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Ice Hockey : Tactics


Winning the faceoff can be the key to some strategies. A game between Saginawand Plymouth's Ontario Hockey Leagueteams.
An important defensive tactic is checking – attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. The neutral zone trap is designed to isolate the puck carrier in the neutral zone preventing him from entering the offensive zone. Body checking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who is the last to have touched it (the last person to have touched the puck is still legally "in possession" of it, although a penalty is generally called if he is checked more than two seconds after his last touch). Often the term checking is used to refer to body checking, with its true definition generally only propagated among fans of the game.
Offensive tactics include improving a team's position on the ice by advancing the puck out of one's zone towards the opponent's zone, progressively by gaining lines, first your own blue line, then the red line and finally the opponent's blue line. NHL rules instated for the 2006 season redefinedoffside to make the two-line pass legal; a player may pass the puck from behind his own blue line, past both that blue line and the center red line, to a player on the near side of the opponents' blue line. Offensive tactics are designed ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. When a player purposely directs the puck towards the opponent's goal, he or she is said to shoot the puck.
A deflection is a shot which redirects a shot or a pass towards the goal from another player, by allowing the puck to strike the stick and carom towards the goal. A one-timer is a shot which is struck directly off a pass, without receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. A deke(short for decoy) is a feint with the body and/or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Headmanning the puck, also known as cherry-picking or breaking out, is the tactic of rapidly passing to the player farthest down the ice.
Many new age players have picked up a skill called dangling, formerly known as deking. Dangles however are a little more fancy and require more stick handling skills. Popular dangles: through the legs shot, toe drag flip up tap down, and of course the normal toe drag through the legs.
A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play will often elect to pull the goalie; that is, remove the goaltender and replace him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, it is an act of desperation, as it sometimes leads to the opposing team extending their lead by scoring a goal in the empty net.
A delayed penalty call occurs when a penalty offense is committed by the team that does not have possession of the puck. In this circumstance the team with possession of the puck is allowed to complete the play; that is, play continues until a goal is scored, a player on the opposing team gains control of the puck, or the team in possession commits an infraction or penalty of their own. Because the team on which the penalty was called cannot control the puck without stopping play, it is impossible for them to score a goal, however, it is possible for the controlling team to mishandle the puck into their own net. In these cases the team in possession of the puck can pull the goalie for an extra attacker without fear of being scored on. If a delayed penalty is signaled and the team in possession scores, the penalty is still assessed to the offending player, but not served.
One of the most important strategies for a team is their forecheck. Forechecking is the act of attacking the opposition in their defensive zone. Forechecking is an important part of the dump and chase strategy (i.e. shooting the puck into the offensive zone and then chasing after it). Each team will use their own unique system but the main ones are: 2-1-2, 1-2-2, and 1-4. The 2-1-2 is the most basic forecheck system where two forwards will go in deep and pressure the opposition's defencemen, the third forward stays high and the two defencemen stay at the blueline. The 1-2-2 is a bit more conservative system where one forward pressures the puck carrier and the other two forwards cover the oppositions' wingers, with the two defencemen staying at the blueline. The 1-4 is the most defensive foresheck system, referred to as the trap, where one forward will apply pressure to the puck carrier around the oppositions' blueline and the other 4 players stand basically in a line by their blueline in hopes the opposition will skate into one of them.
There are many other little tactics used in the game of hockey. Pinching is the term used when a defencemen pressures the opposition's winger in the offensive zone when they are breaking out, attempting to stop their attack and keep the puck in the offensive zone. A saucer pass is a pass used when an opposition's stick or body is in the passing lane. It is the act of raising the puck over the obstruction and having it land on a teammates' stick.


Although fighting is officially prohibited in the rules, it is both a source of criticism and a considerable draw for the sport. At the professional level in North America fights are unofficially condoned. Enforcers and other players fight to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own, as well as settling personal scores. A fight will also break out if one of the team's skilled players gets hit hard or someone gets hit by what the team perceives as a dirty hit. The amateur game penalizes fisticuffs more harshly, as a player who receives a fighting major is also assessed at least a 10 minute misconduct penalty (NCAA and some Junior league) or a game misconduct penalty and suspension (high school and younger, as well as some casual adult leagues).

Periods and overtime

A professional game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each, the clock running only when the puck is in play. The teams change ends for the second period, again for the third period, and again at the start of each overtime played. Recreational leagues and children's leagues often play shorter games, generally with three shorter periods of play.
Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play, as well as in the NHL playoffs, North Americans favor sudden deathovertime, in which the teams continue to play twenty minute periods until a goal is scored. Up until the 1999-2000 season regular season NHL games were settled with a single five minute sudden death period with four players (plus a goalie) per side, with both teams awarded one point in the standings.
From 1999-2000 until 2003-04 the National Hockey League decided ties by playing a single five minute sudden death overtime period with each team having four players (plus a goalie) per side to "open-up" the game. In the event of a tie, each team would still receive one point in the standings but in the event of a victory the winning team would be awarded two points in the standings and the losing team one point. The only exception to this rule is if a team opts to pull their goalie in exchange for an extra skater during overtime and is subsequently scored upon (an 'Empty Net' goal), in which case the losing team receives no points for the overtime loss.
International play and several North American professional leagues, including the NHL (in the regular season), now use an overtime period followed by a penalty shootout. If the score remains tied after an extra overtime period, the subsequent shootout consists of three players from each team taking penalty shots. After these six total shots, the team with the most goals is awarded the victory. If the score is still tied, the shootout then proceeds to a sudden death format. Regardless of the number of goals scored during the shootout by either team, the final score recorded will award the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time. In the NHL if a game is decided by a shootout the winning team is awarded two points in the standings and the losing team is awarded one point. Ties no longer occur in the NHL.

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