Hockey is a team sport. For a team to succeed, every player should play their part. While on the ice, every player needs to understand their position and role to maximize available scoring opportunities and minimize chances of conceding.
The hockey game revolves around the center. The center is in charge of coordinating plays on the field and creating scoring opportunities. They also come to the aid of the other players whenever they are under pressure. They can move from their side of the rink to the opponent back and forth.
However, that does not mean that the center’s work is just to move up and down the rink. They can move up and down the rink to help out wingers, make passes, score goals, defend, cause trouble on the opponent’s side, win face-offs and lead break-outs and back checks.
What To Do As a Center In The Offensive Zone
While you are in the offensive zone, the major role of the center is to offer support to the other players. Therefore, the center should be actively adjusting their position relative to how the puck is moving in the zone to position themselves in the best place to either defend the puck if the team loses it or make a strategic pass or shoot if the ball comes to them.
When your team is in possession, the center’s primary goal is to find an open space where they can get the ball.
Therefore, a center should always be in motion so that they can execute moves and pass fast before the defenders charge toward them.
They should also coordinate with the other winger so that if one is open, the other can move to the slot or the backdoor so that they can take advantage of rebounds.
It is important that a center remembers at all times that they are the support guy in the rink. If the punk is in the support area and not in your possession or that of your winger, then you should be quick to move where the ball is and help your winger gain possession of the puck.
If they are double-teamed, you should be very proactive in bailing them out and winning the puck so that you can pass it to the open winger.
At all times, a center should be ahead of the game, finding loopholes in the opponent’s defense, creating an opening for wingers to pass, and helping the wingers press forward to break the opponent’s defense and score goals.
What To Do As a Center In a Defensive Zone
The role of support by the center still holds even in the defensive zone. Contrary to what you do in the offensive zone, in the defensive zone, a center is trying to stop the puck from going through their goal and clear it as fast and as far as possible.
When the opponents come to your goal, they try as much as possible to pull the team to one side and then leave one man open where they can just pass and catch you unaware.
As a good center player, you cannot let this happen. So when the opponents launch an attack, and one of your defenders is one on one with their winger, cover any other opponent closer to your goal in order to block any cross-ice passes.
As the support guy in the game, you should ensure that no teammate is overwhelmed or double-teamed. In addition, you should be there to tie up any open opponents and ensure they do not execute their plays.
While in your defensive zone, you should think like the attacking opponent. When you do so, you can study the game and predict plays that you can obstruct, players who are creating open space so that you can cover them, and others who are positioning themselves at the backdoor to cover that too.
When the game is on, the center is like a hyper-control center. You cannot afford to slack because your team gets overwhelmed when you do.
When you successfully defend on your side and gain possession of the puck, it is time for the break-out. To start with, when the wingers realize that you have gained possession, they skate forward, expecting the breakout pass.
Therefore, it is upon you as the center and their support to coordinate the passes between you and your defensemen to get the wingers an accurate short.
What To Do As a Center In a Neutral Zone
The neutral zone is where the game is played. This is the buildup of an attack or the start of a defense. Again, as a center, you should be able to monitor the game’s direction so that you position yourself appropriately.
If you have the puck, then you can either play with the defensemen to pull the opponent’s defense towards you and allow your winger to get open. You can pass to them and launch your attack if there is an open winger. You can also head straight to the goal if you have the opportunity.
If your opponent has the puck, find the closest man to cover to close open spaces where passes can be made. Also, if you are closest to the guy with the puck, get to business and win back the puck.
The center position is a very competitive position and requires a player who is physically and mentally strong. In addition, the position calls for a lot of coordination and innovativeness, which comes in handy while setting up plays and distributing the puck.
In addition, the defense knows the effect of a center on the field. Therefore, the center faces very intense defense. For this reason, they should be highly skilled and experienced to break the defense and create scoring opportunities for their team all the time.