How To Defend A Breakout In Ice Hockey

Defending a breakout in ice hockey is essential for a team’s success in preventing the opposing team from making a quick transition and getting a scoring opportunity. Here are 5 key facts to help you understand how to effectively defend a breakout:
1. Positioning: Proper positioning is crucial when defending a breakout. Defensemen should maintain a gap between themselves and the opposing players to make it difficult for them to pass or skate through. Additionally, forwards should backcheck and support the defensemen to interrupt the opposition’s progress.

2. Communication: Clear communication is vital when defending a breakout. Players need to communicate with each other to ensure everyone is covering the right assignments. This helps in preventing the opponents from finding open passing lanes or utilizing odd-man rushes.

3. Stick Positioning: Keeping an active stick is crucial in defending a breakout. Defensemen should aim to disrupt passing lanes by holding their sticks in the passing lanes or deflecting passes. When done effectively, this can force turnovers and break up the opposing team’s breakout.

4. Anticipation: Successful defense requires anticipation of the opposition’s moves. By studying the opposing team’s tendencies or recognizing certain setups, players can be better prepared to defend the breakout. Anticipation allows defenders to make quick decisions and intercept passes or apply pressure at the right time.

5. Pressure and Containment: Utilizing pressure and containment tactics can limit the effectiveness of an opposing team’s breakout. Defensemen should apply pressure on the puck carrier, forcing them to make quicker decisions and potentially leading to turnovers. Meanwhile, forwards should focus on containing the opposing players, preventing them from gaining speed or entering the offensive zone easily.


1. Should defensemen always try to block shots during a breakout?
Defensemen should prioritize disrupting passing lanes rather than solely focusing on blocking shots. While blocking shots can be effective, standing in the middle of passing lanes and forcing the opposition to make risky attempts is often more beneficial.

2. How can defensemen effectively maintain a gap during a breakout?
Defensemen should aim to stay a stick’s length away from the opposing players. This allows them to have a strong defensive position while also being able to disrupt passes or apply pressure when necessary.

3. What role do forwards play in defending a breakout?
Forwards play a significant role by backchecking and supporting the defensemen. They need to track back quickly and assist in cutting off passing options or applying pressure to the opposing players. This teamwork helps in nullifying the breakout.

4. How can anticipation improve defensive performance during a breakout?
Anticipation allows players to read and react quickly to the opposing team’s movements. By studying the opposition’s tendencies and understanding common breakout strategies, defenders can anticipate passes, disrupt plays, and potentially create turnovers.

5. Is it possible to defend a breakout without giving opponents any scoring chances?
While it is challenging to completely eliminate scoring chances, effective defensive strategies, such as maintaining proper positioning, active stick work, and pressure, can significantly minimize the opposition’s chances of scoring during a breakout.

6. How important is it for defensemen to communicate with their goaltender during a breakout?
Communication between defensemen and the goaltender is crucial during a breakout. Defensemen should inform the goaltender of potential passing options or potential plays, allowing the goaltender to anticipate shots and make timely saves.

7. What should players do if the opposing team successfully breaks out?
In case the opposition successfully breaks out, players should quickly transition into their defensive system. They need to regroup, maintain their defensive positions, and work together to disrupt the play and minimize the scoring chances.

Defending a breakout requires proper positioning, effective communication, active stick work, anticipation, and pressure and containment tactics. By implementing and mastering these strategies, players can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the opposing team’s breakout and increase their chances of defending successfully in ice hockey.