Hockey as a Second Language

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Learning to speak “Hockeynese”

In hockey, like a lot of sports, there is a totally different language used. Just like the military has different lingo for words or phrases, the nation of hockey goes by its own dialect.

The first thing that becomes immediately 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 team mates a quick and easy handle when they are shouting out for each other on the ice during a game.

Also, it is quite easy in the sport of hockey to be given a nickname (Usually something recognizing an embarrassing moment or aspect of one’s life), which ends up sticking. For example, one year I played with a guy who always ended 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”, 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 is full of strange pseudonyms and slang that can make a pretty confusing conversation for an outsider. Here is a list of words and definitions that are often heard in the hockey world.


“The A”

Slang for the AHL (American Hockey League).



A player who plays on the edge and tries to get under opponents skin by playing dirty and trash-talking. Also referred to as a “Pest”.



Short for “Bag skate”. Used to describe when a coach punishes a team by making them skate hard or sometimes is simply used to better condition a team.



Term used to describe a player who is always hurt or injured.


“Bar Down”

Used to describe a shot that goes off the crossbar and in the net.



Complimentary term used to describe an ideal hockey player, from a cultural standpoint.  These players embrace the hockey lifestyle.  “I love Stewy, he’s a beauty.”



Slang for facemask.



Slang word for booster club members.


“The Broad”

Slang for girlfriend.



Slang for helmet.



Slang word for bus driver.



When a player puts his stick between another player’s legs and twists.



Slang for celebration after a goal.



Referring to the upper part of the net.  “Man, did he ever go cheese on that goal, eh?”  Also may be referred to as “Cheddar” or “Bunk.”


“Cherry Picker”

Player who hangs out around the red line looking for breakaway passes. They always neglect their defensive zone chores. Also known as a “Floater.”



Slang words used to describe the steady flow of insults thrown at opponents throughout a hockey game. Players will “chirp” or “beak” opponents throughout a game in an attempt to throw off their concentration.



When a player purposely steals a point from a team mate 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 steals points this way is called a “Chiseler.”


“Choke a Goose”

Slang for drinking vodka. Reference to Grey Goose vodka.



Slang word for a slap shot.


“The Coast”

Slang for 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.”



A term currently used to refer to a slick stick-handling manoeuvre. A “Dangler” is a player who has great stick-handling abilities. In the old days the term was used to describe some who could skate fast. “He can really dangle.”



A slang word to describe a two minute penalty.  Also used to describe human excrement or the act of releasing excrement.  Example, “That’s a two dollar fine, Stewey, for dropping a deuce on the bus.”



A slang word to describe a 10-minute misconduct penalty.  Also a slang word for a really attractive girl, which can also be described as “pistol”, “weapon”, “rocket”, or “smokeshow.”


“Drill Killer”

A player who always messes up drills. Some players just can’t follow diagrams or instructions.


“The Dub”

Slang for the WHL (Western Hockey League).


“Dump and Chase”

A tactic where players dump the puck into the opposition zone and then attack on a forecheck.


“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.”



Slang for full visor.



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.



A term used to describe when a player hurries a play because he’s afraid to get hit.


“The Gate”

When a player is ejected from a game he is given “The Gate.”



Slang for underwear or basically anything worn under hockey equipment.



A term used to describe a situation that is out of control, funny or ridiculous.  (Also the name of a the premier hockey lifestyle apparel company – Gongshow Gear)


“Gordie Howe Hat Trick”

When a player registers a goal, an assist and a fight in one game.



Term for an awful pass that is usually a bobbling puck. Players will say, “Pull the pin on that grenade,” when someone makes a bad pass.



A player who typically plays on the dump and chase line whose role on a team is to finish his checks and wear down opponents.


“Hang Em’ Up”

Slang for retiring from hockey.



Short form 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.”


“High School Harry / Donny Dangles”

A player who tries to do too much with the puck and show off.


“Holly Hotpants”

Attractive girl in the stands of a hockey game.



Short form for “Howitzer”. A term used by hockey players to describe a very hard slap shot.


“The I”

Slang for the now-defunct IHL.


“The IR”

Short form for the Injured Reserve.


“The Iron Lung”

Refers to the team bus. Teams put a lot of miles in together on the ol’ 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.



Slang word in hockey used to refer to teeth.


“Jungle B or C”

Slang for junior B or junior C.


“Kangaroo Court”

A forum where all player fines are brought forward and tried. Usually a light-hearted affair held once a week to promote camaraderie.



Slang for penalty kill.  Can also be used as slang for a sexual conquest.


“Lace Em’ Up”

Slang term for getting ready before a game.



A prank where you fill a bucket of water up and lean it against a door and knock so that when the person opens the door their feet get doused in water.



Slang word for a linesman, can also be used as another word for one of your line-mates.



Chewing tobacco. Some players like to chew tobacco on the bus or between periods of a game.


“Lug the Mail”

When a defenseman carries the puck out of his zone.



A term referring to a hockey player’s stick-handling ability.

Ex) “Johnny’s got some nice mitts on him, eh?”



Slang term for a weak shot on net.


“The O”

Slang for the OHL (Ontario Hockey League).



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.



Slang for Power Play.


“Pepper Grinder”

Someone who is always trying to suck up and show off to the coaches.



Slang word used to describe 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.



A pass up the middle.  A high risk play that often gets intercepted.



This is a term players use to make fun of or degrade another player. Calling someone a “Plug” basically is like saying that they are a terrible player and are just on a team to fill a slot.



Term describing 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 as a “Mucker”.


“Puck Bunnies/Dirties”

Slang phrases used to describe girls who chase hockey players and hang around players.


“The Q”

Slang for the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).



Slang for a case of beer.


“Ray Ferraro”

Slang for Chicken Parmesan.


“Riverboat Gambler”

Term used to describe a defenseman who rushes the puck a lot and can be a liability in his own end.



Slang for a saucer pass where the puck is feathered to clear an opponent’s stick.



Term used to describe 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.



Slang word for drunk.



A card game that hockey players play when on long road trips.



Term used to describe 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”

Slang for the NHL



Slang for pre-game nap.



Slang for terrible goalie.



When a player kicks the legs out from behind an opponent. A very dirty play in hockey.



A slang word used to describe a goal, particularly a nice goal. A “Sniper” is a player who scores frequently.



A term used to describe when a player is released or cut from a team.


“Stone Hands”

Used to describe a player who is a terrible stick-handler.



Slang word for referee.


“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.



Short form for “Suicide Pass” which is a pass made by a player to another player who is in a vulnerable position to be hit or blindsided by an opponent.



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.


“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.


“Tilt or Tilly”

Slang word for a hockey fight.



Term used to describe when a player ventures into the middle of the ice with his head down.



When a player drops to the ice and covers his head with his arms when challenged to a fight.



Scoring a goal between the goalie’s legs.



Slang for hockey stick.


“The U-Haul”

Slang for the now-defunct UHL (United Hockey League).


“Up and Down Winger”

Term used to describe a winger who simply goes up and down his wing and does his job.



When a defenseman is beaten badly on a one-on-one.


“The Wall”

Slang word for the boards surrounding the rink.



A word used to describe someone’s skating ability. This is also used to describe a player’s ability to pick up or attract girls. “Chucky’s wheeling that broad over there.”


“The Wiffle”

Slang for 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”

Slang for beers.


“The Wrapper”

Slang word for bed.



Slang word for stitches. Short for “Zippers”.




Another part of the language of hockey is a strong and frequent use of profanity mixed in with all dialogue. Hockey players will often use two or three profane words per sentence when around the team in the locker room, weight room, on the ice or on the road. Profanity is just another part of the game just like hockey sticks and road trips.

I can remember coming home from each season away and having to make sure I watched the way I spoke around my family and my summer job. After my last year of pro, my girlfriend (That I have known and been friends with since high school and is now my life partner and mother of my child) said to me: “Wow Jamie I didn’t realize how much you swear. I don’t remember you swearing this much when we were younger.” I was dropping two or three “F-Bombs” per sentence without even knowing it.

Degradation and insults are a big part of conversation and interaction within a hockey team, as well. Players are always including insults and little jabs at each other when they converse in the locker room or on the bus. 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 that people don’t want to be around. The profanity and the insults were a way to further instill the machismo and masculinity of the game.


Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

About Jamie McKinven

Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

View all posts by Jamie McKinven →

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