From biscuits to wristers, a guide to hockey speak
During the Stanley Cup finals, we'll see a sniper go 5-hole or top shelf where Mama don't dust with a slapper or laser to put the biscuit in the basket or light the lamp. How about a dangler with a deke? We'll see goons drop the mitts for a dance. Confused yet? Don't worry. Hockey has a language all its own. With special thanks to Schoolyardpuck.com and my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, we've got you covered with lots of phrases you might hear in Vancouver and Boston over the coming weeks.
Tools of the trade
First, let's get the game equipment squared away. You might think it's pretty straightforward, but this is hockey. Remember what I said about the sport having its own language? Here are the basic tools of the game.
Barn: Hockey arena/rink where the game is played.
Biscuit: A hockey puck. When somebody scores, he puts the "biscuit in the basket." Now I'm hungry.
Breezers: This sounds like a cheesy alcoholic beverage, but it's another word for hockey pants. This may be limited to Wisconsin and Minnesota, but it's still worth mentioning.
Bucket: A helmet. Also known as a "lid."
Pipes: Goal posts.
Sweater: Another word for hockey jersey. Plain and simple.
Woody: Most hockey players today don't play with woodies, preferring the more modern high-tech composites. What am I talking about? A wooden hockey stick, of course.
Not surprisingly, when the goal of the game is to get the biscuit in the basket, we've got a whole litany of terms for different types of shots and ways to score.
Bottle knocker: A goalie typically keeps his water bottle on the top of the net. When a shot hits the top of the net with such force that it knocks the water bottle off, that's a bottle knocker.
5-hole: If a player "goes 5-hole," his shot goes through the goalie's legs. Holes 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the four corners of the net. The fifth hole is the gap between the legs. The 5-hole is one of the classic hockey phrases that just seems right. Short, sweet and perfectly descriptive.
Laser:A strong, well-directed shot. Like a laser. I'm tempted to make a totally outdated joke referencing Dr. Evil, so we'll just leave it there.
One-timer:This is another hockey phrase that could mean something much less innocent away from the rink. When a player takes a pass and immediately shoots without pausing or handling the puck between the pass and the shot, that's a one-timer.
Roof:A player dangles, and if he puts the biscuit in top shelf, he even might have roofed it. Got it?
Shorty: I wish this was a chance for me to talk about one of my favorite musicians, Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty), but it's slang for a shorthanded goal. A shorty is when a team scores a goal with fewer men on the ice during an opponent's power play.
Slapper: Slapper is another word for a slap shot. What's a slap shot? A hard shot on which a player lifts his stick above or around his waist to wind up.
Snipe: An accurate long-term shot from a distance. A player who "snipes" is a "sniper." See? It's not that complicated.
Top shelf: This is definitely one of my favorite hockeyisms. If a player goes "top shelf," he's scored a goal in the upper part of the net. Over the years, several variations on top shelf have evolved, including "top shelf where Mama don't dust" and "top shelf where Mama hides the cookies" (via Buffalo Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret).
Wrister: A wrister is a wrist shot, which is another way to say that the arm is used to generate force. Also referred to as a "wicked wrister" (or "wristah," if you're in Boston).
Them's fightin' words
You can't talk hockey without talking about fights. Gone are the days of knock-'em-down, blood-bouncing-off-the-ice, all-out brawls, but hockey still has an entire vocabulary dedicated to fights.
Chippy: When things start to get a little bit testy and feisty on the ice, it's getting chippy. Chippy often precedes dropping the mitts/donnybrooks/tilts/dances.
Dance: Of course, a dance on the ice is a fight. What did you think it was -- an actual dance?
Donnybrook: A hockey fight. What else?
Drop the mitts: In order to properly prepare for a donnybrook/fisticuffs/go/tilt, a player needs to drop the mitts.
Fisticuffs: Yawn. Just another phrase for a fight.
Have a go: Love this totally polite and dignified way of referring to getting into a fight on the ice.
Puttin' on the foil: It's great that a line from a movie about hockey has been added to the hockey vernacular. When the Hanson Brothers were getting ready for a game in "Slap Shot," they were seen putting foil under their gloves to help them cut their opponents during fights. Puttin' on the foil has become a reference to getting ready to fight.
Snarl: The step before the donnybrook/dropping the mitts/tilly/fisticuffs.
Tilly: Oh look, it's another word for a fight!
Sure, there are words for the actual position a player will take on the ice -- defenseman, winger, center, goalie -- but more important are the words used to describe certain types of players.
Bender: It's not what a hockey player goes on after a tough loss. A bender is a bad hockey player. He has to keep his knees bent to keep upright.
Cement head: A player who is better at fighting than playing the game. See also: Goon.
Goon: A player whose primary responsibility is fighting. See also: Cement head.
Grinder: A sub? Hero? Hoagie? We're not talking sandwiches (mmm ... sandwiches). A grinder is a player who works extra-hard and gets dirty, often without recognition. Also: mucker, pipe-fitter, plumber.
Grocery stick: You know, that stick used to separate your groceries from the strange lady behind you buying 18 cans of cat food? Well that's where this comes from. A grocery stick is a player so useless, he never makes it on to the ice. All he does is sit on the bench and divide the lines (defensemen and forwards).
Pylon: You know what a pylon is off the ice; it's an orange cone that just stands there. Well that's what a pylon is on the ice -- a player who just stands there, with other skaters having to go around him.
Sieve: This one is pretty descriptive if you know we're talking about a goalie. When a goalie has problems stopping the puck, he's a sieve. Classic.
Best of the rest
These are some of the best hockey phrases that didn't fit nicely into any of the other categories.
Butt-ending: Oh, hockey, why do you have so many amusing phrases? Butt-ending is when a player takes the butt of the stick (the top nob) and hits someone with it as a dig in the side or to the face.
Celly: A celebration, usually after a goal.
Cherry-picking: Cherries aren't in season until summer, but cherry-picking is always in season on the ice. If a player waits for an outlet pass near the opponent's defensive zone to take a breakaway, he's a cherry picker.
Dangle: Once again, this is a word that makes me giggle. A dangle is the equivalent of a schoolyard move in basketball. It's just a sick move. It can be a deke, it can be a toe-drag. A skater who dangles is a dangler.
Deke: A fake-out, usually resulting in the defenseman getting fooled. Likely derived from "decoy." Danglers often deke.
Gong show: No, it's not the TV show from the '70s where contestants performed until they were gonged off the stage (yes, I am old enough to have seen the show). It's another word for a tough, intense game. Or an out-of-control guy.
Hat trick: When a player scores three goals in a game, that's a hat trick. It does not involve pulling rabbits out of a hat. Well, not literally, at least. After a player scores the third goal, fans throw their hats onto the ice, a tradition that has been around the NHL for decades. Yahoo! Answers, which researched the origin of the term in 2001, reports that John Halligan (a hockey publicist and writer who passed away in 2010) said a Toronto haberdasher gave Maple Leafs players free hats in the 1940s. The term appears to have originated from cricket.
Gordie Howe hat trick: Gordie Howe, one of hockey's all-time greats, was known for both his scoring and his fighting prowess. So when a player scores a goal, notches an assist and gets into a fight all in the same game, that's a Gordie Howe hat trick. A "natural" Gordie Howe hat trick happens when a player does all three in one period.
Hoser: Many first learned the word hoser from SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie ("Take off! Hoser!"). It's a word meaning "loser," and it's derived from the old pre-Zamboni days when the losers of the game had to hose off the ice.
Light the lamp: This one is beautiful thanks to its simplicity. When a goal is scored, the siren above the net flashes. Hence, to light the lamp means to score a goal. Also: ripple the mesh, tickle the twine.
Sin bin: This is definitely one of my favorite hockey slang terms. It's not a place to throw away your sins (wouldn't that be awesome?). In England, sin bin is a separate school for disruptive children. In hockey, it's the penalty box, where players go to serve out their punishment.
Slew foot: No, it's not a medical condition ("I'm sorry to tell you Bobby has contracted a case of slew foot"), it's the act of sweeping a skate out or tripping a player from behind, resulting in a fall backward. If called, it's a match penalty resulting in ejection from the game.
Snow shower: The game is played on ice, so snow can't be too far away. A snow shower is what results when a skater goes hard at the goalie, stops and sprays him with the ice shavings from the skate. It normally happens when the goalie covers the puck after a shot attempt.
Spin-o-rama: It's somewhat self-descriptive. When a player maintains control of the puck and completes several 360-degree spins, that's a spin-o-rama. It's even better when it's capped off with a goal. The term was coined and introduced by the late Canadian hockey broadcaster Danny Gallivan.