Protecting the House
By: Paul T. Lubanski
My number one priority when crafting this column on a weekly basis is to help coaches and players break the game down into smaller more digestible pieces so that it might become easier to both coach and play. Today, I'd like to expand upon that premise with a defensive-minded effort entitled "Protecting The House."
In my mind, the concept of "Protecting The House" is an outstanding method to simplify an extremely important segment of the game that can sometimes become both frustrating and confusing--that being--DEFENSIVE ZONE PLAY.
To fully comprehend how "Protecting The House" can become an invaluable coaching/teaching tool, you must first understand what the house is and exactly where it is located in the "d" zone. First of all, the rear (and only) door is your goal cage. The balance of the "house" is found by drawing a straight (albeit "angled") line from each of the goalposts out to the face-off dots. Finally you complete (and enclose) the structure by drawing imaginary parallel straight lines ten feet towards the blueline and then by joining those lines with another straight line parallel to the blueline. Congratulations! You have just created the platform for your team to begin to play excellent defense...the following will explain "why" and more importantly--"how."
"Why" is simple...if your players are taught that all opposing team shots must come from outside of the house area--and of course-- that no opposition player is EVER left alone/open in that area--your team will give up very few goals.
"How" is a bit more difficult--but certainly not a mystery to teach/execute. Basically, your "d" zone player must: a.) maintain "d" side positioning with their heads constantly ON A SWIVEL b.) keeps sticks on the ice positioned to take away and clog passing lanes c.) place their bodies in shooting lanes when at all possible. Conceivably, you recognize a, b, and c as the essential (and core) principles of basic defensive play? If you had--you would be correct. You see, the basic defensive rules never change regardless of where the play may be on the ice--it just becomes more imperative that these assignments are executed the closer you get to your own cage--especially in your HOUSE.
At a minimum, there is one moment in each game when the opposing team secures such complete control of the biscuit that it appears as though your team is running around like the proverbial "chicken its it head severed." Now, you have an easy way to bring your team back to its senses (and under control) by ordering them to "get into the house and find someone to check!"
And please do not forget that communication when on defense is actually more important than when on offense. It is mandatory that your players talk to each other to make certain that each opposing player is ALWAYS accounted for...no exceptions accepted!
In closing, I will absolutely guarantee that the defensive strategy of "Protecting The House" --if internalized by coaches and then taught properly--will lower your team's Goals Against average. Not only that, your players will become increasingly more responsible and intelligent from a defensive standpoint--both traits that will serve them well if they intend to move up the competition ladder.
An opposing player IS NOT 100% "covered" unless his/her stick is taken out of the equation. Players smaller in stature must--AT MINIMUM--take away the stick of a much larger opposition player. I have witnessed many goals scored while players have literally been laying on the ice surface-do not EVER let that occur against your team--it can devastating to your team's psyche and momentum.
Paul T. Lubanski is a lead instructor for the USA Ice hockey Coaching Education Program (CEP) in Michigan. He is also the State of Michigan Coach-In-Chief for USA Inline Hockey. He is available for private, individual or group coaching and/or player performance enhancement sesions as well as for motivational speaking presentations through his affiliation with Maksymum Hockey in Perani's in Livonia. Conatct him at 248 592-9640 or via email at