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The Essential Role of Each Hockey Player

Updated: Feb 5

Whether you are new to hockey or have been following the sport for a while, it’s always good to have a quick refresh on the basics. When you understand each player's purpose and responsibilities, hockey becomes a very engaging sport, even more so if you can recognize players who excel in different positions. Here’s an introduction to hockey positions and the best players in the game. 

Courtesy of Los Angeles Times 

The six positions in hockey are center, right winger, left winger, right defenseman, left defenseman, and the goaltender. Each team can have six players on the ice for a maximum of twelve players playing at one time. The center, right wing and left wing play in a line of three and all fall under the term forwards. Depending on the season and play, forwards and defensemen will consistently be made up of the same players working a line together. This helps them adapt to the others’ style and strengthen their skills on the ice. 


The goalie might have the hardest job, but it’s the easiest to understand. Like many other sports, each team needs someone to protect their side. Goalies are the last line of defense against the opposing team, blocking pucks from passing the goal line. Rarely will you see goalies leave their net, unless they are trapping the puck or keeping it behind the net to then pass to a teammate. These players must be confident in their skills and reflexes, never letting a failed save mess with their game. 

Well-known goalies include Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrick Roy, and Terry Sawchuk.


The term forward can mean left wing, center or right wing, which all make up a line. Their positions on the ice are as straightforward as they sound. They are in front of both defenseman and the goalie, with the center in the middle of the three. Forwards are usually the ones scoring the goals. 


Positioned at the center of the rink, these are the players you see at most face-offs. They are quick thinking and constantly making split-second decisions. Depending on the play, centers always have a plan no matter which way the puck goes. They are versatile players, playing both defensively and offensively, and skating around the most, along with both wings. 

Well-known centers include Wayne Gretzky, Connor Bedard, and Steve Yzerman. 

Courtesy of


There are two wingers, a left and right, who are positioned on each side of a center. These are usually the skilled players who are fast skaters and have accurate shots. The left and right wings travel up and down the ice like the center, usually in possession of the puck, finding just the right angles to score on the opposing team. Wingers tend to play offensively, but that can change depending on the line and game. 

Well-known left wings include Ted Lindsay, Brad Marchand, and Alexander Ovechkin.

Well-known right wings include Gordie Howe, Brett Hull, and Patrick Kane.

Courtesy of


Just like left and right wings, there are left and right defensemen who are in between forwards and the goalie. The pair make up a line that protects the goal before the puck gets too close to the goalie. If one plays more offensive defense while moving up with the puck, the other will stay near the net in case it comes back. They are always thinking ahead and never want to leave the goalie alone. 

Well-known defensemen include Quinn Hughes, Bobby Orr, and Ray Bourque.

Edited by Raegan Verhoff

Content created by Josephine Muller

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