Hockey players have their own language. Learn to speak hockey talk and be a true player.
By Jamie McKinven (including listings provided by The Hockey Writers and reader contributions)
Hockey talk is ever-changing and constantly evolving. This article was previously published and has been updated to include additional terms and phrases.
In hockey, like a lot of sports, there is a totally different language used. Just like the military has a different lingo for words or phrases, hockey talk consists of its own dialect and unique set of terms.
The first thing in hockey talk that immediately becomes altered in the hockey world is everyone’s name. This is usually done by cropping a last name and adding a “Y” or an “ER” at the end of it. For example, if your name is Ryan Jones, you soon become “Jonesy.” If your name is Jordan Long, you become “Longer.” This gives teammates a quick and easy handle when they are shouting out for each other on the ice during a game.
Also, it is quite easy for a hockey player to be given a nickname (usually something recognizing an embarrassing moment or aspect of one’s life), which ends up sticking. One year I played with a guy who used to always end up on the receiving end of massive hits at least three or four times a game. We used to say he got run over more than a speed bump at the mall on Boxing Day. Soon his nickname became “Speed Bump,” and was quickly shortened to “Bump.” Another guy I played with was called “Boobs” because he loved girls with big breasts (it isn’t always something clever; I mean we’re talking about hockey players here).
Nicknames aside, hockey talk is full of strange pseudonyms and slang that can make for a pretty confusing conversation to an outsider. Below is a list of words and definitions that are often heard in the hockey world:
The A The AHL (American Hockey League)
Agitator One who plays on the edge and tries to get under opponents’ skin by playing dirty and trash talking (also referred to as a “Pest”)
Apple (noun): An assist
Bagger Short for “bag skate.” Used to describe when a coach punishes a team by making them skate hard; sometimes used simply to better condition a team.
Bambi A skater who is so bad they look like a deer just being born
Band-Aid A player who is always hurt or injured
Bar Down A shot that goes off the crossbar and into the net. A goal scored in this manner is most impressive.
Bar South*/Bar Mexico See “Bar Down”
Barn* Hockey arena
Barn Burner A game that is high scoring, fast paced, and exciting to watch
Beauty/Beautician Complimentary term used to describe an ideal hockey player, from a cultural standpoint. These players embrace the hockey lifestyle. (“I love Stewie. He’s a beauty.”) Often used to describe a hockey player who’s got great flow, great hands, can wheel ladies off the ice (see below), and always has some good locker room stories to share.
Beer League* A term describing an amateur hockey league, where the emphasis is mostly on the post-game refreshments
Bender One who is awful at hockey, and whose ankles bend inwards because his skates don’t fit right, he didn’t tie them tight enough, or that he just plain can’t skate
Billet* A host family home. Where a young minor league player lives during the hockey season. For many of these players, this is their first time away from their own home while they pursue the next step in their hockey career (i.e., “billet mom”).
Birdcage Face mask
Boosties Booster club members
Bottle Rocket: A goal scored that breaks the goalie’s water bottle placed on top of the net
Breadbasket Used to describes a goalie’s chest. Typically used when describing a shot that lands right in the goalie’s team logo.
Brick Wall A goalie that shuts down offensive attempts, stopping mostly every shot on net
Bucket (or Bucky) Helmet
Bussy Team bus driver
Can Opener When a player puts his stick between another player’s legs and twists (as demonstrated by the character Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson in the video “Coaching the Minors”)
Celly Celebration after scoring a goal. The level that’s acceptable depends on the score, stakes and opponent.
Cheese The upper part of the net. “Going cheese on the goalie” (see “Top Cheese”).
Cheesed When you beat the goalie high or go Bar Down on them; i.e., “Scotty cheesed the goalie. Dude had no chance.”
Chel EA Sports NHL videogame series
Cherry Picker A player who hangs out around the red line looking for breakaway passes. They always neglect their defensive zone chores; also known as a “Floater.”
Chiclets* Teeth (or the lack thereof)
Chippy Describes a game where rough play, heated tempers, fights and penalties occur (a “chippy player”)
Chirp/Beak The essence of hockey talk. Used to describe the steady flow of insults thrown at opponents throughout a hockey game. Players will “chirp” or “beak” at opponents (or the ref) during a game in an attempt to throw off their concentration.
Chisel When a player purposely steals a point from a teammate by going up to the referee and stating that he got an assist on a goal when he in fact didn’t earn one. A player who gloms points this way is called a “Chiseler.”
Choke a Goose Drinking vodka (a reference to Grey Goose vodka)
Clapper Slap shot
The Coast The ECHL (East Coast Hockey League)
Coast to Coast When a player carries a puck from his own end to the opposing team’s end without passing. Also referred to as “Post to Post.”
Dangle A term currently used to refer to a slick stick-handling maneuver. A “dangler” is a player who has great stickhandling abilities and sick moves. In the old days the term was used to describe one who could skate fast: “He can really dangle.”
Deke A decoy move that fakes out the goalie or opposing player
Deuce A two-minute penaltyBetter Hockey Extreme Stickhandling Trainer – Versatile Training Aid for Skills and Puck Control – Helps You get Sweet Hands – Can be Used On and Off Ice – Used by The Pros
Dig a Trench* A goalie who suffers numerous consecutive shots when his team plays poor defense/puck control. Also known as “getting a shelling” or “throw the goalie a shovel.”
Dime A 10-minute misconduct penalty
Dinger Pinch of chewing tobacco that some players enjoy in the locker room before and after the game
Dirty* A term to describe an awesome deke. Also an illegal hit.
Drill Killer A player who always messes up drills. Some players just can’t follow diagrams or instructions.
The Dub The WHL (Western Hockey League)
Dump and Chase A tactic where players dump the puck into the offensive zone and then attack on a forecheck. A mainstay of hockey talk.
Duster/Dusty A player who is unskilled at hockey and gets very little ice time. When a duster does finally get a chance to play, it’s usually at the end of the game when the score is out of hand.
Egg A scoreless game ending in 0-0
Eggs in Your Pockets A phrase used to describe a player who is scared of getting hit. “Donnie skates around with eggs in his pockets, and he’s afraid to break any of them.”
Face Wash A player that rubs the palm of their glove in an opponent’s face just to annoy them
Feed-Me-a-Wing Pass* A neutral-zone pass by a defenseman or center to a winger, where the opposing defenseman reads the play and quickly closes the gap on the wing for a “brick wall” hard check
Filthy* An outstanding goal, pass, deke, save or play
Fishbowl Full visor
Flamingo When a player is afraid to block a shot and lifts one leg up like a flamingo, in order to avoid getting hit with the puck
Flow Great hockey hair. Typically long hair that flows out of the helmet when the player skates.
Footsteps When a player hurries a play because he’s afraid of getting hit
For the Boys/FTB Describes any actions that the rest of the team enjoys. Also when a player makes a sacrifice for the team.
Gate When a player is ejected from a game, he is given “The Gate”
Gino A goal that’s scored
Gongshow A situation that is out of control, funny, or ridiculous; often used to describe a game where multiple fights and penalties occur. (Also the name of a hockey-lifestyle apparel company.)
Gordie Howe Hat Trick When a player registers a goal, an assist, and a fight in one game
Grenade An awful pass that is usually a bobbling puck. Players will say, “Pull the pin on that grenade” when someone makes a bad pass.
Grinder A third- or fourth-line player who typically plays on the dump-and-chase line, whose role on a team is to finish his checks and wear down opponents. A hard-working player.
Grocery Divider/Stick* A back-up utility player who sits on the bench between the forwards and defensemen. Known to frequently slide up and down the bench as if dividing grocery orders on a conveyor belt.
Hanging ’Em Up Retiring from hockey (“hanging up the skates”)
High School Harry/Donny Dangles A player who tries to do too much with the puck and show off
Heavy Short for heavyweight. Used to describe a player who is an enforcer on a team or designated fighter. This player may also be referred to as a “Meathead” or “Cementhead.”
Holly Hotpants Good-looking girl in the stands of a hockey game
Hoser Used to describe a loser, typically intended as an insult in trash talk. Comes from the early hockey days when the losing team had to hose down the ice with water after the game (before the Zamboni was invented yet).
Houdini Pulling a move off by accident or using sleight of hand, fooling the defenseman or goalie in the process
Howie Short form for “Howitzer.” A term used by hockey players to describe a very hard slap shot.
I The now-defunct IHL
IR The Injured Reserve
Iron Lung The team bus. Minor-league teams put a lot of miles in together on the old Iron Lung.
Jersey Jab When a player involved in a fight uses the hand he’s grabbing the jersey with to throw short rabbit punches while hanging onto the jersey
Jungle B or C Junior B or Junior C hockey
Kangaroo Court A forum where all player fines are brought forward and tried. Usually a light-hearted affair held once a week.
Kill Penalty kill
Kronwalled A huge hit leveled on an opposing player by a defenseman; named after former Red Wings star Niklas Kronwall (i.e., “getting Kronwalled”)
Lace ’em Up Getting ready before a game
Leaner A prank where you fill up a bucket of water and lean it against a door, and then knock so that when the person opens the door their feet get doused in water
Lettuce A great head of hockey hair (“Flow”; “Salad”)
Light the Lamp Score a goal; a red light goes off behind the net whenever a goal is scored
Liney A linesman. Can also be used to describe one of your linemates.
Lipper Chewing tobacco. Some players like to chew tobacco on the bus or between periods of a game.
Lip Sweater Mustache. Typically grown out during the month of November for the “Movember” cause to support male health issues (also “Lip Lettuce”)
Lug the Mail When a defenseman carries the puck out of his zone
Lumber Hockey stick (also “Twig”)
Mitts A hockey player’s stickhandling ability (“Johnny’s got some nice mitts on him, eh?”). Also hockey gloves.
Muffin A weak shot on net
Muzzy Mustache (also “Lip Sweater”)
The O The OHL (Ontario Hockey League)
One-T Short for “One-Timer,” which is when a player shoots a puck that is passed to him without stopping it first. Shooting a puck as it comes in motion.
Packing a Bomb Throwing in a lip of chewing tobacco in the locker room (also “Dinger”)
Peeper Power play
Pepper Grinder Someone who is always trying to suck up to and show off for the coaches
Phantom When a point is given to a player who hasn’t actually earned it. Sometimes an extra assist is given when one isn’t warranted, or a player who wasn’t on the ice when a goal was scored is mistakenly given an assist.
Pillows The goalie’s leg pads
Pine Tar* A player who does not get played and spends a lot of of time stuck to the bench (see “Riding the Pine”)
Pizza A pass up the middle. A high-risk play that often gets intercepted.
Plug A term players use to make fun of or degrade another player. Basically, calling someone a “plug” is like saying they’re a terrible player and are just on a team to fill a slot.
Plumber A player who is like a grinder, and spends a lot of his time digging pucks out of the corner and working in the dirty areas of the ice (this player may also be declared a “Mucker”)
Puck Bunnies/Dirties Girls who chase and hang around hockey players
Pylon* A highly immobile player who is routinely skated around by opposing puck carriers
The Q The QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
Pigeon A player that isn’t good enough to score goals by himself; he or she picks up the “garbage” of his more skilled linemates. Often used as trash talk.
Rack A case of beer
Ray Ferraro Chicken parmigiana
Riding the Pine* One who spends a great deal of time on the bench (see “Pine Tar”)
Riverboat Gambler A defenseman who rushes the puck a lot and can be a liability in his own end
Rocket A very good-looking female (may or may not also be a “Puck Bunny”)
Salad Beautiful hockey hair (also “Flow”; “Lettuce”)
Sauce A saucer pass, where the puck is feathered to clear an opponent’s stick and lands flat on the ice
The Schneid* To end some kind of drought, usually in reference to scoring goals (“off the schneid”). “On the schneid” can refer to being cut from the team. A definitive hockey talk term.
Seatbelt When a combatant in a fight tries to tie up his opponent because he is afraid to get hit and wants the fight to end
Shnarples A card game that hockey players play on long road trips
Shnook/Shmelt A first-year player or rookie
Shoe Check A prank performed during team meals at restaurants, where the prankster will crawl on his or her hands and knees under the table and pour ranch dressing or ketchup on an unsuspecting victim’s shoes. Once back in their seat, the prankster will begin tapping their glass. Everyone else follows suit in tapping their glass while checking their shoes for sauce. The victim has to stand up and get napkins and buns tossed at them.
The Show The NHL (as in “making it to the Show”)
Shutdown Pre-game nap
Sick An awe-inspiring play or player
Sieve A terrible goalie that has many holes to shoot through, like Swiss cheese
Sin Bin The penalty box
Slewfoot When a player kicks the legs out from behind an opponent. A very dirty play in hockey.
Snipe A goal, particularly a nice goal. A “sniper” is a player who scores frequently.
Snipped When a player is released or cut from a team
Snow Cone* A goalie that is sprayed with snow by a player who quickly stops while the goalie has possession of the puck. Frequently elicits a minor penalty (also known as a “Mr. Freeze”).
Stone Hands A player who is a terrible stickhandler
Studley Hungwell A player who gets too cocky or arrogant. Sometimes players tend to get cocky if they are on a winning streak and things are going well.
Suey Short for “Suicide Pass,” which is a pass made by one player to another who is in a vulnerable position to be hit or blindsided by an opponent.
Sweater Hockey jersey (likely due to it originally being made from wool)
Toe Drag A stick-handling move where you use the toe of the blade of the stick to pull the puck back, away from an opposing player. Almost as if you are dangling a carrot in front of a rabbit and then yanking it away when it tries to bite it.
Top Cheese* Scoring a goal in the upper area of the net (also called “Top Cheddar” or “Top Shelf”).
Tilt or Tilly A hockey fight
The Trap A defensive strategic tactic where all five players pull back into the neutral zone and create a log jam, making it hard for an attacking team to penetrate
Trolley Tracks When a player ventures into the middle of the ice with his head down
Turtle When a player drops to the ice and covers his head with his arms when challenged to a fight
Tweener Scoring a goal between the goalie’s legs
Twig Hockey stick
The U-Haul The now-defunct UHL (United Hockey League)
Up and Down Winger A winger who goes up and down his wing and simply does his job
Waffleboard* The blocker glove worn by a goalie. The term is derived from the perforated “waffleboard” appearance once used.
Walked When a defenseman is beaten badly on a one-on-one
The Wall The boards surrounding the rink
Wheels Used to describe someone’s skating ability. Also used to describe a player’s ability to pick up or attract girls (“Joey’s wheeling that girl over there”). As a verb, used on the ice to tell your teammate to skate with the puck.
Where Grandma Keeps the Good Stuff A goal that’s scored Top Shelf
The Wiffle The now-defunct WPHL (Western Professional Hockey League)
The Wire The waiver wire. Players are put on the wire when they are being shopped around for a trade or when they are released.
Wobbly Pops Beers
The Wrapper Bed
Yard Sale A huge hit that causes a player to lose his equipment (stick, helmet, or gloves), leaving them scattered on the ice after the play
Zips Stitches (short for “Zippers”)
Another part of hockey talk is a strong and frequent use of profanity mixed in with regular dialogue. Hockey players will often use two or three curse words per sentence when around the team in the locker room, weight room, on the ice, or on the road. Such hockey talk where profanity is used is just another part of the game, just as hockey sticks and road trips are.
Degradation and insults are a big part of hockey talk conversation and interaction within a hockey team, as well. Players are always including insults and little jabs at one another when they converse in the locker room. In a way, it adds to the closeness and camaraderie of a team. If you aren’t being insulted or degraded, then you are an outcast on the team and someone who people don’t want to be around. The profanity and the insults have always been a way to further instill the machismo and masculinity of the game, but that’s changing as more and more women take to the ice.
*Denotes reader contributions. Feel free to add your own hockey talk terms in the comments area below!
Jamie McKinven scratched and clawed his way up to the minors, only to fall short of his ultimate dream of playing in the NHL. McKinven currently coaches his former Junior A team, the Kingston Voyageurs of the OJHL. He is the author of the books “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales From the Bus Leagues,” which are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.
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