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Stepping right in as a defenceman?

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01-31-2013, 12:21 PM
  #1
Cujomi
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Stepping right in as a defenceman?

Just out of curiosity...is this a no-no? I will be playing recreational level hockey (the lowest level) starting this Saturday and it runs all the way through until the end of August (lucky me). I really want to learn to be a defenceman, but I'm wondering if I should really be proficient in skating backwards before doing so? Or at this level should it not matter?

I'm a pretty fast skater going forwards...I can stop, do crossovers, and I can skate backwards with c-cuts, but I'm very hesitant to do backwards crossovers as I'm not good at them (borderline not being able to do them).

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01-31-2013, 01:47 PM
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tarheelhockey
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Originally Posted by Cujomi View Post
Just out of curiosity...is this a no-no? I will be playing recreational level hockey (the lowest level) starting this Saturday and it runs all the way through until the end of August (lucky me). I really want to learn to be a defenceman, but I'm wondering if I should really be proficient in skating backwards before doing so? Or at this level should it not matter?

I'm a pretty fast skater going forwards...I can stop, do crossovers, and I can skate backwards with c-cuts, but I'm very hesitant to do backwards crossovers as I'm not good at them (borderline not being able to do them).

Don't do it. Defense is a difficult enough position for experienced players. It's not just about backwards skating, but also about having good transitions from front to back, and also being able to stay a step ahead of turnovers.

Start at the wing, where you can make mistakes without burning your goalie, then work your way up to center where you'll have some defensive responsibility in front of the net. Move back to defense when you feel like your backwards skating is solid AND you feel like you have a grasp on the transition game. From time to time you can always drop back to play D if the team is short on players, and start familiarizing yourself with how it feels to play against opposing rushes.

I'd say give it at least a year before moving back full time.

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01-31-2013, 02:37 PM
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I've been trying this in an instructional league, and he's right. If it weren't for the fact that I'm one of the few who actually *wants* to play defense, I'm sure they would have put me on wing by now.

My backwards skating is actually ok, I do alright on stuff like 2 on 1's. It's the other stuff that's tricky; manning the blue line on offense, knowing when to go in the corners after someone, maintaining good communication with your partner

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01-31-2013, 03:25 PM
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I don't see the big deal. If you want to learn to play defense you'll have to be back there at some point or another. I was thrown back on defense from my very first game and I didn't think it was that tough, but you do have to have a very high awareness of what is happening on the ice.

Skating backwards and solid transitions are helpful, but at the very lowest level where I started playing they weren't necessary, I don't know if your league will be similar though. You do need to be able to accurately estimate your abilities and those of others. If an open puck is floating halfway between you and an opposing player, you have to be nearly 100% sure you'll get there first if you go after it since you are the last line of defense before the goalie.

A lot of the position comes down to playing percentages like this. Your job isn't to block every shot or steal the puck from every forward that comes into the zone, you just need to cut down their chances to score. That means keeping them to the outside and generally not letting them get behind you.

Anticipation of plays is also a big part. Sometimes you'll need to go to one knee [or even full-out sprawl] to effectively block a shot/pass, you'll need to know when to time it so that you don't take yourself out of the play. If you're marking someone in the slot you don't have to play the body [I'm a fairly undersized guy, tall but skinny] to effectively defend them. I found shadowing them from behind and timing a stick lift as a pass came was more effective for me than trying to out-muscle them.

Ultimately, you should play where the team places you, but let them know that you would be interested in playing defense. Some things you can do to help learn quicker if you get placed on wing is talk to the defensemen about their responsibilities. Learn how they play and show them you understand. Then if they get a chance to jump into a play, slide back and cover defense for them. They'll love you for it and you'll get a taste of their responsibilities.

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01-31-2013, 03:28 PM
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tarheelhockey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FANonymous View Post
Skating backwards and solid transitions are helpful, but at the very lowest level where I started playing they weren't necessary, I don't know if your league will be similar though.
Ok, I'll grant you that if you're at such a low level that it's not necessary to skate backwards on defense, you're probably ok to go back there.

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01-31-2013, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
Ok, I'll grant you that if you're at such a low level that it's not necessary to skate backwards on defense, you're probably ok to go back there.
Yeah, half the dudes couldn't skate. It was the ultimate beginner league. Only spent 2 sessions there before moving up. Probably could've moved up after one.

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01-31-2013, 05:20 PM
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It's a non-contact adult league and I've never played in a league before. My skating is decent and I can skate backwards and transition between forwards and backwards fairly decently I'm just not 100% confident in my backwards crossovers.

Anyway I'm playing in a bunch of church league games before the league actually starts (it's a summer league, starting in April...I will be playing every Saturday night until then in the Church league) so I'll see where they put me and how I feel about it.

Thanks.

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01-31-2013, 06:34 PM
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theMajor
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youll be fine dude. i played D my first year and did better than most of the other defensemen that had been playing for a few seasons. heck, one guy on my team is in his 4th season and still cant skate backwards

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01-31-2013, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Cujomi View Post
It's a non-contact adult league and I've never played in a league before. My skating is decent and I can skate backwards and transition between forwards and backwards fairly decently I'm just not 100% confident in my backwards crossovers.

Anyway I'm playing in a bunch of church league games before the league actually starts (it's a summer league, starting in April...I will be playing every Saturday night until then in the Church league) so I'll see where they put me and how I feel about it.

Thanks.
You can get by without backwards cross-overs. In fact, it can actually be detrimental if you end up skating faster than the attack and give too much gap.

When I first started playing defense I was already a good skater and could skate faster backwards than a lot of guys could forward. What I realized is that it was a waste because in looking all slick and speedy I was basically just handing over our 1/2 of the neutral zone and the blue line.

The more important skating skill is transitioning/pivoting from backwards to forwards. Which is basically a cross-over/under.

You might also want to work on skating forward and then flipping around backwards to your wide stance/C-cuts.

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01-31-2013, 09:34 PM
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If the opposition is a beginner like you, you'll be fine. If they're experienced players, I would say no, start off as a winger. Do crossovers backwards is one thing, cutting down angles while skating backwards is another. If you aren't good at it people will be blowing by you all night and that's not fun at all for you. Not only this but playing D you're gonna be dropping down on one knee,laying down on the ice and all sorts of other things and you have to be able to get up quickly and continue skating backwards. Defense is the toughest position besides goaltending, the wing is the easiest, in most respects. I actually have a friend, who's been playing for 20 years, is a very good player, but cannot skate backwards. He's just terrible at it. It's definitely not unheard of. If you're determined to learn, try and attend free skates, just casual skates for kids and adults at your local rink, and learn how to do it without a stick.

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01-31-2013, 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by JR97 View Post
You can get by without backwards cross-overs. In fact, it can actually be detrimental if you end up skating faster than the attack and give too much gap.

When I first started playing defense I was already a good skater and could skate faster backwards than a lot of guys could forward. What I realized is that it was a waste because in looking all slick and speedy I was basically just handing over our 1/2 of the neutral zone and the blue line.

The more important skating skill is transitioning/pivoting from backwards to forwards. Which is basically a cross-over/under.

You might also want to work on skating forward and then flipping around backwards to your wide stance/C-cuts.
This is the key actually. I started taking power skating lessons from age 3 till about 12 and this was preached heavily. Getting that momentum from skating forward(while getting back) is crucial. If you start from a stopped position and start skating backwards crossing over, anyone will blow by you. Take 4 or 5 strides then flip around.

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01-31-2013, 09:53 PM
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That's cool then...I'm pretty decent at the pivoting and transitioning (although I'm not totally confident in being able to stop going backwards at high speeds). Maybe I'll request to play D if I can.

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01-31-2013, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cujomi View Post
Just out of curiosity...is this a no-no? I will be playing recreational level hockey (the lowest level) starting this Saturday and it runs all the way through until the end of August (lucky me). I really want to learn to be a defenceman, but I'm wondering if I should really be proficient in skating backwards before doing so? Or at this level should it not matter?

I'm a pretty fast skater going forwards...I can stop, do crossovers, and I can skate backwards with c-cuts, but I'm very hesitant to do backwards crossovers as I'm not good at them (borderline not being able to do them).
Out of curiosity, what league are you going to be playing in?

If you ask me, playing D is based on who else is available. If you have solid, experienced D, they're going to get preference. It's important to have good D who can get the puck out of trouble and move it to the forwards.

If your team doesn't have a full set of D, just volunteer and do the best you can. I find most people want to play forward anyways so it's not hard to get slotted in D, especially in the lower levels.

The ideal is to be paired with a good D partner who can show you the ropes and ease the transition.

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01-31-2013, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Cujomi View Post
That's cool then...I'm pretty decent at the pivoting and transitioning (although I'm not totally confident in being able to stop going backwards at high speeds). Maybe I'll request to play D if I can.
You just need time to practice. If you've got quick feet like you've suggested, It won't take long to figure it out. I just know guys who aren't good at every aspect at skating backward get burned a lot and you'll definitely feel guilty when your goalie gets scored on. The only way to get better is to get practice in.

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02-01-2013, 07:33 AM
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Cujomi
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Originally Posted by Stickchecked View Post
Out of curiosity, what league are you going to be playing in?

If you ask me, playing D is based on who else is available. If you have solid, experienced D, they're going to get preference. It's important to have good D who can get the puck out of trouble and move it to the forwards.

If your team doesn't have a full set of D, just volunteer and do the best you can. I find most people want to play forward anyways so it's not hard to get slotted in D, especially in the lower levels.

The ideal is to be paired with a good D partner who can show you the ropes and ease the transition.
I don't mind. Right now I'm playing in a Church league in Winchester, but come summer it will be the lowest level of the summer Bell Sensplex league.

Yeah it will be kind of cool because right now things are looking like I might be playing with my dad (he's been playing since he was a boy and he's 50 now...still a great skater). So he should be able to teach me a lot.

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02-01-2013, 07:50 AM
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tarheelhockey
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Originally Posted by Cujomi View Post
I don't mind. Right now I'm playing in a Church league in Winchester, but come summer it will be the lowest level of the summer Bell Sensplex league.

Yeah it will be kind of cool because right now things are looking like I might be playing with my dad (he's been playing since he was a boy and he's 50 now...still a great skater). So he should be able to teach me a lot.
Since you're playing in a league now, you have a great opportunity to work on some of the little things. For example, if you're playing forward then there will be times in the game where you can skate through the neutral/defensive zones backwards just to get the feel of it. See how fast you can make that transition from offense to defense, get a feel for spacing, see how comfortable you are using your stick while going backwards. Maybe cover the point on offense if the opportunity presents itself, just to get the feel of having the puck come out at you the way it would as a dman. Basically play as a third defenseman for a shift here and there, just to kind of work up to making the transition.

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02-01-2013, 10:34 AM
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Go for it, you'll be just fine.

Most guys in beginner league can't skate backwards very well. The guys on defense often get stuck there because they don't score much and/or don't complain about it.

If you WANT to play defense, that's awesome. Teams will love you for it.

And rec hockey should be pretty fun and forgiving anyway.

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02-01-2013, 10:42 AM
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The ideal is to be paired with a good D partner who can show you the ropes and ease the transition.
god yes. It's been a huge help for me that the guy I'm paired up with is more than happy to yell at me on the ice with instructions, and give me a ton of tips on the bench.

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02-01-2013, 10:43 AM
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youll be fine dude. i played D my first year and did better than most of the other defensemen that had been playing for a few seasons. heck, one guy on my team is in his 4th season and still cant skate backwards
+1 - agreed, you'll be fine. Good luck!!

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02-01-2013, 04:05 PM
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When I first started playing D I didn't really have anyone to lean on since the other guys sucked worse at D than me hence why I moved back there.

So whenever I'd watch a game I'd study the D. Guys like Lidstrom, Neydermeyer, etc. who weren't the most physical but always were where they needed to be and when. It's kind of hard with tv since they cut off so much of the play to show the offensive end of things. You also don't get to see when the D guys start pedaling back and how they came to that decision. That's something I never noticed until I attended some games.

The other thing is to talk a lot. To your D partner, to your forwards, to your other partner...whatever. It's amazing how well things can come together in beer league when someone starts directing traffic in the defensive end.

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