Hockey: Guide on Training the Defensive Team

What does it take to be a good defenseman?

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In the sport of Hockey, you are all on one team.  That team however has parts that each player must play in, and each position or part is important to the team.  The Goalie stands alone to cover the net, and the offensive team which is made of the Center, Left Wing and Right Wing take on the opposing goalie and shoot the puck.  This leaves two other players to help the goalie called the Defensemen.  These Defensemen have the job of clearing the puck out of the zone and away from their net.  They are also the enforcers, being the ones that are often dealing the hits on the opposing team when they get too close to their net.

Unlike the offensive part of the team that takes the puck to the net, the defensive team’s only objective is to get the puck away from the opposing team and away from their own net.  It is up to them to keep the opposing team from scoring, and they can be very aggressive at it.  To be a good defenseman you need to be ruthless in getting that zone cleared and getting the puck to your offensive team.  You need to have certain skills to be a good defenseman, and there are things you can do to improve those skills, in yourself and in your team.

What skills do you need to learn?

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There are many skills that a Hockey player needs to learn to be effective for their team.  The better they are at those skills the more valuable they will be for the team, and the more play time they will get.  Nobody wants to sit on the bench, and thankfully with Hockey, players are always being rotated so that they all get some play time.  A Defensemen needs to be good at certain skills so they can perform at their best.

*Speed – Everyone needs to have speed, but for a defenseman it’s not about the skating so much as it is about the blocking.  This position requires the players to get into position fast, paying attention to the puck and to the player that has it.  While skating certainly plays a part, speed and agility go hand in hand with this position.

*Agility – This skill is needed not only to turn quickly on skates, but to handle the puck.  It’s also need for stick handling, and being able to move in and out of players to get to where you need to be.  The more agile a player is, the better they are going to be at getting the puck.

*Puck Handling – Puck Handling is a common skill for a Hockey player, but a defenseman needs to take it to the next level.  They need to know how to get the puck away from another player, either by intercepting it, or by taking it by force.  The better they are at this skill, the less likely the other team is going to be in getting the puck by them.

*Strength – Since checking an opponent is often something that happens in this sport, the harder they hit the less likely the other player is going to be in keeping the puck.  Some players are often known by their strength when they are hitting others, spending time in the penalty box in many cases.  That strength comes in taking a hit, or blocking a puck too, since the pads that protect them are not as thick as that of the goalie.

How you can train your team

Each player should learn and play all positions on a team before the coach decides who will play what position and who should be team captain.  By doing so the coach can determine if one player is going to be better at shooting or defending, and in which position.  A Left Wing, Right Wing, Left Defense and Right Defense doesn’t mean you must be left or right handed to play that position.  It means that on that particular side you perform the best.

If there is a particular position that you want to get, then you need to train for it.  Once a coach picks positions of his team, he or she will still have those players practice those positions to get better at them.  A defense position could mean more time lifting weights, and working on the skates.

A skate drill will consist of a few steps.  There is the speed to see how fast a player can get from one side of the rink to the other.  For defense this is broken into smaller parts, and requires more sprinting.  For instance, instead of the whole rink it will be from goal to red line, back to goal.  And then there is from goal to blue line and back to goal.  There is also going behind the net and turning quickly, which is part agility training as well.  And there is going from one side of the net to the other.

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For agility and puck handling, not only is passing a priority, but doing so quickly.  This could mean on a command of some sort, blind passing (which is passing behind you or between your legs without being able to see who is there.)  It means fast turns and staying on your feet when you are doing so.

Strength training is mostly weights, but it depends on the coach.  If he wants hitters you are going to be trained in how to hit, when to hit, and where you can hit.  With rules always training, a good hit can knock another player out of the way, or down completely.  It could end up with you in the penalty box, but could also save your teammates.  The problem with that is once in the penalty box, now your team is down one man, leaving you wonder if you really helped your team.  A coach might have his other players hit you to test your ability to take a hit, without injuring you in the process.  Not an easy thing to do, as a coach typically won’t tell his players to do this, as allow it to happen on its own.

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