How to Play Center in Hockey

Hockey is full of important positions, each with their own roles and duties to uphold during the game. You have the defenders who aim to keep opposing forwards in check, wingers who try and score goals, and the goaltender who is the last line of defense for a team.

However, arguably the most important position on the ice is the center. They are responsible for a lot on the ice, and winning faceoffs is crucial to maintaining puck possession. They are at the center of every play and are often facilitators that aim to improve those around them.

If you are interested in learning how to better play center, or just want to learn what they are responsible for doing, you’ve come to the right place. This guide is going to take you through some tips, guidelines, and pieces of information for playing center successfully in hockey.

Know Your Proper Positioning on Offense and Defense

The first part of successfully knowing how to play center in hockey is familiarizing yourself with the proper positioning. On offense, centers will usually stay in the middle of the ice, allowing wingers and defenders to go out to the boards.

Centers are the quarterbacks of the team on offense, and most plays will be run through them. These players need to keep both themselves and the puck moving, to facilitate good passes. A center should always be there for support and needs to always be aware of the puck.

On defense, centers will generally reside in the middle of the ice, and need to keep their head on a swivel to ensure they are aware of what is going on around the rest of the defensive zone. Be on the lookout for passes, and make sure you are in a position to block them.

Centers can shift their position a bit to help teammates, but should never leave the middle of the ice open for shot attempts from the opponents, either. 

If you want to learn more about proper defensive zone coverages for centers be sure to check out this video.

Improve Your Faceoff Skills

One of the most important duties for centers on the ice is winning faceoffs. Winning faceoffs in the offensive zone keeps the possession alive, while winning them in the defensive zone makes it hard for your opponents to score.

The more faceoffs you win, the more valuable you will be to your team, especially during important situations. You need to be lighting-fast during faceoffs, and ensure you can win the puck back to the correct spot on the ice.

There are many different faceoff tactics that can be used (such as tying up the opposing center or sliding your stick under theirs to win the puck), and each player will have their favorite. Take time to practice different tactics and see what works best for your size and skillset.

Like many other skills in hockey, practice makes perfect when it comes to faceoffs. If you practice enough and put enough reps in, you will eventually be able to get the timing and technique down perfectly.

If you want to see some visuals on how to win more faceoffs in hockey and improve your skills, check out this video.

Work on Your Passing

While some centers are certainly talented goalscorers, most centers are known for their passing abilities. If you want to be a great center, you need to be well-adept at dishing the puck to your teammates. Your passes should be hard, accurate, and be able to avoid interception.

You should be creative in how you pass, where you pass, and be careful not to become too predictable on the ice. Always take time to work on anticipating where your teammates will be, and not where they are.

In addition to the passing itself, you need to ensure that your on-ice vision is spectacular. You need to be able to see where everyone is, where they are going to go, and when the best time to pass or shoot the puck will be.

Make Sure You Are a Strong Skater With Lots of Stamina

In many cases, centers have a lot of flexibility in their positioning and cover more ice surface than any other players on a team. Because of this, centers should be strong skaters and be capable of skating for long periods of time without getting tired.

You should be comfortable going both forwards and backwards, and should have the speed needed to keep up with opposing players with ease. You should have good straight-line speed, but also be incredibly agile, and able to turn on a dime if need be.

I hope that this guide has been able to highlight some of the most important parts of playing center successfully in hockey. If you feel there are some tips or important pieces of information that I missed, don’t hesitate to let me know in a comment.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey.

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