Defensive Zone – Positional

Protect the House

  • If you watch hockey or have played you’ll hear the phrase.  Protect the house.
  • What is the House?   First, we will show the diagram of the ‘house’
    • (picture listed below)


Photo Curtisy of 

  • The plan is to keep this area ‘clean’.  Keep your house clean!
  • In hockey you have responsibilities to keep your house clean.
  • Much like you may have responsibilities in your own home, you may need to clean your room, put the dishes away or take out the garbage.
  • Unlike your house, the odds are your coach won’t asking you to pickup your socks.  Unless, you put your socks on incorrectly and they windup up on the ice.  In that case then, yes your coach will ask you to pickup your socks.  Bad example!
  • Nevertheless, we have responsibilities as hockey players.
  • Opposing players will want to go to the house. We have two main jobs;
    • Job #1 Make sure the puck stays away from the house and if it comes into our house move it away as soon as possible.  Think of the puck like a stray cat that wandered into the house.  You like the kitty, but you’re also allergic so it’s gotta go outside the house!
    • Job #2 – Make sure the guests are covered!  The opposing players will want to come over to your house.  It makes sense because you’re pretty cool.  But you don’t want your guests alone in your house.  That’s not cool!  So make sure you keep your guest company, because they will likely make a mess of your house.
  • Keep your house clean!

The Defensive Zone

  • From Hockey Share you will see the basic 5 zones.
  • The Green Area is essentially the “House” area, again we want to keep this clean.
  • From inside, the blue line the rink is sectioned off into 4 zones.
    • Right Side – Below the Faceoff Circle (Right Defense Zone)
    • Right Side – Above the Faceoff Circle (Right Winger Zone)
    • Left Side – Below the Faceoff Circle (Left Defense Zone)
    • Right Side – Below the Faceoff Circle (Left Defense Zone)


Strong Side vs. Weak Side

  • I’d like to quickly go over the terms – Strong side / Weak side.
  • It is a simple concept, wherever the puck is, is known as the strong side, where ever the puck is not, is known as the weak side.
  • When the puck is dumped into the right instead of the coach explaining that the right side defender goes to the right side of the defensive zone.
  • It’s easier to explain that the strong side defender (RD) goes into corner.  The weak-side defender (LD) will go to the net to protect the house.
  • Also, when we start to integrate offensive players into positional drills it’s easier to explain strong-side / weak-side, because the right side is the opposite of the offensive player.  It would be confusing for the coaching staff to explain and probably difficult for players new to the game and positional hockey.
  • It’s also tough for some coaches to remember right from left and it’s tough with hockey gloves & a stick for the coach to make the “L” with his thumb and index finger ….
  • Each player has a role to successfully defend and each role is equally important.
  • There’s a website that I stumbled across,, which had an excellent image of each positions responsibility.


  • Per Knyght this is the area for the Center in the defensive zone.


  • I tend to think of the Center as the support.  They need to help in all zone’s.
  • In the defensive zone you have a lot of jobs;
    • Protecting the house.  If the defenseman needs help covering opposing players the center may need to help.
    • Protect the house # 2.  Prevent any cross-ice passes into the “house”
    • Support puck battles for the defenseman & wingers.  Typically, helping out with the defenseman for a puck battle in the corner.
    • Support the breakout.  Provide a passing option for the winger if they are unable to clear the zone by either skating the puck out or using the boards.
  • The center should to be able read the play and anticipate who needs the support.
  • Here is a more indepth article on center’s R&R by How to Hockey.


  • Per Knyght this is the area for the Winger in the defensive zone.


  • For the wingers its a structured approach.
  • You don’t want the wingers to be chasing the play.  You don’t want them in the corner battling with their own defensman for the puck.  If either of the players gains control of the puck who would they pass it too?
  • One job is making sure they are covering the defenseman on their side.
  • The other job it making sure they are available for a pass to help get the puck out of the zone.
  • For the weakside winger you can cheat a little bit towards the middle of the ice. There’s a couple of reasons for this.
    • Able to gather arrant pucks that are sent into the house.
    • Available for short outlet passes in the Neutral zone.
  • The strong side winger should be close to the boards and available for an outlet pass.
  • For detailed information please review New to Hockey.  There was one particular photo that I wanted to show which details on where to play and the objective.


  • The winger has the following rules
    1. Be available for the outlet pass from the defense.  E
    2. Cover the opposition defense.
    3. If there is already support in another area (zone), don’t chase the play.


  • Per Knyght this is the area for the Defense in the defensive zone.


  • The defenseman have partners and like good partners you need to communicate and there needs to be balance.
  • The defenseman needs to cover for one another if they leave their zone.  You have to have each other’s back.


  • Maintain positioning so that the defender is between the puck and the goalie.
  • So you are attempting to keep the play to the outside.
  • Often the puck battle will often happen in the corner.
  • So in the illustration.  The puck is in the corner.  In this scenario the Strong side defenseman (area 1) will handle the puck carrier and the Weak side defenseman will handle the House.



  • The quick rules for the defenseman.
    1. Positive communication with your partner.
    2. The strong side defender battles in the corner.
    3. The weakside defender protects the front of the net.
    4. The defenseman will initiate the outlet (breakout) pass.
  • More details at How to Hockey.

That’s it!  That’s the responsibilities for the skaters in the defensive zone.  But don’t take my word for it you can listen to Hall of Famer Denis Savard from Ice Hockey Systems explaining defensive zone coverage.  Also, for entertainment on youtube search for “Denis Savard Spinorama”, I swear it’s more entertaining than any gamer youtuber, even DanTDM.





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