I'm a big hockey guy, but over the last 2 or so seasons I've seen the Tampa Bay Lightning use the incredibly boring 1-3-1 forecheck. As you see in the picture below, the Tampa Bay Lightning (blue) is using the 1-3-1 forecheck against the Philadelphia Flyers (orange).

I was wondering, who was the first team / coach that used the 1-3-1 forecheck?

  • I don't know alot on Hockey but I recommend you the read the following post - sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/… – Dor Cohen Aug 29 '12 at 13:02
  • Thanks for the reply. But that explains how the Lightning are using it. I was just wondering who came up with this, in my opinion, lazy forecheck. – Zack Aug 29 '12 at 13:50
  • According to this article, Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 forecheck "is believed to stand alone in modern professional hockey." Additionally, former Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford uses a 1-3-1 zone, but with the two outside defenders closer to the middle of the ice (unlike Boucher). – user527 Aug 31 '12 at 17:48
  • You are correct when you say that The Tampa Bay Lightning uses it right now, however they were not the team to first use it. 3 seasons ago when Guy Boucher implementedthe 1-3-1 into Tampa's defense, there was an outcry among the league. This happened because this forecheck is a very "sit and wait" boring way to play. Also is has not been used in a VERY long time. I know the answer is out there!!! But regardless, +1 for finding out that Crawford used it. – Zack Sep 4 '12 at 11:47

The New Jersey Devils used a similar setup back in the mid 90's. It was so revolutionary that it knocked fans out of their seats -- and into their beds ;)

The 1-3-1 is a type of neutral zone trap, which many teams will employ situationally at different points in the game. It is a natural evolution of the single forechecker on a penalty kill, and is often done late in games to preserve comfortable leads. As a result, I am almost certain you can see 1-3-1 variants at various points of games as far back as you can find professional hockey footage; as such, it is hard to figure out who used it first.

But as for using it as a general game strategy, probably go back to 1995 NJ Devils, or so.

Edit, for more detail:

The resurgence of the 1-3-1 can be linked to the removal of the two-line pass rule. Prior to the two-line pass removal, teams had to carry the puck at least over their own blue line before attempting to connect with another player near the offensive zone. Two forecheckers could successfully jam the breakout at the blue line.

However, with two-line pass permissible, many teams (cf. Blackhawks 2009) will position a winger just before the offensive blue line. During the breakout, a player will fire a hard pass towards this winger, who will tip it deep, thus avoiding an icing. Then, the remaining winger and center will attack the offensive zone with speed, which gives them an advantage over the defenders, who have to transition to the puck.

This causes a lot of "dump and chase" hockey that favors the offense -- the fast moving offence can either get to the puck first, or come into the defender hard.

The counter to this is to jam the passing lane through the neutral zone by stacking three defenders deep. The back defender can still get back to jam the puck in the corner if necessary.

Consequently, the 1-3-1 saw little use pre-lockout in the NHL, because it wasn't a useful counter strategy. You saw it in College hockey somewhat, which didn't have a two-line pass rule.

| improve this answer | |
  • AWESOME response! My only question is this. You stated that the 1995 New Jersey Devils were the first to master it, and now that I think of it, I agree (accepted answer!). But you also said that teams started using the 1-3-1 more after the two-line pass rule was removed, which was in 2004-2005. Is this true? The only team that I have seen use this forecheck as their "main" defense. following this rule change is the Tampa Bay Lightning. – Zack Sep 6 '12 at 11:57
  • 1
    @Zack NJD played 1-3-1 a little different in that era. Check this video around the 0:48 and 1:10 marks: youtube.com/watch?v=PxtXCaIYjPE It's hard to see, but you can see that they position the 3 neutral zone defenders just before the red line. Contrast that to your image above, where the 3 are just before their defensive blue line. Also notice how in your image above, Philly, the breakout team, has men on the boards at the blue line -- this is for the tip and chase scheme. TB is essentially canceling that. So the 1-3-1 has evolved after the 2004 lockout. Not all 1-3-1s are the same. – Emily Sep 6 '12 at 14:06
  • 1
    As for why more teams don't use 1-3-1... it varies. This strategy is defensive, so it limits scoring opportunities. TB leans heavily on its top line to generate offense. I'd bet that you see TB using less 1-3-1 when the Stamkos line is on the ice (no evidence to support, just a hunch). Also, TB hasn't had many stud defenders. Compare that to other top Eastern Conference teams: Boston has Chara and Seidenberg, Ottawa has Karlsson and Alfredson, Philly (had) Pronger, Pittsburg has Letang, etc. While some are defensive minded, and some offensive minded, a strong D-corps allows for other schemes. – Emily Sep 6 '12 at 14:10

The Flyers went with the one forechecker against the Soviet Red Army team in 1976. Their zone defense clogged up both sides of the ice in the neutral zone. This helped to defend against a team of superior skaters, who were constantly in motion--passing and weaving their way up the ice.

Fred Shero later said the idea was to funnel the Soviets up the middle, and force them to rely on the lone puck carrier. If he were going to score--again, as Shero said--he'd have to first get by the center (Clarke, for example), somehow get past two defensemen, and then finally have to beat the goalie.

The Flyers must have really bought into the strategy, just like the Devils must have in the 90s. I assume it takes a certain group of guys to actually make these kinds of systems work.

I may be late to the game here. But I figured this was relevant, and now almost 40 years in the past.

| improve this answer | |
  • The second part of this sounds like a quote. Can you source this? Otherwise, nice answer! – Zack Jan 16 '14 at 20:09
  • I remember that game - the Soviets has no clue what to do, and could not free-wheel around as they were accustomed to. Great strategy to deal with them. The NHL did not use similar tactics at the time, so Shero did not use it in normal games. – Jon Custer Dec 1 '17 at 18:55

Years late. But I think the Devils' 90s trap was more of a passive 1-2-2 that would morph into an even more passive 1-4 when ahead. Julien uses a similar system.

If I recall correctly, the Flyers played a 1-4 against the Red Army, essentially lining 4 players in front of their own blue line.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.