As a Canadian, this topic is near and dear to my heart. It is also a topic I have been thinking about for a while and looking forward to sharing it with you. Canadian hockey slang is so ingrained into Canadians that we even use it even if we aren’t fans of the game.
It is also deep-rooted into our television shows, some of which I will share so you can get an idea of what I mean, and our clothing wear. My husband is obsessed with hockey wear; hats, sandals, you name it. We even wear jerseys (or hockey sweaters) all year long; it doesn’t matter the season.
While I am sure some of these words are used by all hockey fans, some do seem specific to Canada. But by learning these terms we will gladly take you as an honourary (Canadian spelling had to be used there) Canadian. Excited to know the words we use across the pond, I’m selecting some of my favs, so let’s go!
I had to go with one of my favs right off the bat. I was using this term even before I knew really what it meant and was a fan of the game. That is mainly due to these two guys, Bob and Doug McKenzie, played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. They starred in a show called Great White North or originally Kanadian Korner back in the 1980s.
A derogatory term similar to an idiot, it comes from the pre-Zamboni days where the losing team would have to hose down the ice after a game. To be honest, after watching a clip of these guys, I’m not sure if they know the history of the term. But they do a nice variation of it when Doug calls Bob a hose head.
Please indulge me and my Canadian side and check out the clip of two Canadians poking fun at themselves in this satire show created by SCTV.
The McKenzie Brothers Using Hoser YouTube Video
You know the saying, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it? This is often what we say when we describe the work of a plumber. And in hockey, this means that player is handling the dirty and hard work on the ice. It may not be pretty, but someone’s gotta do it. You might also call this player a grinder.
The space between the goalie legs. Frequently used to refer to where a player attempts to shoot the puck past the goalie.
This one is essentially trash talk that players, and even coaches, will throw at each other during a game. It is even used to rile up their own players, in a positive way. I have added a video as it happens a lot in every game, but be forewarned there is some vulgarity, although most are bleeped.
Mic’d Up Chirps YouTube Video
Dangler – Hockey Lingo
Sometimes a player is talented in more than just hockey. Their ability to maneuver the puck comes from their past in playing another game, like lacrosse. A dangler is a player who can manipulate the puck with impressive skills. You can also say that was a great dangle when they play the puck through someone’s legs.
Hockey players are known for their hair, particularly if they have a good flow. If you can see a player’s hair peeking out of the helmet and curling up around the edges as they skate down the ice, chances are they’ve got good flow. Synonyms include lettuce, cabbage, and waterfall.
While you might be inclined to take this term literally, no, it doesn’t mean a beautiful player. This term refers to an overall great player, one who gets along with his team and who plays great. He’s a real beaut, a comment often said by Don Cherry, a beloved Canadian commentator in the world of hockey.
Barn or Barn Burner
If a Barn is a hockey game or the rink, then a barn burner is a game that is exciting to watch; it is fast-paced, has plenty of scoring, and is full of action.
What is hard and round and used in hockey? A puck, or as we Canadians say, a biscuit.
Gong Show – Hockey Slang
This term describes a crazy situation on the ice or even after the ice, whether due to many fights or some horrible plays. It is such a popular term here that a Canadian hockey clothing line was created with the name. Check out the clip to hear some players comment on the meaning.
Hockey Slang YouTube Video
The diminutive of the word celebration. Whether celebrating a goal or a game, this calls for a celly.
Another diminutive word used, this time to refer to a heavyweight player. He is a force on the team, one who may get into a lot of fights. You may also hear the term cement head, meathead, or goon.
The action of a player putting their stick between a player’s legs and twisting.
This is a dirty play when a player kicks the legs out from behind his opponent.
Grocery Stick – Hockey Slang
This one made me laugh; every now and then, we come across a useless player. Often this player will sit on the bench almost as a divider between the defensive and forward players. Now, imagine the stick that separates your groceries from another person’s groceries on the conveyor line and combine the two ideas. Yup, you guessed it, that player is a grocery stick.
A pylon is similar to a grocery stick. Just as a pylon stands motionless on the ice, so too do some players. By calling a player a pylon, you are saying he is useless.
In hockey, there are a lot of fights, loose sticks, and crashes onto the ice or boards. It is not uncommon for players to lose some teeth, or chiclets as the lingo goes.
Think of sauce as extra. So, when you give a puck some sauce you are making it leave the ice which can make it harder to intercept. This is a saucer pass. From this, you get two extra bits of sauce (see what I did there?) or terms. The first, a saucer king, a player who is skilled at these types of passes. The second, the phrase practice safe sauce.
Ringette refers to a Canadian sport that is also played on the ice and includes ice skates and sticks. In the game, there is a red line at the top of the defensive circles. Sometimes an announcer will use this term to describe the same space on a hockey rink.
Bar Down: Hockey Slang
Ever watch a hockey game and a player takes a shot only to have it hit the crossbar and go back out? The sound it makes is, without question, distinct. In this instant, however, the puck hits the crossbar and goes down into the net.
While I would have loved to have shown you a clip about two hockey guys talking about bar down (or bar downsies) in a well-beloved Canadian show Letterkenny, any clip would have you washing your ears out with soap. It is seriously that vulgar.
But I wanted to give you a sense of the terms that are used in this show. I did manage to find a clip of Jared Keeso, one of the stars of the show giving an interview about some of the Canadian terms used. The following three are all related to hockey.
Letterkenny Hockey Slang YouTube Video
Just in case you didn’t catch it from the clip, here are the three terms again: 10-ply, Tilly Time, and Donnybrook.
This expression refers to how soft a player is, emotionally.
In hockey, another word for a fight is a tilt. Canadians and hockey players alike, love to play around with words, including a player’s last name. We just love to be silly. Even walking into a bar and getting that feeling that a fight could break out warrants the use of this phrase.
A fight that involves more than two people, like a bench brawl. Interesting, no? But I still wanted to know how this term came to be. I discovered that there was a Donnybrook fair held annually for years, from 1204 until the 19th century. It was always an unruly event, causing multiple brawls.
I can honestly say this has been a pleasure. It is a lot of fun going down memory lane as I sifted through videos of old shows that referred to hockey terms. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading up on expressions that are so ridiculous and yet so aptly describe their meanings.
I hope you enjoyed learning about these terms and their origin. Hockey is to Canada as the crust is to bread; you simply can’t have one without the other. I’ll sign off this post with a favorite line from Bob and Doug McKenzie, take off, ya hoser!
By Danielle L’Ami
Danielle is a writer who, if you couldn’t tell, lives in Canada. While she would love to get out to a barn and have a real celly watching her Habs win, (darn pandemic) she will concede to watching the playoffs at home with her family and hopes to avoid any gong show moments.
You are on our Hockey Slang – Canadian Style page.
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