Sunday, January 1, 2012

How to Play Defence One-on-One

Defence One-on-One
1) Stay Between the Forward and the Net
2)Control The Gap
3) Watch Their Hips
4) Keep your Hockey Stick out in Front

1) Stay Between the Forward and the Net.
When learning how to play defence in Hockey, you can never go wrong with the basic principal of keeping yourself between the opposing player and the net. One-on-Ones are a perfect example.

Keep Him to the Outside

When a hockey player on the other team is heading into your zone with the puck, your goal is to keep him to the outside towards the boards. His chances of scoring from the outside are far less than if he beats you on the inside. The best way to do this is with your body position. If the player is coming in down the middle of the ice, position yourself directly in front of him.

Own the Centre Lane

If he’s coming in on the wing, line up slightly towards the centre of the ice. Your outside shoulder should more or less line up with his inside shoulder. This encourages him to try to beat you to the outside, where he’s less of a threat. Picture a wide imaginary lane down the middle of the ice, and keep the other player outside of that lane. The tricky part is controlling the amount of space, or the gap, between you and the other player.

2)Control the Gap
A Gap Too Wide will allow the forward to cut to the inside. Or, it may give him enough room to get in close to the goalie for a shot, using you as the screen. You don’t want the gap to be much wider than about two lengths of a hockey stick.

A Gap Too Narrow, and you run the risk of letting him get around you if you’re unable to check him.

Willie Mitchell of the Canucks uses a much more deceptive approach. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Willie explains how he baits the forward into, “Taking the candy.”

"I call it taking the candy," Mitchell said Monday, explaining his ability to bait opposing forwards. "The game of hockey is all about putting someone in position where they react, so they're taking the candy.

"When I have my gap [defending an opposing forward], I hold my stick real close to my body, so it looks like there's a lot of ice in front of me. The forward wants to make his move as close to the defenceman as possible because he wants the defenceman to bite so [the forward] can go around him. They come in to make a move -- they take the candy -- but then I move my stick out and poke the puck away. On a rush, that's how I play it.

"In the defensive zone, it's the same way. I'll give them the pass and they think: Oh, I'll make the pass backdoor. But I gave them that space. Now they make the pass; they take the candy. And I'll put my stick there and break it up.

"You want to put them in an uncomfortable position. Instead of you taking the candy, you want them to take it."

Even after the forward makes his move, try to stay between him and the net. You won’t stop them all, but you’ll make it as tough on them as possible.
More on: Controlling the Gap.

3) Watch Their Hips
One-on-Ones in hockey can be tricky against an experienced puck carrier. These guys are just dying to deke you out and score that highlight reel goal. Watching their hips will help prevent you from getting deked-out in your own zone.

Mr. Deke
Once you’ve correctly positioned yourself between the opposing hockey player and the net, Mr. Deke will try to fake you out any way he can. As you know, Mr. Deke has a hockey bag full of tricks. I’ve been deked out of my shorts way too many times by guys like this. The infamous toe-drag usually gets me. Mr. Deke entices me with the puck by strategically placing it barely within my reach, sucking me in to try a poke-check. But he’s way ahead of me. As soon as I reach out for the puck, he pulls off his patented toe-drag maneuver and goes right through me. The next think I know he’s behind me, deking out the goalie as well. I hate getting undressed by these guys.

Don’t Stare at the Puck

The best hockey tip I’ve been given on this is to watch his hips as he’s coming in on you. An experienced forward will try to fake you out with the puck, his head, his shoulders, a change of speed, or anything else he’s got up his sleeve. If you focus on his chest or the crest on his jersey, he may even deke you with his entire upper body. The worst thing you can do is watch the puck. Keep the puck in your peripheral vision, but don’t stare down at it.

The Hips Don’t Lie

He is not going anywhere without his hips, so keep your eyes on them. A hip can’t be dropped like a shoulder, or quickly dart around like a head-fake. With your eyes at waist level, it also makes it a little easier to keep the puck within your peripheral vision. Watch their hips, not the puck.

4) Keep your Stick out in Front
Keep your stick on the ice out in front of you, with one hand on the stick. Not in the air, not off to the side. Pointing your stick at the hockey player coming in allows you the flexibility of swinging it towards whichever side he tries to go around you.

Be Patient

Let the forward make the first move, then react to it. If you lunge at the puck and miss, you could find yourself right out of the play.

I used to sweep my stick from side to side. Against slower hockey players, I would sometimes be able to get my stick on the puck and slow them down, or even whack the puck over to the boards. But it doesn’t always work. The Hot Shots would often time their move just after one of my stellar sweep attempts. My stick would be out to one side, and they would go around me on the opposite side. Burned again.

If you notice the forward is having trouble with the puck, that’s the time to try a poke-check. Otherwise, just keep your stick out in front and be ready when he makes his move.

Check out excellent DVD's on defense at Championship Productions - where the coaches shop.

More tips on How to Play Defence in Hockey:

Covering in Front of the Net
How to Block Shots


Anonymous said...

great review

Zack said...

Thanks for the advice, it really helped.

DavidC said...

Great tips! As a newer player, any help or tips are a great learning experience. I especially like the idea of watching the hips of the oncoming forward. I have been left wondering how he just got past me so easily many times. I will be trying this trick out during my next game! Thanks for the awesome posts.

Anonymous said...

All good advice except for keeping your stick out in front on a one on one. Hold the stick with one hand off to the inside of the ice at about 45 degrees to clog the passing lane. It also gives the forward the illusion of more of a gap than he actually has enabling you to give a sweeping poke check when he gets too close, ala "taking the candy". By keeping your stick out in front you give away your gap and are prone to lunging for a poke check.

As a D, always control the play and position yourself so the forward does what you want him to do. Dictate the play, don't react to it.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anon, as a long time defender I never like to leave my stick fully extended out to the defender. If you show him just how far you can reach, any smart forward will stay out of reach, plus if you only have one hand on the stick you won't be as quick with it.

My tactic has always been to hold my stick with both hands, and lull the forward into closing into my range. Once they close into my range, I snap out and knock the puck off their stick. It works very well, they always seem to be comfortable just skating right into striking range.

Definitely try to dictate their positioning. Show them where you want them to go by making them think it's safe to go there, and they often will. Right into the trap...

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot. There are a lot of blog/website with tricks and tips for forward players, but only few things about defensemen.
Defensemen are not in the highlights as the scorer or the goalies. This is an ungrateful role, but essential.