Ice hockey is a team sport, wherein two teams compete on the floor made of ice with the objective of scoring goals by directing the puck (a vulcanized rubber disk which is used like a ball) into the opponents goal. Ice hockey is simply referred to as hockey at times, due to which it is often confused with a similar sport known as field hockey, which is played outdoors on grass field. Being aware of various player positions is useful in any sport, as it helps in making strategies; ice hockey is no exception.
Player Positions in Ice Hockey
Basically, there are six players in play at any given point of time: one goaltender (same as goalkeeper in field hockey), two defense-men, and three forwards.
Like in any other team sport, the forwards in ice hockey are mainly responsible for offense, i.e., to attack the opposition and score goals. Usually, these three players play in a straight line trying various formations while facing the opponents. There are three forward positions: the center forward, right wing, and the left wing. The center forward has to position himself in the middle of the rink in front of the opposition's goal. The player chosen to play at this position has to be quick, as this position involves covering maximum rink surface. On the other hand, the right winger and left winger play on either sides of the center forward. These are specialist attacking positions and hence, the coordination between all three players is of immense importance when it comes to scoring.
The primary responsibility of the defense-men is to counter the opposition's attack and keep the puck away from the goal. Generally, the two defense-men are divided into stay-at-home defense-man and offensive defense-man. The stay-at-home defense-man is expected to hang around the goal to assist the goaltender and thus, is seldom seen taking any risks. On the other hand, the offensive defense-man takes risk by actively participating in the team's attack. There are cases wherein both defense-men alternate their positions depending on who has the control of the puck, however, this requires a great deal of coordination between these two and the goaltender.
The goaltender, simply referred to as the goalie at times, is the player who guards the goal by staying put into it. Most of the time, the goaltender stays in the area just in front of the goal, referred to as the goal crease or crease. As the goalie has to stop powerful shots hit at the goal, he wears protective gear. This is one of the most important ice hockey positions owing to the various privileges associated with it. These privileges include handling the puck, playing with a broken stick, etc. The position of a goaltender is a specialist position, so no ordinary player plays in this position.
While these were the basic positions, different teams may come up with different variations in player positions to suit their strategies. For instance, the wingers can be divided into out-and-out goal scorers and checkers, as per the game plan of the team. For a beginner, at least the basic understanding of these positions is essential, especially when you practice different formations in ice hockey.