I was in attendance at a coaching symposium (Roger Neilson’s in Windsor, Ont.) a few summers ago, and longtime NHL player, coach and executive Nick Beverly was talking about terms in hockey he didn’t understand, tongue firmly in cheek.
When asked about his thoughts on cycling, he said “Cycling, jeez, back in my day, they just called it hockey.” He went on to mock some of the new, high-tech terms coaches and analysts were using.
These days, there are analysts who just talk in terms of terms these days. I was watching an NHL game on tape last week (from the 2002-03 season), and actually heard an analyst say, “The offensive team has distributed the puck well, and their puck management has been great. However, when pucks get rimmed up the half wall, their weak-side wingers have to show better judgment with their counters.”
I know what he meant. I’ve been around a while, as a pro coach, NHL analyst, and now an analyst at CSTV. Does the average fan have any idea what that analyst meant? I doubt it.
The dean of all analysts, John Davidson, co-wrote Hockey For Dummies a few years ago. I’ll follow that up with terminology for the average fan, so that they won’t need a translator the next time they watch a game.
I spent part of last week talking to both players and fans. I threw terms at them, and waited for their response. Did they understand the term, and know what it meant?
I compiled the ones that the players knew and that the fans didn’t, and present here a brief list and what they actually mean in their simplest form.
GAPPING UP: “Closing the gap” seemed too easy to figure out, so “gapping up” took its place. It means when a defender playing one-on-one against an attacking forward controls the rate of his speed so that he can keep a small distance between himself and the attacking player. That way, the attacking player does not have time and space to create an option for himself with the puck.
ACTIVE STICKS: “Active sticks” is a term used to describe when a player on defense moves his stick quickly back and forth to eliminate passing lanes from the player with the puck. “Good sticks” often falls into this category as well. It could also describe the use of the stick by a defending player known for his ability to poke or sweep check the puck off an attacker’s stick. I once told a kid he needed to have a good stick to play defense. He came to the next practice with a new stick, and asked me if his new stick “was a good one.” I knew this was a losing battle.
PULLED A RELEASE: Not used that often, but still heard. When coaches use this term, it sometimes confuses players, because we think of it as an area pass in the context it is referred to.
A release is a play used mostly on a power play. If two attacking players are battling for a puck in the corner with two defenders, one may opt to bang the puck along the boards behind the goal to the other side of the ice. The winger who was out high will go low to pick it up, and the one of the two wingers who was tied up in the battle for the puck will jump out high, looking for a quick pass. It’s called a release because the attacking team is releasing the pressure from one side of the ice to the other which has some open space.
ACROSS THE SEAM: This is one of my favorites. My wife thought that this was sewing term, and that a player had a problem with his hockey sweater. “Did his sweater tear?” she asked.
If someone throws a pass across the seam, it means an attacking player passed the puck parallel to the offensive blueline between the tops of the circles and the blueline near the middle of the ice.
SOFT LOCK: As a coach, you have won a major battle if you can get young players to know the difference between a soft and hard lock. As a fan, a soft lock sounds like having a poodle defend your valuables instead of putting them in a vault.
A soft lock means that a player coming back defensively (or backchecking) will be responsible for covering an area, usually the middle of the ice, instead of directly covering (or locking on) a specific attacker. I would say this is somewhat like a zone defense in football, but then again, I was a kicker, so take that analogy with a grain of salt.
HARD AROUND: If you execute a “hard around,” it means that an offensive player has shot the puck into the offensive zone along the boards so that it goes from his side of the ice to the other side of the ice fast enough that the goalie can not get out behind the net to cut it off. Some also call it a “rimmer.”
PEANUT BUTTER GOAL: This is one used by former Clarkson standout Craig Laughlin quite a bit when he does the color commentary on Washington Capitals TV broadcasts. It means a player scored a goal in which the puck was lifted into the top of the net. When a puck hits up there, its momentum keeps it up there a split second, and it looks like it stuck to the roof of the net. Similar to what peanut butter does to your tongue when you eat it, makes it stick to the top of your mouth. I like this expression.
CRISS CROSS ON THE NOSE: This could take many different directions if thought of satirically. I see George Carlin doing a monologue and using this term.
It means two attacking players, one of whom has the puck, cross paths on the attack. If it is done just inside the blueline where space is limited because the defense are “gapping up”, its considered to be on the “nose” of the defensemen.
WATER SKIING: This is another fun one, and I think the first analyst I heard say this one was Harry Neale, the former NHL coach and GM. Harry now works on Canadian television and is a top-notch analyst (as many coaches are).
Water skiing, generally frowned upon as a defensive tactic by officials, is when a player is chasing a puck carrier (or even trying to back check a non-puck carrier). The defending player uses his stick to hook onto the attacking player, stops moving his feet, and literally skis along the ice using the momentum of the player he is chasing.
And for an even ten …
DOING THE WEAVE: As players get older, they tend to have to do this with their hair.
On ice however, “doing the weave” is a way of saying the attacking team is having its forwards change lanes on the ice by passing the puck and following the path of their puck. The puck receiver can also move in the direction from where the puck was just passed from, thereby constantly changing the angle of the attack.
This phrase really blossomed in the early 1980′s after the U.S. team pulled off the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid. The late Herb Brooks was given credit for developing this style of play, which he admitted he implemented after watching the Soviets use it for years. However, those of my generation, who still think that those two weeks in February of 1980 was still the coolest hockey experience they ever had, “doing the weave” is a hockey term we cling to affectionately. It’s generational. People from the 60′s still think things are groovy.
Those are ten for now. There are surely more; if you have any you’d like mentioned, send them along to me at
Dave Starman serves as an analyst on CSTV Friday Night Hockey and contributes weekly to CollegeSports.com. Starman has coached professionally and in the amateur ranks and is currently the head Northeastern scout for the USHL’s defending champion Waterloo Black Hawks.