What is the bumper play in hockey?

Offensive coaches are always trying to find ways to score more and one of the newer innovations is through the bumper position. But what does this bumper position mean and entail? 

What is the bumper position? The bumper position is a dynamic role typically assumed by a forward during a team’s power play or in certain offensive formations. A player in the bumper position, usually in the high slot area, acts as a pivot or facilitator, setting up plays, firing quick shots, and creating traffic in front of the net. 

The “bumper” term is derived from the position’s nature to “bump” the puck to teammates or shoot shots towards the goal.

waiting for a shot in the bumper position in hockey

This is a ‘newer’ type of play in the game of hockey. Let’s take a closer look at the bumper play and how it is utilized in a game. 

What Does the Bumper Position Entail?

A. Where is the bumper position typically located on the ice?

This position is typically found in the high slot area—the space between the faceoff circles close to the opponent’s goal. It’s a high-traffic area and a prime spot for scoring due to its central location and the variety of angles it affords for taking shots on goal.

B. How does a player assume the bumper position during gameplay?

The high slot is the best place to score from and, also, the hardest area for a forward to get to because the defense (naturally) wants to keep them from this prime real estate. 

However, the forward will often have an easier time getting to this area of the ice when they are on the power play. There is more open space, and the defender does not have the ability to play one-on-one defense – they are in a zone defense. 

III. How Does the Bumper Position Work on the Power Play

In modern hockey strategy, the bumper position is a lynchpin for successful power plays. By having a player who can swiftly navigate the slot area, a team can effectively dismantle the opposition’s positioning and open up shooting lanes. This often happens in the 1-3-1 formation on the powerplay.

A. What is the 1-3-1 formation on the powerplay?

The formation is made up of the point, two wingers, a man down low and the bumper. The point is at the top of the umbrella, the man down low at the handle, with the bumper in the middle and the wingers on either side.

This is probably the most common powerplay formation in the NHL.

It works so well because it gives the powerplay multiple types of strategies to set up high danger scoring chances – one of which is the bumper play.

B. Where does the player who is the ‘bumper’ position himself on the ice for the powerplay?

The bumper position is one that is generally only used on the powerplay in a formation known as the “umbrella.” This is because bumpers play in the middle of the ice, which can be a strategic advantage when trying to score.

When in this formation, the bumper will be positioned halfway between the player screening the goalie and the defenseman at the top of the umbrella. This is also known as the high slot.

When a player is in the high slot it gives them (what they call) a grade A chance to score. Or in other words, a very good chance at scoring. Most goals are scored within a baseball plate shape in front of the net – and the bumper play puts them in the centre of the plate!

C. How does the player in the bumper position contribute to offense?

The offensive contributions of a bumper player are varied:

  • By acting as a decoy, they can draw defensemen away from the puck carrier.
  • Their presence enables quicker pass exchanges in the offensive zone, thus confusing the opposition.
  • The player has the option (or possible chance) of taking a quick shot from an area where they have a good opportunity to score
  • The bumper player is well-positioned for deflections and rebounds, making them a constant goal threat.
  • They also facilitate one-timer shots, a technique where the player shoots the puck directly upon receiving a pass without stopping it first.

Is the bumper position used at other times of the game?

A. What other offensive plays commonly involve the bumper position?

The bumper position is used at other times of the game, but it is harder to implement due to the fact that more players are defending you then when you have a power play.

However, if it can be implemented you can look for it to be utilized in a similar manner to the powerplay: 

  1. Give-and-Go Plays: The bumper can engage in rapid pass-and-move sequences to break down defensive setups.
  2. Screening the Goalie: The player often positions themselves to obscure the goaltender’s view.
  3. Quick Shots from the High Slot: Most goals are scored within six to 10 feet from the net. 

B. How does the bumper player create scoring opportunities for the team?

  • By targeting soft spots in the defense to receive passes and get off quick shots.
  • Distributing the puck efficiently to players on the periphery, namely sharpshooters and point men.
  • Making smart lateral movements to confuse the defense and open up space for themselves or teammates.

C. Examples of successful goals originating from the bumper position

Case studies reveal the potency of the bumper position in high-stakes matches. Notable examples include:

  • Player A utilizes a swift deflection to turn a wide shot into a game-winning goal.
  • Player B’s quick reception and pass lead to a teammate’s one-timer that breaks a tie in the playoffs.
  • Player C screens the goaltender perfectly, allowing a point shot to find the back of the net.
Source Looking to tip the puck from the bumper position

V. How Do You Defend Against the Bumper Play?

Defending against the bumper involves a combination of physical play and strategic zoning.

  • Tight coverage by a defensive player can limit the bumper’s ability to receive and distribute the puck.
  • Implementing a box-plus-one system where a defenseman shadows the bumper, disrupting their flow.
  • Ensuring goalies maintain clear sightlines despite screening attempts and being prepared for deflections.

Why is the bumper play so effective?

The bumper play can be extremely effective because it allows for a quick and easy scoring opportunity. By having someone in the middle of the ice, it’s easier to make a pass to them and then get a shot off on the goalie.

The player in the bumper position can receive the pass from either winger of the man down low. Since this gives the team on the powerplay so many options it can be difficult to defend.

In conclusion, the effectiveness of the bumper player is undeniable. Their versatility and positioning can shift the momentum in a game and often result in critical scoring opportunities. By mastering this crucial role, players elevate their team’s playmaking potential and overall offensive threat on the ice.

Are there any tips for those who want to try out this position?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re interested in playing the bumper position:

(a) Be patient – don’t try to force a play that’s not there.

(b) Be aware of your surroundings – know where the other players are on the ice and how they can help you.

(c) Communicate with your teammates – let them know what you’re thinking and what you want to do. This will help everyone be on the same page and make the most of the powerplay.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great bumper! And who knows – maybe one day you’ll even make it to the NHL. Thanks for reading!

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Welcome to Hockey Answered: a resource for anyone curious to learn & understand more about the great game of hockey.

I am a lifelong fan who grew up in a major market (Calgary), and I have played, coached, and watched a lot of hockey!

As my daughter began watching NHL games with me, I realized how many questions come up about the sport. Hockey Answered is full of, well, answers! If you are a new fan or lifelong enthusiast, I hope that you can enjoy hockey even more by learning something new around here.

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