5 Things Every Defensemen Needs to Know
As a former NHL defensemen, I've played with and against the best players in the world, and there are some key attributes about playing defense that I like to share with players.
Here are five of the most important tips for hockey defensemen that need to be considering if you want to be a successful long-term blue-liner.
Priority number one is to focus on your skating, both without and with a puck. When I say that, I’m sure the majority of you reading visualize you or your son or daughter skating forward with the puck. I see nothing but backward skating, quick transitions or escape moves. If you want to be a defensemen, you have to skate
backwards as good or better than you do forwards.
The next tip for playing defense has to do with body position. When the other team has the puck, your team flips to defensive mode and every player is responsible for one of his or her guys. Remember this simple concept, who ever you are engaged with; position yourself in between them and your goalie. This forces the player to skate through, pass or shoot through you in order to get to the net.
If you want to become an effective defenseman, you must communicate loud and proud on the ice. Defensemen in hockey are like quarterbacks in football, they are the lead dog, barking out orders to the rest of the team on what to do. We tell forwards who to pick up on the back-check, or who to lock down in a multi player corner battle. Defensemen are bonded to their partner and have to be each other’s eyes when under pressure, providing verbal instructions on where to go or who the next pass will be going to.
Playing in the defensive zone are hard minutes. Offensive zone play is so much easier and a lot more fun. The only way this can happen is if the D-Men can make a good, clean and crisp tape-to-tape first pass. This gets your group out of the D-Zone quick, and playing in the offensive zone more.
Lastly, let’s talk about shots from the blue-line. Everyone wants to bring the heat and take the big booming slap shot. The challenge is that most players, especially at the younger levels, take the slap shot with their head down. This results in shots getting blocked and you are back on defense in hard minute zones.
I’d much rather see the player walk the line, dribbling with their eyes up, looking for a wrist or snap shot opportunity. Your objective at the blue line with the puck is to get it through layers. The first and most important layer is the forward coming
toward you. Find a seam around the body our under the stick to avoid a block or deflection. The puck should be 6-10 inches off the ice and shot with enough power to get it to the pile up in front of the goalie. If it gets through to the net you either score or generates a 2nd or 3rd shot attempt.
Good luck this season, thanks for reading and remember to work hard and dream bigger than everyone else!