What Is the Role of a Center in Hockey?
The role of the hockey center can be compared to the point guard in basketball, in that the center sets up the offense, runs the offense, makes passes to create scoring opportunities for other skaters, and has a lot of creative license to provide scoring chances.
Hockey Center Skills and Attributes
The hockey center will be one of the more skilled players on the ice. A hockey center should be a:
- Great puck handler
- Gifted passer
- Strong skater
- Possessor of great ice vision
- Creative playmaker
- Faceoff winner
- A team-oriented player
The hockey center is expected to cover more ice than any other player and will handle the puck more than other players. Despite possessing the puck a lot, the center may not be a top goal scorer, but will pick up a lot of points off of assists.
Role of the Center on Offense
The center is thought of primarily as an offensive player. When the center has the puck, they usually have a lot of freedom, sometimes carrying the puck into the offensive zone or dumping it in. The center may set up the offense, directing forwards and establishing the offense. Once the puck is in the offensive zone, the center becomes a support player, assisting in digging the puck out along the boards, and positioning themselves for shots or to make passes to a forward. The center handles the puck a lot and is often seen calling for the puck and stickhandling for a dish or shot. When the puck goes into the corner and a winger is working against a defenseman, the center is often posted up in the slot ready for a pass. The center should work not to get in the way of the off-side winger and yet screen the goalie when possible and be ready to cash in on a rebound.
Role of the Center on Defense
Although thought of as an offensive player, the center has responsibility on defense to clog the middle, take away passing lanes, and try to intercept passes. In general, the center on defense should stake out a position in front of the net. There should be a defenseman in front of the net clearing out anybody who gets in the goalie's way. As a center, you match up with anybody else who wanders into the area out front. The center doesn't have to play the man per se, but should clog up passing lanes or shooting lanes to stop uncontested backside one-timers. The center should anticipate passes and be looking to intercept one or take away those passing lanes. If a defenseman is in the corner trying to dig out a puck, you can skate in to help him, or if he's winning the battle, be prepared to receive a pass to launch the offensive attack.
The center is one of the most skilled members of the team and will be a leader on the ice. Whether leading a break on offense, or disrupting the other team's scoring chances, the center will usually be in the middle of the action.