As promised, here is the first part of the Hockey 101 refresher. I figured the best way to start off an explanation of any sport is to start with a breakdown of the positions. Plus, to make it even more helpful, and more enjoyable, I will include some examples of players of each position (I will try and make them players from teams left in the playoffs) who aren’t too tough on the eyes…Sound good?
But first a fun, little fact about the history of hockey: for all of you laxers out there, did you know that hockey is an adaptation of the Native American game of lacrosse?
Now to the good stuff. In hockey, there are three different general types of positions. Goalies, Defensemen, and Forwards (Wings and Centers). Before getting into the positions, here is a picture of the rink (hockey’s “field”) broken down into the three zones.
Starting from the net (the goal), the first player you will come across is the goalie. I promise, he’s the easiest one to find. He hardly moves outside of the net and wears significantly bulkier padding. While you’re watching, take a moment to check out their helmets, usually goalies have these awesome designs on their helmets. But, as is true with most sports with a goal tender, the goalie’s main job is to protect the net. In hockey, they use lightning fast reflexes and crazy flexibility to keep the puck (hockey’s equivalent of a ball) out of their net. They also often help to orchestrate their teams defensive play. As promised here are the play-offs best looking goalies:
#79 Louis Domingue of the Phoenix Coyotes
#45 Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings
#70 Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals
Moving up from the goalies, the next players you will come across are the Defensemen. Typically, there will be two on the ice, a right and left. When the puck is in the defense zone, their primary focus is keeping the puck from ever even interacting with the goalie. Each is responsible for patrolling their side of the ice (right or left) and trying to drive the play out to the boards (the “sidelines”) and away from the net. Usually, they are more likely to be the ones slamming their opponents into the glass. When the puck returns to their team’s control and their offensive play begins, the defensemen will move up the ice with their teammates but one of them will usually try to keep himself between the goalie and all of the other players.
#44 Davis Drewiske of the L.A. Kings
#52 Mike Green of the Washington Capitals
#27 Alec Martinez of the LA Kings (He looks like an actor, but I can’t remember who….please tell me if you can think of it!)
#27 Karl Alzner of the Washington Capitals
Next up are the forwards. The attackmen of hockey. Forwards are usually broken down into two groups, centers and wings. We will start with the wings. Just like the defensemen, there are also, typically, two wings on the ice. Each is responsible for covering either the left or the right side of the ice. They usually need to be physically strong as they will spend a large portion of their play against the boards. They along with the center will work the puck around the net trying to score. As well as assist the defensemen when the other team gains possession. Fortunately, the teams left in the playoffs have some stunning wings:
#20 Troy Brouwer of the Washington Capitals
#18 Steve Bernier of the New Jersey Devils
#14 Taylor Pyatt of the Phoenix Coyotes (the new and improved Chris Pine anyone?)
And finally we have come to the Centers, the quarterbacks of the ice. They are the team’s top playmakers, able to effectively spot passes and open shots on goal. They dominate the center of the ice moving from goal to goal. As they don’t have to interact with the boards quite as much as their wings, the center isn’t defined by his strength instead he usually is a fast skater with impressive puck handling skills. He often must take face-offs (not too different from the same concept in men’s lacrosse). Defensively, the center uses his speed to try to cut off and break up the other teams plays before they have time to settle in around goal. He is a bit of a jack of all trades.
Like the wings, the centers of the NHL are very easy on the eyes:
#21 Andy Miele of the Phoenix Coyotes
#10 Mike Richards of the LA Kings
#20 Ryan Carter of the New Jersey Devils
#21 Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals
So now you hopefully have a basic understanding of what are the different positions and the zones of the rink. Just a word of warning for those of you who haven’t seen hockey before, it is an incredibly fast game so do not be dismayed if you have trouble sorting out who is who on the fly. But I promise, it will click! If you need a confidence boost, just find the goalie! If you can do that, you have 1/4 of the player groups covered right there!
Plus once you pick a team, familiarize yourself with their roster. That always makes it a bit easier to see the different positions at work since you already have an idea of who is playing what.
So put this new knowledge to use and tune into see the final matchup between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers Saturday night. 7:30pm Eastern time on NBC Sports. Go CAPS!