Hockey slang terms you need to know
Of all the championship trophies awarded by professional sports leagues in North America, the Stanley Cup of hockey is the oldest. It has existed since 1892, when the Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, commissioned “a challenge cup which should be organized year by year by the champion hockey team”. The cut stayed the same (sort of), but the words we use to describe the game haven’t.
“Hockey’s special words are full of color and interest,” Lewis Poteet, author of let’s talk about hockey, wrote once. “They are a guide to grace, to violence, to zest for life, to the story of the game.” Below are 16 of those “special words” to guide you through the playoff season.
What bar down lack of metaphorical sophistication which it compensates for with descriptive clarity. A bar down is literally a goal scored by causing the puck to hit the crossbar and deflect towards the net. On the sports page, the term acquires its poetry by way of alliteration: there are “bar-down beauties”, “bar-down explosions” and even “blistering, bar-down bombs” thanks to the equally alliterative Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks.
Known in other sports as chatter or chatter, singing is the verbal art of knocking your opponent off their game with a clever joke, joke, or witticism. (OK, sometimes a tweet is also just a gross insult.) At best, the tweet elicits a laugh in addition to angering an opposing player. Here’s an example of a tweet you can aim at a goalie (commonly called a tendency): “I’ve seen coupons save more than you.”
“Instead of freezing when you enter a [defense] and find out you only have the goaltender to beat, you start using your noodle,” New York Rangers veteran Paul Thompson explained to Dink Carroll, the spectacularly-named sports columnist, in 1941. “You first look closely to see if there is an opening. If there isn’t, you try to create one by pretending the keeper isn’t in position. “Making a deke”, we call it.
This is one of the first appearances of deke printed, and it is used to describe any move that simulates an opponent, allowing a player to easily skate around them. Short for “decoy”, the term found some use as a slang term for a hunting decoy in the 1950s (thanks to Ernest Hemingway) before coming into more widespread use from the 1960s.
A recent addition to the hockey slang lexicon is ferda, a reduction of “for the.” No words follow it, though boys, girlsor team is implicit. According to a University of Saskatchewan article, ferda refers to a good teammate or selfless play that benefits the whole team and is commonly used as a congratulatory phrase: “That was ferda!”
He’s a favorite of hockey duo Reilly and Jonesy in the Canadian television comedy Letterkennya show that did a lot to popularize the term. ferda may originate from Western Canada, where it began to be used as a Twitter hashtag in 2011.
In 2017, five holes achieved the lexical equivalent of being picked in the NHL Draft when it was selected for inclusion in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, where it is defined as “the space between the legs of a goaltender “.
The dictionary suggests that the term originated with goaltender Jacques Plante, who counted five holes that players looked to get the puck past the tendy. The four corners of the net are the numbers one through four, and the space between the legs is the five holes. Plante was a pioneer in other ways, too: he made the game safer for goaltenders everywhere by inventing the plastic face mask that quickly became standard across the league.
Plante had previously only used the protective mask during training, but decided to debut it in the middle of a match on November 1, 1959, after being punched in the face and needing stitches . Plante was not the first masked goalie in the history of the sport, but his design would become an iconic part of the game.
This is a general term for the long hair that sticks out from the back of a player’s helmet. It’s such a part of the culture of the sport that Minnesota State High School has an “All Hockey Hair Team” dedicated to players with exceptional flow.
A geno or gino is a goal. The term has been around since at least 2008, but in 2017 it was still obscure enough that journalist Joe Boyle felt compelled to define it. “When one of our local teams hits the ice, you can expect big genos (goals for you oldies),” he wrote.
One of the first uses of grocery stick in the sports media appears to be a 2008 interview with current Pittsburgh Penguins manager Brian Burke, the so-called “grillest man in hockey.” His definition of the term remains the best: “There is this seat [on the bench] between attackers and defenders, it’s called the grocery stick. You know, like on the belt, the lady puts the stick down and you have the celery behind it. You are the attacker who is not going to play, and you can sit next to the defender who is even dumber than you and who is not going to play either. In nicer terms, it’s someone on the bench who sits between offensive and defensive players to separate them.
According to a popular folk etymology, this insulting term for an unsuspecting Canadian originated on the hockey rink, where the loser of a game was forced to hose down the playing surface to make new ice. As Mental Floss reported in 2013, however, this is only one of many possible explanations.
Its widespread use is due to a series of SCTV sketches that began in 1980. A year later, sketch co-creator Rick Moranis set pipe fitter like “what you call your brother when your parents won’t let you swear”, which makes for a great tweet for Peewee hockey.
Former Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville helped popularize the exclamation “peanut butter!” to refer to a goal scored at the top of the net in a 2015 television documentary. A version of this descriptive term for the top of the net had been in print since at least 1995, when hockey writer Robin Brownlee referred to the top shelf of “where mom keeps the peanut butter” in a Edmonton newspaper column.
A Pigeon is a player with few skills. It was popularized in 2013 by Claude Giroux while he was on the Philadelphia Flyers. Giroux was heard chirping other players with the term, with real pigeon noises. He later said he picked up the term from teammate Scott Hartnell.
Fall on the ice and sweep it away like the ice-cleaning vehicle (named after inventor Frank Zamboni) is pulling a Zamboni and has been used in print since at least 1991.
The verb killi.e. to rotate something on its axis (like a telescope), has been used since the 18th century, and swivel foot has been used to refer to awkward or turned feet since the 19th century. In hockey, the term has taken on a special meaning: tripping a player by kicking them from behind with your skates.
Sin Bin is a clever name for the penalty box where players are sent after committing an offense (such as running over an opponent). The term has been in use since at least 1932, when there was a single “sin bin” in which players from both teams timed out. A day after a 1963 “penalty box brawl” between Bob Pulford and Terry Harper, Maple Leaf Gardens president Stafford Smythe sought to install a partition to separate members of opposing teams in the trash after acknowledging the ridiculous of the situation.
“We’re asking a few guys, who tried to knock their heads off, to sit side by side,” he told The Canadian Press. “It’s amazing there aren’t more fights in the penalty box.”
Getting your teeth knocked out – a spell that has struck more than one hockey player – has been called a Chiclets spitting since at least the 1980s.
Despite its status as a winter sport played on ice, not wearing a shirt or having your tarp on is an integral part of hockey culture, for fans and players alike. “Tarps for the boys!” is a familiar refrain describing an act of solidarity or celebration. You can see shirtless fans shouting in the crowd or players with their tarps in the locker room celebrating after a game. Something to consider, perhaps, as you tune into this playoff season. Ferda!