Hockey is a game with its own language. In North America, the language of hockey is an offshoot of English, or a version of it at least. Spoken English is regional, cultural, geographically specific, and often the most used words make little sense to an outsider. In hockey English, particularly with hockey players, there are a number of specific words and turns of phrase that anyone outside the game would understand. No one understands Shakespeare the first time through, it takes effort and in some cases, research (be sure to Tweet a thank you after reading). In this context, there is also a difference between one who knows the game of hockey and one who has actually played the game of hockey. For hockey parents, you’ll sound less tool-like at the rink if you read on.
In general terms, most parents (and hockey outsiders) can at least sound like they’ve played or know the game by using greetings like “kid” or “bud.” For example, “How’s it goin’ kid?” or “How’s things bud?” For that matter, the word “kid” can also be used as a descriptor for any hockey player regardless of age or ability, whereas the use of the word “bud” can be in reference to a friend or a foe. Hockey English, like Elizabethan English or even Standard English, isn’t easy. This piece is essentially a Coles Notes list of 15 Things Only Hockey Players Will Understand.
15 Nice Celly Bud!
In the game of hockey, the term “Celly” is an abbreviated form of the word celebration, after one scores a goal. The thing with hockey though is that, although scoring a goal is a good thing, the same cannot be said for the Celly. Unlike other sports, soccer or football for example, a true hockey player is expected to be humble after scoring a goal, with the exception of game winners. After scoring a goal, a player must be aware of several things before doing something more flamboyant than simply raising his/her arms: the score of the game, the time of the game, what the game means in the grander scheme of things, was it a good goal or a weak goal, etc. In short, if you hear someone say “Nice Celly Bud,” the goal scorer has been insulted and found guilty of over-celebrating. In the same scenario, you may also hear, “Hey Stripes, give him the game puck!”
14 Drop the Mitts
The two favourite reference websites of any true hockey player, after hockeydb.com, are dropyourgloves.com and hockeyfights.com. Even foreigners to the hockey world are at least distantly aware that fighting has always been part of hockey. There are still many North American hockey leagues, a rung or two below the NHL, where fans come to see guys “drop the mitts.” Also familiar to hockey insiders is the unending debate within the game on the topic of fighting and whether it should be allowed. That being said, all hockey players are aware that average Joes are still dropping the mitts in beer leagues with regularity. No fans, no money, no glory – just hockey.
13 Do You Like Apples?
Remember that unoriginal, ski trip guy that Will Hunting schooled in the Harvard Bar before getting the girl’s number? He ended up liking apples? Similarly, all hockey players like apples as well. In the world of hockey, apples are assists and, for those who play and understand hockey, apples are as valuable as goals. In short, there are three individual points up for grabs on every team goal. On each goal, the referee awards an individual point for the goal and can also award two individual assists. Also called “helpers,” apples are highly valued in hockey and undoubtedly the game’s essence has an intrinsic team philosophy. For players that grab an assist and have seen the film Good Will Hunting, you may hear “How do you like them apples boys?”
Noun, Verb, Adjective – the word “beauty” is one of the most universal hockey terms and can be used in just about any context when it comes to the world’s greatest game. Generally, when used as a noun, a beauty is a guy who can not only play hockey well, but is also well liked and places the game and his teammates above himself. A hockey player can be a “beauty,” a “beautician,” or even a “beaut.” A particular act, whether on the ice or off can also be considered a “beauty.” For example, a “beauty pass,” a “beauty goal,” a “beauty paint job,” a “beauty car,” the word can literally be used whenever and wherever; “that lecture on the evolution of the market economy in the southern colonies was beauty!” One thing’s for sure, this article is a “beauty” and its author is a “beaut.”
11 Ref, You Suck
Despite having the best education/grooming system for officials in all of sports, hockey refs are always highly scrutinized; beginning in Novice and continuing right on up to the NHL. Unlike hockey fans and hockey parents (most of which cannot play hockey and live vicariously through their kids, who they think are all going to The Show), true hockey players know the line between chirping the ref and insulting the ref. Although being chirped is not welcomed by Zebras, it is certainly expected and not at all surprising to have everything from their knowledge of the rules, their vision, or even their preference for the other team called into question. True hockey players respect the stripes, recognize infallibility, and realize that the game evens itself out in the end. However, it wouldn’t be hockey if you didn’t hear “Ref you suck” echoing down from the nosebleeds.
10 Let It Flow
The grandfathered helmet rule was implemented in the NHL in 1979, which meant that any new player entering the league would have to wear a bucket, while existing NHLers who played without a helmet could continue to do so. This lasted until 1996-97 when the NHL’s last helmetless player, Craig MacTavish, finally hung up the blades. With all hockey players being helmeted, and thus their head and hair protected, what we are left with is “flow.” Flow is the term used for the hair that can be seen flowing out of a player’s helmet. Outsiders may also hear terms like “salad” or “lettuce” to describe this phenomenon, both of which, like “flow,” fall under the umbrella of “hockey hair.”
9 Do You Want “Sauce” With That?
What was formerly called a saucer pass, popularized and perfected by The Great One in his early days as a pro, is now simply termed “sauce.” A saucer pass, in short, is not only a tape-to-tape pass, but in the interim, the biscuit floats through the air, avoiding opponents’ sticks and skates, before landing on the recipient’s blade. On successful completion of a saucer pass, you may hear “Nice Sauce” or “Saucy.” In hockey, with apples being just as important as goals, there’s nothing more satisfying than some sick sauce.
8 Where In The World Is Donnybrook?
Melee, Line Brawl, Gong Show, etc., hockey insiders have all sorts of euphemisms for when all hell breaks loose on the ice. However, when the benches clear and the ice is littered with buckets, sticks and gloves, we call it a Donnybrook. As it turns out, Donnybrook is geographically located in Ireland and, going back to the 13th Century, was home to the annual Donnybrook Fair. Yearly, commencing on August 26th and a fortnight in duration, the Donnybrook Fair “was for generations a perfect prodigy of moral horrors – a concentration of disgrace upon, not Ireland alone, but civilized Europe. It far surpassed all other fairs in the multitude and grossness of its disgusting incidents of vice; and, in general, it exhibited such continuous scenes of riot, bloodshed, debauchery, and brutality, as only the coarsest taste and the most hardened heart could witness without painful emotion.”
7 What A Howitzer!
A Howitzer, in the military, is like a mobile cannon and Howitzers have been used in battles dating as far back as the 1400s. On the frozen battlefield, a Howitzer is the term used for an insanely hard slap shot. Often in the form of a point shot, which is a shot from the blueline into traffic, a Howitzer (like the cannon) isn’t characterized by its accuracy, but rather its power. A Howitzer often doesn’t even hit the net, instead ringing off the posts or crossbar, or careening off and around the glass, or maybe even putting down an unfortunate player in its path.
6 Lose The Bird Cage
All hockey players want to be as safe as possible on the ice, while simultaneously retaining their manhood, but this is sometimes difficult to do. Growing up playing hockey is in many ways a metaphor for growing into manhood. Young hockey players are outfitted with a helmet, cage, neck guard, and now mouth guard. Historically, as one grows literally and within the game of hockey, certain protective gear is shed. In Junior, for example, the cage was typically replaced with the half visor. And once in the NHL, or potentially when regulated to a life in Beer League, the visor, and even the helmet before 1979, could be shed altogether. In hockey, the “Bird Cage” is a negative term used for an adult who still wears a cage with his helmet. The Rules: if you want to wear a cage to protect yourself on the ice, that’s okay, but you’ve basically given up your right to free speech. No one will listen to you or acknowledge you, let alone “drop the mitts” with you, until you “Lose the Bird Cage.”
5 Hat Trick
When Edwin Encarnacion hit three dingers against the Detroit Tigers this past season, Jays’ fans littered the Rogers Centre turf with hats. And if you’re not native to the Great White North, as American baseball broadcasters were, you were left wondering why. In hockey, a hat trick (or “hatty” for the real insiders) is when a player scores three goals in one game. At the NHL level and in some cases junior, fans will throw their hats on the ice in acknowledgement of this feat. Additionally, a “natural hat trick” is when the three goals are scored consecutively.
4 The Original Six
Hockey purists and those that lament over NHL expansion will always remember the NHL’s “Original Six” franchises. Before 1967, Canada had two teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadians. And stateside, the NHL had four teams, the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers. However, perhaps even hockey purists would like to know that the “Original Six” actually refers to the NHL from around 1942 to 1967, the years in which the above teams made up the league. The NHL though, was formed in 1917 and had saw many teams, like Ottawa, Quebec, and even Brooklyn, come and go from the league before stabilizing at six in 1942.
3 The Room
Both literally and figuratively, “the room” is the most important part of a hockey team. In the literal sense, “the room” is a team’s dressing room – a physical place where players enter and leave, relationships are formed, teams are developed, personalities collide, tears are shed, etc. The room is a private place and nothing leaves the room, as what happens in the room stays in the room and all hockey players know this. Even at the NHL level, reporters are only granted permission to enter a team’s dressing room after the team is unified and has put on its public face. Figuratively, “the room” is simply a reference to a team’s atmosphere and how it carries itself, which mostly consists of broadcasters speculating what’s going on in “the room.”
2 The Barn
After “the room” comes “the barn.” In hockey, perhaps in reference to hockey’s romanticized beginnings in rural settings, a barn is another word for a hockey arena or a hockey rink. However, “the barn" is a team’s home arena, so you’ll often hear arenas positioned as “their barn” and “our barn,” to distinguish home and away. Additionally, for hockey players, older rinks are also referred to as barns and players remember everything about every barn they play in: the stands, the snack bar, the rooms, the showers, the benches, and the most memorable moments from when they played in them. “Hey bud, remember that barn up in the Soo where Johnny dropped the mitts? What a gongshow!”
1 The Pond
Hockey, in its most natural form, is played on frozen lakes and frozen ponds. Only a true hockey player can possibly understand the euphoric sounds of echoing blades as they carve into one of God’s greatest gifts – The Pond. On the pond everything becomes nostalgic and every hockey player is a kid again. At the end of the day, it’s just hockey, pure, simple and for hockey players, the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.
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