America's Largest Hockey Retailer! Find A Store Near You>>
A winger is one of the hockey positions that gets all the attention because it’s often where the best scorers play. But knowing how to play wing in hockey isn’t as easy as just sticking the puck in the net. There are defensive responsibilities and duties that lead to transition opportunities, and start the offense that will lead to lighting the lamp.
A wing in hockey will usually stay on one side of the ice. It may seem obvious, but a right winger will play the right side of the ice sheet and the left winger will play the left side. The wingers will remain on their respective side of the rink whether they’re playing offense or defense. Hockey winger positioning is usually between the hash marks and the blue line on defense on your side of the ice. On offense, you’ll generally position yourself in the corner when the puck is on your side or in front of the net if the puck is on the other side of the ice. For faceoffs, you’ll take a position to the side of the center you play. So a right winger will be to the right of the center.
The hockey wing has responsibilities up and down the ice. On defense, the winger’s job is all about puck possession as well as shutting down the opposition’s defenseman on that side of the ice. A winger should be looking to block shots or steal passes to or from the opposing defenseman.
The winger also needs to be ready to take a pass if a teammate steals the puck or digs it out of the corner cleanly and sends it your way. From there, your job as winger is to break out of the defensive zone and make a pass to your center, who should be headed up the ice to start the offense. But if there are no good passing lanes, skate the puck out yourself and look to pass to a teammate or dump the puck into the offensive zone.
On offense, the winger is one of the three best scoring options on the ice. Your line, which is made up of you, the center, and the opposite side winger, are called forwards and will be around the net working to light the lamp.
When the puck goes into the corner on your side, it’s your job to go get it. If you’re the first player to the puck, expect to be hit if you play in a league that allows checking. Try to get the puck out and onto the stick of a teammate. If you can avoid the hit and skate the puck out of the corner, look for a shot, or one of your linemates who may have snuck in from the opposite side and be waiting for your pass. If a defenseman beats you to the puck, you need to steal the puck or tie him up. Skate in behind him and try to pin him to the boards to prevent him from getting the puck to one of his teammates. If you can’t work the puck away from him, hold him against the board and your centerman should be in to help you control the puck.
If the puck goes into the opposite corner of your offensive zone, move into the area in front of the crease if it looks like your winger may win the puck, and then be ready for a pass or shot you can deflect into the goal. You may also choose to skate in behind the net to provide your teammate a passing option. If the other team’s defenseman looks like he might win the puck, look to take away passing lanes and defend against a pass. Do not be tempted to go into the opposite corner to help your fellow winger. That’s the center’s job. You need to stay out as a scoring option, or be prepared to back check if the other team controls the puck.
Knowing how to play right wing or left wing on a power play will depend on any set plays your coach may want to be run, but otherwise, your positioning and duties on the offensive end aren’t that different. Because the other team will be down a player there will be more open ice, and the defense will have to try to play in defensive zones. This should give you the opportunity to find some space to set up for a one-timer if the puck is on the opposite side of the ice, or if you end up with the puck on your stick, perhaps to stick handle past a defenseman for a quick shot or dish to an open teammate.
At the other end of the ice, if the opponent is on the power play your job as a hockey winger is to take up space, try to disrupt passes and clog passing lanes, and take away shot angles to the best of your ability. Down by a player, most teams will play with a box formation with two defensive players down low and two forwards up high, each covering defensive zones. Try to work to keep the puck and opponents outside of the box to protect the middle of the ice. This is not the time to gamble and try to steal a pass, because that could leave your team with an effective two-player disadvantage. If your team is able to clear the puck down the ice, instead of racing down with two forwards trying to get the puck, one forward should go after it, while the other hangs back around the blue line to be prepared to fall back on defense.
Knowing how to play winger in hockey will prepare you for one of the more exciting positions on the ice, and present hard-earned scoring opportunities if you work for them.