Blog: A helpful hockey glossary

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

One of the surest signs you’ve fully transitioned to adulthood occurs when a person who is your junior says or writes something to you that’s presumably based in your first language, yet you have no idea what he or she is trying to communicate.

Instant and text messaging has done a lot to accentuate the rift between generations in recent years. Just the other day I got an email from a co-worker who’s only a handful of years younger than I am. It included the sentence, “have a good mtg!”

Now, I’ve heard the letters “MGD” associated with good times before, but this was a new one. Turns out I was supposed to have an enjoyable meeting.

Like the kids, sports have always featured inclusive jargon and hockey is no exception. A fellow hockey fan can follow along when you start talking about five-holes, but somebody out of the puck loop might think you’re alluding to a quintet of non-desirables.

Jargon is often driven by those who bring the game to us via TV and radio. Late great Habs play-by-play caller Danny Gallivan coined phrases such as “cannonating” and “spin-o-rama” that didn’t reside in any dictionary, but still resonated with listeners.

In recent years, crack analyst Pierre McGuire has taken existing words and enthusiastically applied them to hockey, hence “monster!” and “human eraser!” have become part of the sport’s vernacular.

But as I’ve been forced to contemplate certain seemingly random alignments of letters on my phone and in my inbox recently, I got to wondering if there are any new and/or occasional hockey fans out there who could use a little glossary to help translate some of the game’s potentially befuddling terms.

Let’s clarify a few…

Puck Distribution is the term employed to describe the action of one player using his stick to transfer possession of the puck to a teammate. It was once known as “passing.” In recent years, confused fans had assumed that because hockey was forged in Canada, a country proud of its social welfare traditions, puck distribution referred to some obscure law entitling every Canadian citizen to a minimum of 0.04 ounces of frozen rubber to call their own.

Quiet Ice is a phrase used to characterize a sliver of playing surface goal-scorers love to find because it’s unguarded by opposing players and can be used to rip off a good, quick shot. It is not, as some had understandably assumed, a reference to any place where Sean Avery isn’t.

While quiet ice usually refers to only a small piece of unoccupied ice, the Weak Side details a larger chunk of real estate that is largely unpopulated because it’s opposite the spot where players are fighting for control of the puck. Previously, some fans were under the impression weak side just described whatever half of the ice Jonas Hoglund was on.

The Toe Drag is a move executed by soft-handed players whereby they use the tip – or ‘toe’ – of their stick blade to deftly pull the puck closer to their body. This not only creates a small gap between the shooter and defender, it also slightly alters the angle of attack. Players capable of using this maneuver to perfection quickly become familiar with the Dough Snag, a slick move their agents teach them when it’s time for a new contract.

Agitator is the term applied to a breed of player characterized by his willingness to use what is typically an average-sized body and over-sized mouth to goad opposing players into stupid penalties by any means necessary. Prior incarnations of this type of player were simply known as “jerks” or, well, replace the five in five-hole with…

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blognormally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.

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