The centerman in hockey is often considered to be one of the most important players on the ice. Their job is to control the center of the ice, win face offs, lead fast breaks, skate back for defense and generally offer support to wing players when they are in trouble. In short, a little bit of everything.
If you were to compare hockey to football, the center would be a quarterback and a linebacker rolled into one. New players can take some time to learn all the roles they need to play. Below are some hockey tips for beginner centers so they can focus on a few of the fundamentals and begin to build upon these with more playing time.
Clog The Center and Block Passes
This is one of the defensive roles of the center player, but one that opens up opportunity for offense. A beginner center should learn to look for lanes on the ice, or places where an opposing player can pass the puck to their teammates to set up shots. Learn what these look like and cut them off, effectively clogging them and blocking the puck. At least make the opposing player pause to give other players on your team more time to steal the puck. Concentrate on reading your opponents’ eyes when they have the puck and trying to predict where they will pass. When you do plan on blocking a pass, practice proper pass blocking techniques, like going down on one knee with your stick almost entirely laid down on the ice, so that if you do block the pass, you can pop up and send a pass to a streaking attacker.
Maintain Possession of the Puck
When you do get possession of the puck, if there is not an immediate break, you will need to become good at practicing restraint and, most importantly, maintaining possession of the puck. Your role here is to help set up the play and then skate hard to an opening once your teammates have received your pass. Once your team gains possession, you are the support man and your main job to give your teammates options for passes so they can shoot or look for the next pass. Practice maintaining possession of the puck on the ice, so that you can efficiently pass to teammates and then skate to open areas to give them someone to pass to.
Practice taking face-offs as you will be taking a lot of them. Choke up on the stick by the blade and practice swiping quickly to the forehand or backhand side. Learn to watch the ref’s hand (or whoever is dropping the puck in practice) so that you can time it better when the puck drops. As soon as the hand starts to move in your peripheral vision, begin to move to win the faceoff.
By practicing these fundamentals as a center, you will learn smaller, subtler skills that will quickly make you one of the most important players on the ice and a real leader for your team.
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