As a coach and an individual who is heavily involved in hockey on a daily basis there are always recurring themes. One that comes up often is a parents belief that their young child has been born a natural centerman.
They are dead set that no other position will suffice. Usually their steadfast stand changes when I explain that the centre position is really like a “third defenseman” and that the most important characteristic of a centreman is his or her ability to be defensively minded. But that is another topic altogether.
Why wouldn’t you want a young developing hockey player to play more than one position? Is the experience of playing wing instead of centre or defense instead of forward going to be detrimental. Will their development and love of the game suffer? Of course not.
So what are the positives of playing multiple positions?
Playing a different position forces a player to move differently. If they are playing defense instead of forward then they are skating backward much more often. They will experience a different game and practice situations.
Most importantly they will have the opportunity to gain greater AWARENESS.
They will have a larger grouping of visual cues and a different POINT OF VIEW. They will literally be seeing the game from another player’s perspective.
Why is this important?
Here is an example. Let’s say a player who as always played centre has been given the OPPORTUNITY to play defense. That player can now see the game ahead of them, on breakouts they can view where their teammates are moving in order to get open.
Let’s say they are playing in a game and they have tried to breakout by passing the puck to the winger because each time they look to the player playing centre they are to far up the ice and not supporting the puck. This happens multiple times in the game.
Finally on the bench the centreman ask the newly appointed defenseman why he never passes him the puck. He simply replies, “well, you are never in the right spot to get open. You are to far up the ice and are skating right into one of the players on the other team”. This should be where the light bulb would light up over top of the defensemans head!
Finally, on the bench, the centreman ask the newly appointed defenseman why he never passes him the puck. He simply replies, “well, you are never in the right spot to get open. You are too far up the ice and are skating right into one of the players on the other team”. This should be where the light bulb lights up above the defenseman’s head!
Next time this player is put into the centre position he or she will have a far greater awareness of their positioning. They will have gained an extra point of view. That of the defender wheeling the net on a breakout looking to pass to a wide open centreman who is supporting the puck carrier.