One Rule Every Coach Needs in the Defensive Zone

My team's defensive zone rule is called “two steps.”

What comes to your mind when you think of the defensive zone?

If you’re a coach, the thought of the defensive zone immediately raises your attention to 100%. On the other hand, if you’re a player, you probably don’t like to think about it very often and have already forgot about the defensive zone once your skates go over the blueline on a breakout. If we are being honest, players just don’t care about the defensive zone like coaches do. Players like scoring goals. Unless you’re the goalie, stopping goals against just isn’t that entertaining or fun.

In order to grab and hold a team’s attention to the less fun details that drive winning, coaches must find ways to get a message through. As coaches, we must find a way to make our message short, but memorable. A mantra or rule fits the bill perfectly.

With or without the puck

Every player loves having the puck and playing with it. If you polled 100 players if they like playing with the puck vs playing without it, 100% would agree playing with the puck is more fun. Yet in the defensive zone many players have a terrible habit of throwing pucks away.

At worst it’s a turnover to the other team. At best it’s a 50/50 puck race after going glass and out. Thrown away pucks from the defensive zone are almost always situations that go against your team’s chance of driving play and winning.

Yet how do coaches get in the way enough to promote better decisions? Rather than players panicking once they touch the puck they should be comfortable holding onto the puck and making a quality hockey decision. How do we allow them the mental tools to avoid throwing the puck away?

It all has to do with breaking the reaction/response chain that leads to those panicked moments.


Event + Response = Outcome

  • Events that players encounter cannot be controlled.
  • There is no direct control over the Outcomes.
  • The only thing players can have total control over is their Responses

Getting players to focus on their response is the critical piece in getting better outcomes. ​Once players understand that, the next step is to make sure players are responding to events in a way that leads to a positive outcome.

My team's defensive zone rule is called “two steps . . .



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Greg Revak

Greg Revak is a Certified Level 4 USA Hockey Coach. You can find him on Twitter @CoachRevak. or sign up for his Hockey IQ Newsletter.

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