Being a defenseman often doesn’t come with the glory or recognition of a forward player who has more scoring opportunities to capture the spotlight. A talented defenseman may not get the headlines as often, however they do need to know where the lines are on the ice – as well as the dots, circles, net markings and the hash marks.
Let’s take a look at all of these sets of markings on the ice, and how they can help a defense man be more effective at frustrating forwards, eliminating scoring opportunities, blocking shots and keeping the puck out of your own end as much as possible.
The Face-Off Dot
If you picture the hockey rink in your mind’s eye from a bird’s eye view, or if you look at a diagram of a hockey rink, you will notice that the face-off dots, when you play connect the dots like when you were a kid, join them with the goal posts, you’ll have a “rink within a rink”.
To be a great defenceman like Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Drew Doughty, or P.K. Subban, you want to keep the rushing forward out of the inner rink, and out toward the boards and the glass. The scoring chances are rare there, and you have a better chance of stealing the puck. If you let the forward get into “your rink” he has a better chance of deking around you and having a good shot at the goal.
If you spend a lot of time skating backwards, it can sometimes be difficult to judge where you are relative to your own net. Using the net at the other end of the rink to judge can be helpful, so you be sure to cut the forward off into the “outer rink” as opposed to letting him get in front of your netminder. You can also use the other markings in this blog for reference to find out how much further until you get the thud of cool red steel against your back, or worse, the butt end of your goalie’s stick.
The Blue Line
Every defenseman knows the blue line about as well as the back of his hand. Using it as an indicator of timing to get aggressive can help a defender to go for the poke check and try to steal the puck. If you go too early, you might allow the forward to move to the center of the rink when you commit yourself to the poke check. Up until the line, two stick lengths of space are ideal for distance. After you see the blue line cross under your skates, you’ll know it is time to reduce the amount of space between you and the opposing player, and knock the puck out of their control.
The Top of the Playoff Circle
After the blue line, you should be committed to make a play on your opponent. The top of the circle means, “Close the Gap! Play the (Wo)Man” as you are starting to run out of space before a well-timed deke, pass or shot to your sides could be your undoing. Lift the opponent’s stick if you can, play the body towards the boards if you can’t, and generally make every effort to get the other guy or gal away from the center rink scoring sweet spot.
The Hash Marks
Most goals are scored from between the hash marks between the play off circles. If you have passed all of the other markings above, and your opponent is in the “inner rink” you will probably feel an uncomfortable tightness in your chest. Do your best to get the puck out of this danger zone. Get the opponent out too if possible in case they regain the puck from a pass or rebound.
Knowing these markings on a hockey rink can help you situate yourself, and your opponents to safeguard your goalie, the net and the danger zones where pucks tend to get sniped in, and put a goal on the scoreboard for the Other Guys. You won’t have time to look at your watch, a diagram or a map during a game, but these markings will help you with your timing and positioning throughout the game.