List Of Hockey Strategies

Ice Hockey Strategy

Strategy is key to scoring, defending, and winning hockey games. Teams use different schemes in the offensive and defensive zones and on the power play and penalty kill. Strategies are often developed and built during practices throughout the week leading up to gamedays. Strategies help a team feel prepared and in sync on the ice. Players are more likely to be positioned properly and work better with their teammates when using strategies effectively.

Hockey Strategies List

There are a lot of strategies involved in the sport of ice hockey. It's up to the coaches to design plays that give their team a strategic advantage over the opposing team. Here are the main types of hockey strategies.

  • Offensive Strategies
  • Defensive Strategies
  • Power Play Strategies
  • Penalty Kill Strategies

Offensive Zone Strategies

When teams are in their offensive zone, they implement strategies to pressure the defensive zone players and create scoring opportunities. The three most common offensive schemes implemented in hockey are the 1-2-2, 1-3-1, and 2-3.

1-2-2 Formation

The 1-2-2 is a common strategy used in the offensive zone. It involves one forward being the primary forechecker, with the two other forwards covering each side’s half-walls. The two defensemen form the back line in case the opposition is able to break the puck up into the neutral zone. The job of the primary forechecker is to force the defenseman to pick a side to carry or pass the puck up. Once the opposing defenseman has picked a side, the forward on that half-wall will provide extra pressure. This strategy is simple yet effective, making it a popular choice for teams of all ages and skill levels.

1-3-1 Formation

The 1-3-1 is a newer strategy that has been implemented by teams in the offensive zone. Similar to the 1-2-2, the 1-3-1 includes one primary forechecker pressuring the opposing team in the offensive zone. Two players will be providing support on each half-wall, usually one forward and one defenseman. A third player is also stationed in the middle of the ice in line with the two players on the half-wall. This player, usually one of the forwards, will look to pressure any play towards the middle of the ice, a common tactic used to thwart other strategies. This pressure towards the middle of the ice, in addition to the players on the half-walls, cuts off all passing lanes and clear routes when executed properly. The weakness of this strategy lies in the lack of depth defensively, which can lead to breakaways and odd-man rushes for the opposition.

2-3 Formation

The 2-3 strategy in the offensive zone is less commonly used, as it requires an extremely delicate balance between aggressiveness and passiveness. Two forecheckers are in charge of aggressively pursuing the puck down low, while the three remaining teammates are stationed at the top of the zone. If the opposition is able to move the puck up one side, the player playing high on that side will drop down to pressure them. This will result in only two players being the back line, so they must make sure not to be too aggressive.

Defensive Zone Strategies

Strategies in the defensive zone are focused on cutting off passing lanes, pressuring the puck, and forcing turnovers. The three main schemes implemented in the defensive zone are zone coverage, man coverage, and a strong side overload.

Zone Coverage

Zone coverage is the most commonly used defensive zone strategy used in hockey. It involves each player covering a specific area of the ice, regardless of which opposing player is occupying that area. The two wings will cover the area near the top of the circles and the blue line and are looking for opportunities to break the puck out and cover the opposing defensemen. The two defensemen cover the areas in each of their respective corners all the way to the front of the net. Their job is to pressure the puck and prevent passes to the front of the net. The center will help support the defense, providing an extra layer of defense in the corners and front of the net.

Man Coverage

Man coverage is less common than zone coverage in hockey but is still used by some teams. This strategy involves each player in the defensive zone matching up with an opposing player to cover. Teams that use a version of man coverage play a hybrid between man and zone, which includes a certain player being followed by a specific defender.

Strong Side Overload

The strong side overload is a strategy that places all the defending players on one side of the offensive zone. It is similar in shape to the zone coverage, except all players are shifted horizontally onto one side of the ice. The strong side overload is meant to eliminate space for the attacking team to move the puck and force turnovers.

Power Play Strategies

A power play is when a team has a man-advantage over their opponent as a result of a penalty. Various strategies are implemented in the offensive zone by teams on a power play, most notably the umbrella and overload.


The umbrella is a power play strategy used in the offensive zone and is shaped like its name. The umbrella features two forwards down low in the offensive zone, with the three other teammates spread out up near the blue line. This strategy is designed to open up passing lanes and create shots from the high slot, as well as one-timers in front of the net.


The overload is a power play strategy that is used by teams of all ages and skill levels. The overload features two defensemen playing the point near the blue line, one forward on the half-wall, one forward in the corner, and one in front of the net, all on the same side of the ice.

Penalty Kill Strategies

A team is on the penalty kill when they are a man down due to a penalty being taken. They are then tasked with defending strategically and use different schemes to keep the puck out of the net. The most common penalty killing strategies are the box, the diamond, and the triangle.


The box is used in the defensive zone primarily when the opposing team is in an overload formation. The box features the two forwards covering the high slot and the point, while two defensemen cover the low slot in front of the net. This strategy aims to cut off passing lanes and prevent shots from high-scoring areas.


The diamond is another defensive zone penalty killing strategy and is typically used when the opposing team is in an umbrella formation. Unlike the box, the diamond only features one forward in the high slot and one defenseman in front of the net. The other two teammates are positioned near each face-off dot to prevent one-timers. The main goal of this strategy is to cover the opposition high in the zone and prevent one-timers from cross-ice passes.


The triangle is a defensive zone penalty killing strategy that is used when teams are down two players in a 5-on-3 scenario. The triangle typically features two defenders down low covering the front of the net and low slot, while a single forward plays higher in the slot and attempts to block passing and shooting lanes. Since a 5-on-3 is such a disadvantage, penalty killers in the triangle mainly focus on eliminating easy scoring chances, like shots from the low slot and passes through the crease.