What Does Center Do In Hockey? [Expert Guide!]

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Everyone has a different opinion regarding what center does in hockey. Some believe that he is the quarterback while others claim that he is the receiver. While it is true that centers are usually the ones initiating the plays, it is also true that there is some level of collaboration involved. Before we begin analyzing center’s role in hockey, let’s take a look at the history of the position.

Centers Have Been Around For A Long Time

The first hockey centers were simply players who specialized in playing the center position. Back then, centers were more focused on being strong and physical rather than skilled. After the invention of the wheel, the game of hockey began to evolve and change. With each new invention and innovation, the definition of a hockey center also changed. In today’s game, the role of a hockey center has been significantly altered by new innovations such as the face-off, the breakaway, and the power play.

The Face-Off

The face-off has been a part of hockey since the 1800s. Back then, coaches would line up their players for a battle of who would hold the puck longer. Although the face-off does not necessarily require two players, it often does. The face-off takes place following a loose puck shot by one team. On the other side of the ice, one of the defensemen will attempt to win the puck back from the attacker. Once that happens, it’s a scrum with everyone trying to gain possession of the puck. If the puck is not dropped for a moment, the play will be over and a face-off will ensue.

The Breakaway

A breakaway is a kind of a hockey play in which a team attempts to score on a direct snap from a standing start. The breakaway is named after its inventor, Aurel Steinway. Back in the 1800s, Steinweg developed a method of taking the puck away from the opposing team by hand. If you are able to successfully execute a breakaway, it is usually the result of a defensive mistake by the opponent. Therefore, a breakaway is often referred to as an error-based opportunity.

The Power Play

The power play is when a team gets a chance to score on a deflection or an indirect shot from a teammate. As the name suggests, the power play is usually used to score from a standing position. Since the power play is a play that is based on opportunity rather than skill, elite hockey players are often able to shine during a power play. In today’s NHL, teams are more inclined to use a power play as a way to extend a lead rather than as a last resort when they are down a goal or two.

Most Hockey Centers Are Big

One of the most significant features of a hockey center is his size. The position requires a lot of size because the center has to be able to handle the puck as well as protect the puck from being stolen. In the latest NHL player survey, 86.7% of the respondents said that they were above average in terms of size. Only 5.3% of the players said that they were average in size and 8.7% said that they were smaller.

According to the survey, there are currently 11 active centers in the NHL who measure at least 7 feet tall and weigh at least 220 pounds. That is a significant portion of the players in the League. In terms of international representation, the largest contingent of centers hail from Finland. The country’s national team features several players who stand out.

Finland’s Top 5 Defenseman:

  • Jari Kurri (6’4″, 220 lbs)
  • Erkki Liikakka (6’0″, 212 lbs)
  • Kris Draper (6’1″, 210 lbs)
  • Mikael Tellqvist (6’0″, 214 lbs)
  • Jukka Hentunen (5’10”, 206 lbs)

These 5 defensemen alone are responsible for 5 of the 7 Finnish goals scored in the 2018 World Cup of Hockey.

The Coordination Required

The position requires a lot of coordination and hand-eye co-ordination. Centers spend a lot of time waiting for players to get ready for the game so that everything goes smoothly. For instance, they have to make sure that their skates are sharp and that their jerseys are clean before the game. Once everything is ready, it’s game time and the centers enter the arena to do their job.

The responsibility of a center is to establish and maintain an effective play-balance between offense and defense. In plain English, the center’s job is to be in the middle. He is responsible for helping his team maintain possession of the puck and distributing it to his teammates. In addition, he is also responsible for screening the opponent’s best players while also trying to limit their effectiveness. The net result is that the offense has more opportunities while the defense is more engaged because they have fewer distractions.

Now that we have a general idea of what a hockey center does, let’s take a look at some of the perks that come with the job.

The Puck Handles Are An Asset

Aside from establishing and maintaining an effective play-balance, a good center is also responsible for handling the puck. Since the position requires a lot of handling, it is not surprising to learn that 86.7% of the respondents in the 2018 NHL player survey said that they were above average in terms of puck-handling ability. Only 5.3% of the players said that they were average and 8.7% said that they were below average.

According to the survey, the ability to handle the puck is one of the most significant assets of a hockey center. Without a doubt, you need a big pair of hands to be able to handle the puck the way that a center should. In addition to having the hands, you also need to have the eye-sight to be able to control the puck while moving around on the ice. These are all essential qualities for a center.

The Defense Is Key

Even though they are usually the last ones to leave the ice at the end of the game, centers do a lot of defensive work. According to the 2018 NHL player survey, 80% of the players felt that their defense was above average while only 8.7% thought that it was average and 11.3% felt that it was below average.

The position demands a high level of defensive play, especially during the regular season, where you are playing against other teams most of the time. According to the same survey, defense is the aspect of hockey in which players are most likely to improve. There is still plenty of room to grow and develop as a player at any given age.

Aside from having a steady hand, good vision, and an ability to handle the puck, you need to be physically prepared to play center. Being strong is an important quality for a hockey player, and it is especially crucial for the position. Last but not least, you need to bring your ‘A’ game every night because there is always someone else out there who wants to prove that they are the best. If you are looking to improve your hockey skills or wish to enter the world of coaching, consider the role of a hockey center. It is a respected position in hockey and it is something that you can be proud of.

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