In hockey, we have two wingers and one for either side of the rink. Both wingers are forwards. Hence, they are offensive players. These wingers, together with the center, are responsible for most of the goals in a game. Either winger plays the wing of their dominant hand. They jot up and down the rink on their side.
The key responsibility of a winger is to try to find a space to score. A winger can also coordinate with the center and defense to help build up an intensive offensive play. They can also dribble the puck past the defensemen of the opponent team to create scoring opportunities for the center, or the other winger.
Let’s look at the role of the left and right-wingers in different situations.
What a Winger Does In The Defensive Zone
As much as the winger is an offensive player when the puck is in their team’s danger zone, they should fall back to help their team recover. However, they should not fall back fully. Ideally, they should be positioned between the blue line and the hash marks.
While here, they should cover the defensemen of the opponent team so that they are not open to being given a pass that they can shoot straight to the goal.
In this position, they can also intercept the passes to the defensemen, take advantage, and run for the goal. But more importantly, as they are positioned here defending, they should also be ready for breakout passes from their team members, either the defensemen or the center.
When your team has possession of the puck, as much as you want to explode into the breakout shot, you should also be keen on the defensemen of the opponents, as they can sneak in and obstruct your pass.
This is why it is vital to mark the defense because by being with them and not giving them open space, you can create open space for yourself.
Being a winger demands agility, a quick mind, and impeccable ball control. These combined skills will enable you to shift the game’s direction from defending to initiating and executing attacks.
What a Winger Does In The Offensive Zone
When in the offensive zone, this is the time to score. Furthermore, this is a winger’s primary role in the rink. Therefore, at this time, it is essential that you coordinate with your other winger and your center efficiently.
So, if you’re on attack mode, you want to be positioned in the corners, in the circle, or in front of the net. If you are in one of these positions, the other winger and the center should be able to cover the other two.
While executing the attacking play, you can carry the puck and try to get the spot on the net. Then, with the center and fellow winger well-positioned, they can take advantage of the rebound if the puck doesn’t go in the net.
You can also pass the puck if you find a man in front of the net or if not, and you have a tight defense, you can pass the ball to the D if they are open.
If your fellow winger has the puck, you can position yourself in front of the net for a pass, or if you see they are covered, you can open behind the net and ask for a pass.
But if you realize that you might lose possession of the puck, you can skate back to the blue line and start an early defense that might give you back control while still in their danger zone.
Critical to note is that you have your wing to man. Therefore, unless executing a drill, you should at all times be in your zone. If your fellow winger needs help, the center should be able to come to their aid.
What a Winger Does In The Neutral Zone
In the neutral zone, a winger is either back-checking or breaking out. If it is back-checking, they should do that with a defensive approach by manning the defensemen of the opponent team and intercepting their passes.
The goal here is to get the ball back from the opponent. Therefore, you should keep an eye on who might be getting a pass and cover them before they do.
But if the winger is breaking out and they have the ball, they should be for the lead man, either your winger or center, who will be aggressively skating on the open ice. Then, once they are open, pass the puck to them and move it so that you will be ready for any rebounds when they dump the puck in.
If you are the lead break looking to receive a pass, you should break out onto the ice aggressively and make yourself open. Then, when you get the pass, head straight for the net, dump the puck and follow it to make any rebounds that might arise.
Role Of a Winger During The Faceoff
During a faceoff, the puck might go either way. Before going into the faceoff, check in with your center as they might let you in on what they are about to do, which will inform your next move.
If you lose the puck during the faceoff, you should mark their defenseman in the instance to prevent or intercept a pass to them.
If your defenseman wins the puck, you should cover them so they can make a move before you break out. But if in the preferred scenario, you win the puck, do not hold back. Instead, skate straight to the net.
A winger is a very crucial player on the rink. A strong winger is a maker of the game. Wingers are the ones to make sure that the team realizes their hard work by scoring and making them win games.
Therefore, the agility, flexibility, talent, skill, and experience of a winger should all come in to ensure that teamwork pays.