Hockey 101: Defensive Zone Positioning- Wingers

This is one of a series called Hockey 101, addressing the basics of hockey positioning and systems appropriate for a beginner to intermediate player and their team.

Even Strength Defensive Zone Positioning: Wingers

This post describes a “Sagging Zone” defensive system, which is a common and simple system for defensive positioning, used by teams at all levels, including NHL and International competition.

The position of wingers in the defensive zone is the most offensively focused and least complicated, but there are still several important defensive zone responsibilities.

  1. Cover the opposing defensemen
  2. Be available to initiate zone breakouts and offensive transition.
  3. Be a safety valve to help or prevent passes to opposing attackers.

Some advanced systems have wingers cover slightly lower to help cover seams and support defensive positions.  This sacrifices the ability to initiate breakouts, unless wingers are very fast skaters.

The defensive role of wingers varies depending on which half of the rink the puck occupies.  The ‘strong side’ is the side with the puck and the ‘weak side’ is the side away from the puck.

Strong Side Position

The wingers’ primary role is to prevent pucks passed to the strong side defenseman on the point.  He should also be able to grab any puck moving up the boards to the point.

Weak Side Position

In this system, on the weak side, the winger has a split role.  First, to loosely cover the opposing weak side defenseman and second, to prevent shots and puck movement in the scoring zone, or passes through the slot.  He is closer to the center of the zone than the blue line to be a safety valve to protect the net and potentially pick up long rebounds.


A critical part of the wing’s position is to be available to execute a breakout.  The winger should remain close enough to the half-boards to intercept any pucks rimmed up the boards, and be able to reach pucks sent up the boards by defensemen after a turnover.

For more information about breakouts, read:

  • Breakout Basics (coming soon).

4 thoughts on “Hockey 101: Defensive Zone Positioning- Wingers

  1. Really enjoying the site so far; the explanations have been super helpful. I’m just starting out so this stuff is perfect.

    Just wanted to ask if it’d be ok if you switched to using ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ when you’re talking about players. I totally get why it’s normal to use ‘he’, and I don’t want to make a fuss , but I’m sure I’m not the only woman that’s going to be reading these.

    Thanks again, I’m really looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, I’ll keep that in mind. The readership is approximately 93% male, but I don’t want to exclude anyone!

      1. I have to agree with ST’s comment. I am a female coach, coaching competitive girls hockey and looking at some good information provided on this site as to how to explain to parents what and why we are teaching this to the young players. Would appreciate as well the gender neutrality. Thanks,

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