The roster order doesn't affect anything in the game; it merely sets the order that players are shown on the roster and box scores. Some coaches sort by position, others list by line. It really doesn't matter how you choose to order your roster, however, since the only effect is how your roster is shown and the order of players in box scores. Thus whatever you find the easiest to read is what you should use.
The heart of the hockey game is the determination of your team's lines -- sets of players that play as a unit. Your team has seven sets of lines, listed below. The number in parentheses is the number of lines of that type that you have to define, in addition to substitutes.
- Normal 5-man (3): used in a tie game or a one-goal game in the second period
- Scoring (3): used when trailing by 2+ in the second or at all in the third
- Defensive (3): used when leading by 2+ in the second or at all in the third
- Power play (2): used whenever you have five men on the ice and the other team has four
- Four-man (3): used whenever you have four men on the ice and the other team has three or four
- Penalty killing (2): used whenever you have four men on the ice and the other team has five
- Three-man PK (2): used whenever you have three men on the ice
Note that four-man lines have no center; three-man lines have only one forward.
Each line is defined by 3, 4, or 5 players, as well as the assignments and the play preferences for that line, described below. In addition, each set of lines has a "substitute" line; the players on that line can fill in for any players injured or in the penalty box.
It is best to let players play only at their positions, but you may play any player at any position (his abilities will be penalized). The ability penalty is ignored if a center plays a forward position on a 4-man or 3-man line; it is farily small if a center plays wing, if a right or left wing swap, or if a right or left defender swap. Also, a center can play defense ("point") on a power play line without a severe penalty.
The player assignments for each line specify what players are to be carrying out what roles. You can specify players to be shooters, passers, handlers, screeners, or forecheckers; any one player can have any number of those assignments. Your team will try to get the puck to scorers on scoring chances. Passers and handlers are used to pass and carry the puck up ice; passers also are important on power plays. Forecheckers should be only forwards.
The play preferences for each line specify how that line tries to play:
- Aggression: more hits on defense, but more penalties
- Neutral Zone trap: try to force turnovers in the neutral zone, but forwards are less free to attack in the offensive end
- Backchecking: use forwards to help out defending the crease; leads to weaker defense of the points and fewer breakaways
- Neutral Zone long pass: try to get the puck up ice quickly
- Neutral Zone regroup: pull the puck back if you can't easily advance into the offensive zone
- Dump & Chase: dump the puck and try to recover it on the boards if you can't easily advance into the offensive zone
- Offense Zone passing: take one more pass to get a better shot; this increases the odds of a turnover and no shot taken
- Defense pinching: bring defensemen in to crash the goal when on offense; this leads to more breakaways given up
- Line use: affects how much the line plays, defined by the average fatigue level of the players on the line
Each setting can be from "least" to "most".
Every line needs to have players who can fill all of the necessary roles: passer, shooter, front defender, and back defender. The only exception might be a four-man line which doesn't necessarily need shooters and passers. The main difference between the sets of lines will be the weights of each type of player. A defensive line will be more weighted towards defensive players (but still needs shooters and especially passers); a scoring line will be weighted towards shooters and passers (but of course still needs defenders).
Your team option screen lists three sets of options you can set. The first ones relate to your goalie usage:
- Backup usage: from least to most, determines how frequently the backup will start. Setting this to "most" will use whichever goalie is more rested (the starter if equal); "least" will use the backup only if the starter is very tired. Note: the "starter" is the first healthy goalie on the roster; the "backup" is the second.
- Pull goalie: from never to earliest, determines at what point in the game you pull your goalie for an extra skater if down by a goal. Note that the extra skater is virtual -- he isn't a specific player, but his presence makes the other players play better.
- Replace goalie: determines when you replace your starting goalie with your backup. The backup rarely plays innately better than the starter; replacing the starter primarily serves to get him rested when a game is out of reach.
The next option is game training. Game training gives your players temporary ability boosts (for the game only); you can divide up to six training points between shooting, passing, shot defense, and conditioning. Be adivsed that the more points used, the more fatigued your players start the game.
In college, you are allowed to designate players as redshirts. A redshirted player will not play in a regular game (he can play in scrimmages or exhibitions), but will gain an extra year of elibility. A player cannot redshirt if he is a junior or senior or has already redshirted a previous year.
In the pro game, you can assign a captain and an assitant captain. The captains have significant effects on your team's roster cohesion. The ideal situation is to have a good player at captain who remains captain for a long time (many seasons).
To prepare for a specific opponent, you can try to match up your best defenders against your opponents' best scorers using the matchup command. This is optional; no players need be listed. If you do have defenders and scorers defined, your team will attempt to put a line with a key defender on the ice and have him shadow the opposing scorer whenever a defined scorer is on the ice. This is most effective to have one of your defensemen shadowing an opposing forwrd.