Tactics (ice hockey)

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The tactic is an important part of a hockey game . In the first 100 years after ice hockey was invented, tactics were rather unimportant. The players tried to get past their opponents as creatively as possible. A good teamwork was usually just a matter of luck. But in the 50s and 60s a game system developed more and more in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union . Only since then has there been a clear separation between attacker and defender, between center and winger.


This is how these positions were formed for the five field players:

  • Center (or center forward ): A striker who primarily has the role of playmaker and director and therefore provides more assists than scores himself.
  • Winger : two players per row occupy the positions of the wingers ( left wing , right wing ), who are mainly responsible for attacking play and scoring goals. In modern game systems it is important that the strikers “work backwards” well, that is, that they can also take on defensive tasks.

With power play it is also possible that the center waits in the slot (zone directly in front of the goal area ) for passes from the winger in order to fake them in a dangerous way.

  • Defender : provide mainly defensive duties, the powerplay they are also more and more as BlueLiner provided the shock shots of the boundary line between neutral and release attacking zone.

Game systems

During the Cold War, a distinction was made between the Russian system with controlled passing game up to the chance of scoring and the Canadian way of playing physical “quick-snap” hockey. However, there is much greater variety today. With good tactics, even technically weaker teams have a good chance against top teams. Therefore, surprise results occur far more often in ice hockey than in basketball, for example . A famous example are the New Jersey Devils of the 90s , who waited with very physical play for mistakes of the opponent and then converted them into their own scoring chances.

The main tasks of a game system are creating chances to score and preventing goals conceded. For a long time, ice hockey in German-speaking countries was very defensive so as not to give the opponent any scoring opportunities. But here, too, a change is taking place towards offensive, attractive hockey.

The attack

In attacking play, a broad distinction is made between two types: the fast counter game and the combination game.

Counter ( breaks ) offer themselves especially when the puck gets during an enemy attack. Then the opponent's defense is usually poorly organized and there are good chances to score, as there are few or no defending players in front of you.

Combination attacks usually have their origin in their own third. After winning the face-off in the defensive or neutral zone, the defender who is in possession of the puck retreats behind his own goal. This not only gives him time, but above all an overview. Now he runs next to the goal and directly passes a striker who has positioned himself between the neutral and defensive zone. A second possibility is the pass to the other defender, who then fits a striker, over the back-goal curb or a pass along the curb, which is carried out especially when the defender is under pressure.

There are now some alternatives in the neutral zone as well. This should be bridged quickly so that not so many opposing players are in their defense zone. Technically strong players can run through the ranks of their opponents and hold the puck, less talented players can try the typical North American "dump 'n' chase" game, where the puck is played over the defenders to the boards. In a running duel, the attacking player tries to get to the puck , taking into account the offside rule . A third option is the so-called final pass . The center first binds the defenders to itself, but then fits into the path of a winger, who should then have no defender in front of him if possible.

The third phase of the attack takes place in the attack zone. Here again there are some variants. In general, an attacking game is good when it is unpredictable and fast. With technically strong teams, it is possible that the players only touch the puck briefly and then come to the conclusion, the shot on goal.

In addition to this pattern attack, there are various variations. The more variations a team can master, the more unpredictable it is for the opposing team.

With the removal of one 's own goalkeeper , another outfield player is allowed to go on the ice. This rule is often used just before the end of the game when a team is just behind and needs to build up more pressure. The removal can take place during game interruptions (especially with face-offs in the attacking third or the neutral zone, usually prepared by a time-out ) or during the ongoing game (for example after a face-off won in the defending third). This allows a sham power play to be set up in order to still shoot the compensation. This in turn offers the leaders the opportunity to correct the result upwards by shooting into the empty net goal . Shots from one's third at the empty goal are usually avoided, as these can lead to unauthorized long-range shots if the goal is missed . That would result in a face-off in front of the leading team's goal and give the team behind, a good opportunity for another attack.

The goalie initiating an attack himself is less common in ice hockey than in football, for example. Direct participation in an attack is prohibited by the rules (no participation in play above the center line).

The defense

Just as an attack begins with the defenders, so does the defense not begin there.

As forechecking in hockey is an attempt to recover the disk by Puck loss still under attack thirds, respectively. This is mainly used when you absolutely have to regain possession of the puck (for example during power play or if you are behind shortly before the end of the game). A player usually checks in advance by imitating the run of the puck-carrying player offset a few meters and thus covering the pass area.
For players who are strong in combat, backchecking is recommended , in which the defending players try to separate the attacker from the puck before their own third. Good backchecking ensures an overwhelming power in the neutral zone.
Space coverage
The area coverage is to be used in ice hockey, especially in the minority, in order to minimize the running work. Each player is allocated an area on the ice and must cover the attacker who is in this area. If the player leaves this area, another defender takes him over.
Man coverage
With the same number of players, man coverage is safer than coverage. Each defender is assigned an attacking player who he then guards. This form of defense work is mainly played in the following variation: A player of the defending team is assigned to the opponent's playmaker. This is used to block outstanding players, which is why such a tactic is rarely used in the good leagues.
Zone pressing
In zone pressing , the defending team blocks the player who is leading the target and the player who is supposed to get the puck next.

Like the attack variants, the defense behavior should not only be limited to these five points, the points are also sometimes combined.


  • Kränzle, Peter; Brinke, Margit: Ice hockey - made understandable. Copress Sport Verlag. Munich 2001. ISBN 3-7679-0549-3