fully aware of:

  • The check zone is the zone within 5 feet of the player with the puck. Depending on the puck’s side, the defenseman from that zone should attack and start a breakout without giving the puck carrier a full body check.
  • The net zone is the zone ten feet from the net. At least one defenseman is left guarding this zone. The net zone is a high percentage scoring zone, meaning the defensemen should outnumber the attackers to lower their chances of a goal.
  • The support zone is approximately 5-15 feet from the puck carrier. When in this zone, the defenseman helps out in the corner and covers a player if necessary.  

Bottom Line 

A defenseman is a key player in hockey, given the important task of shutting down offensive players from the other team. Defensemen have excellent skating skills (especially backward), quick decision-making, speed, physical strength, and defensive skills.

As a result, defensemen keep breaking the opposing team’s scoring opportunities. The ideal hockey defenseman should have both offensive and defensive abilities. With practice and game study, a defenseman will become a hybrid defenseman.

About the author

Hey There! My Name is Alex and I run Get Hyped Sports. I created this platform to help people find their love for sports and gaming.

Our work has been featured on platforms like Mashable.com, SVG.com, and XXL.com.

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