Smart Strategies to Improve Your Hockey Team

Faceoff(52016)Credit: Chris Voorberg

If you play on or organize a recreational league 3 on 3 hockey team, it may have crossed your mind that even though this isn't NHL caliber hockey, incorporating some strategy could improve the play of your team. While most people don't take rec. hockey too seriously, there's definitely a sense of competition that most guys crave in getting out on the ice and trying to win. 

Team Size

As in all hockey, only one goalie is necessary. When it comes to skaters however, many leagues are flexible on the number of players per team. It is required that three skaters be present to avoid a forfeit, but aside from that there is a gray area. In a standard league, playing a game that is just under 60 minutes long  gets very tiring if the pace is relatively high. A good number of skaters is nine. This way your team can have three lines, ensuring a two shift rest for each line, and keeping the same players together on a line may help to develop chemistry between them.

Positional or Man to Man Strategy

Positional teams tend to put out two forwards and one defenseman each shift, separating the roles of defense and offense.


- players know their responsibilities and which opposing player they should defend against

- everyone will always be in their strongest position

- shift changes are smoother


- difficult to cycle the puck around deep in the zone

- players feel the need to stay in their place and not take risks

-  less help on defense from teammates, player may end up "chasing" the opposing skater


Zone Strategy

Teams using a zone game will send out three players who will form a triangle formation on the ice, each covering a "zone" of the playing surface.


- players easily swap zones and move around all over the ice

- any player can sub off for the next bench player; no positions limit them

- triangle formation can invert and shift to fool the other team


- players may get stuck in positions on the ice where they are weak

- playing zone defense requires effort and may give too much room to opposition

- all players may change on the fly at the same part of the bench creating a traffic jam

Choosing Your Strategy

Each team has strengths and weaknesses, so either strategy may work. In some cases it's also a good idea to change strategy mid-game based on the other team's style or skills. Even if you lose the game it's not the end of the world, the number one goal in these leagues is to exercise and have fun!