Hockey Jargon Demystified: A Deep Dive into Ice Hockey Terms

Hockey Jargon Demystified: A Deep Dive into Ice Hockey Terms

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on ice hockey terminology! Whether you’re a passionate fan or a newcomer to the sport, understanding the jargon used in ice hockey can sometimes be overwhelming. In this article, we will demystify the complex language of ice hockey by providing a detailed explanation of the most commonly used terms. From power plays to slap shots, this deep dive will equip you with the knowledge needed to fully enjoy the thrilling world of ice hockey. Let’s begin our exploration and unravel the mysteries of this fast-paced sport!

Basic Ice Hockey Terms


In ice hockey, the puck is a small, flat disc made of rubber that serves as the game’s primary object. It is approximately three inches in diameter and one inch thick. The puck is used to score goals by shooting it into the opponent’s net. Players use their sticks to control and pass the puck, and it is constantly in motion throughout the game. The puck’s weight and material allow it to glide smoothly across the ice, enabling fast-paced and exciting gameplay.


The goal is the ultimate objective in ice hockey. Each team has a net at opposite ends of the rink, and the goal is to shoot the puck into the opponent’s net while preventing the opposing team from scoring in yours. The goal is made up of two vertical posts and a crossbar, forming a rectangular opening. To score a goal, the puck must fully cross the goal line and enter the net. The team that scores the most goals within the designated time wins the game. The goal is heavily guarded by the goaltender, who plays a crucial role in defending against the opponent’s shots.


The stick is one of the essential tools used by ice hockey players. It consists of a long shaft with a blade at one end. Players use their sticks to control the puck, pass it to teammates, and shoot it towards the goal. The stick’s design and length vary depending on the player’s position and personal preference. Defensemen typically use longer sticks to provide better reach for poke-checking and defensive maneuvers. Forwards may opt for shorter sticks to enhance their stickhandling and shooting accuracy. The stick plays a fundamental role in all aspects of the game, making it a vital piece of equipment for every player.

These basic ice hockey terms provide a foundation for understanding the sport’s key elements. The puck, goal, and stick are integral to the game, shaping the strategies, skills, and excitement that make ice hockey such a thrilling sport to watch and play.

Offensive Terminology


The forecheck is a crucial offensive strategy in ice hockey. It refers to the act of aggressively pressuring the opposing team’s defensemen and forwards in their defensive zone while they are attempting to advance the puck up the ice. The primary goal of the forecheck is to disrupt the opposing team’s breakout and regain possession of the puck in a favorable position for an offensive attack.

There are different types of forechecks employed by teams, including the traditional 1-2-2, the aggressive 2-1-2, and the passive 1-3-1. Each forecheck system has its own variations and focuses on different aspects of pressuring the opposition.

The forechecking players need to anticipate the opponent’s movements, communicate effectively, and coordinate their actions to cut off passing lanes, force turnovers, and create scoring opportunities. A successful forecheck not only disrupts the opposing team’s play but also instills pressure and can lead to turnovers, allowing the offensive team to generate sustained offensive pressure and increase their chances of scoring.

Power Play

The power play is an advantageous situation for the offensive team that occurs when the opposing team has a player or players in the penalty box due to a penalty. During a power play, the offensive team has more players on the ice than the opposition, creating a numerical advantage.

Typically, a power play consists of five offensive players against four defensive players and the goaltender. This advantage allows the offensive team to move the puck more freely and create scoring opportunities by utilizing their extra player effectively.

Teams often have specific power play strategies and formations tailored to exploit the opposing team’s penalty killing tactics. Key elements of a successful power play include quick puck movement, accurate passing, effective player positioning, and the ability to capitalize on the extra space and time.

Coaches and players analyze the penalty killing strategies of their opponents to identify weaknesses and develop effective power play strategies. A well-executed power play can often tip the balance in a game and lead to crucial goals.


A breakaway is an exciting offensive situation that occurs when a player gains possession of the puck and finds themselves alone or with minimal defensive pressure between them and the opposing goaltender. It is a thrilling opportunity for the offensive player to take an unhindered shot on goal, increasing the chances of scoring.

During a breakaway, the offensive player has the advantage of space and time, allowing them to showcase their individual skills and creativity in attempting to beat the goaltender. They can use various techniques such as dekes, fakes, and quick shots to try and outmaneuver the goaltender and score a goal.

For the defensive team, preventing a breakaway is crucial. Defensemen need to maintain good positioning and awareness to intercept passes or disrupt the offensive player’s progress. Goaltenders must be ready to face the breakaway by analyzing the offensive player’s movements and making quick decisions on how to make the save.

Breakaways are often high-pressure situations that can shift the momentum of a game. The offensive player aims to capitalize on this opportunity and score a goal, while the defensive team strives to make a timely save and deny the scoring chance.

Defensive Terminology


Backcheck is a fundamental defensive strategy in ice hockey where a player rapidly skates back into their own defensive zone to disrupt or impede the opposing team’s offensive play. The purpose of backchecking is to regain control of the puck and prevent the opponents from mounting a successful attack. It involves a combination of speed, anticipation, and positioning to effectively neutralize the opposing team’s offensive threats.

Penalty Kill

Penalty kill refers to a situation in ice hockey where a team is temporarily down a player due to a penalty, and they must defend against the opposing team’s power play. During a penalty kill, the team with fewer players on the ice aims to prevent the opponents from scoring a goal. This defensive strategy requires disciplined positioning, effective communication, and strong teamwork to minimize the chances of the opposing team capitalizing on the power play advantage.

Shot Block

Shot block is a defensive maneuver in ice hockey where a player positions themselves in the shooting lane to obstruct or deflect an opponent’s shot attempt. This technique is commonly used to prevent the puck from reaching the goal, reducing the chances of the opposing team scoring. Shot blocking requires courage, timing, and skillful anticipation to effectively disrupt the offensive play and protect the goaltender. It is a crucial defensive tactic that showcases a player’s commitment to sacrificing their body for the success of the team.

By understanding and implementing these defensive terminologies, players can enhance their defensive capabilities and contribute to their team’s overall success on the ice. Whether it’s backchecking to disrupt the opposing team’s offensive flow, penalty killing to defend against power plays, or shot blocking to prevent goals, mastering these defensive strategies is essential for any ice hockey player.

Gameplay Strategies

Dump and Chase

Dump and chase is a popular gameplay strategy in ice hockey that involves quickly getting the puck deep into the opponent’s zone and then aggressively chasing after it. This strategy is often used when a team wants to create offensive pressure and wear down the opposing defense.

The idea behind dump and chase is to bypass the opposing team’s defense by quickly dumping the puck into the offensive zone and then relentlessly pursuing it. This forces the defense to retrieve the puck and make hurried decisions under pressure, increasing the chances of turnovers or defensive mistakes.

By implementing the dump and chase strategy, teams aim to gain puck possession in the offensive zone, create scoring opportunities, and maintain offensive pressure. It is particularly effective against teams with strong defensive capabilities or when facing a goaltender who is difficult to beat with direct shots.

Odd-Man Rush

The odd-man rush is an exciting gameplay strategy in ice hockey that occurs when one team has more offensive players than the opposing team has defenders. This situation typically arises due to a quick transition from defense to offense, catching the opposing team off-guard and creating a numerical advantage.

During an odd-man rush, the team with the numerical advantage tries to capitalize on the situation by quickly moving the puck and creating scoring opportunities. The offensive players aim to overwhelm the defense and create confusion, making it difficult for the opposing team’s goaltender to effectively defend the net.

Timing, speed, and effective passing are crucial in executing the odd-man rush. Players must communicate and coordinate their movements to maintain the numerical advantage and take advantage of the defensive gaps created by the outnumbered defenders.

Teams often strive to create odd-man rushes through quick breakouts, long stretch passes, or by capitalizing on turnovers in the neutral zone. The odd-man rush is a high-risk, high-reward strategy that can lead to thrilling scoring chances and game-changing moments.


Cycling is a strategic gameplay approach in ice hockey that involves maintaining puck possession in the offensive zone by continually passing the puck along the boards. This strategy aims to tire out the opposing team’s defense, create scoring opportunities, and maintain offensive pressure.

When executing the cycling strategy, players move in a circular pattern along the boards, passing the puck to teammates while maintaining constant movement. The objective is to draw the opposing defense out of position, create passing lanes, and generate scoring chances.

Cycling requires strong puck control, quick decision-making, and effective communication among teammates. Players need to anticipate each other’s movements and make accurate passes to maintain the flow of the cycle.

By cycling the puck, teams can exhaust the opposing defense, force them to make mistakes, and create scoring opportunities from closer range. It is a patient and methodical strategy that requires discipline and teamwork but can be highly effective in wearing down the opposition and ultimately finding the back of the net.

Penalties and Infractions


Tripping is a common penalty in ice hockey and occurs when a player intentionally or accidentally causes an opponent to fall by using their stick or any other part of their body to impede their progress. Tripping can result in a player being sent to the penalty box for two minutes, leaving their team short-handed. It is crucial for players to be careful with their stick placement and body positioning to avoid tripping penalties.


Cross-checking is a violation that involves a player using their stick to forcefully push an opponent away. This action is deemed illegal when it is done with excessive force or with both hands on the stick. Cross-checking can lead to severe injuries and is strictly penalized in ice hockey. Players who cross-check their opponents can expect to receive a two-minute penalty or more, depending on the severity of the infraction.


High-sticking is a penalty that occurs when a player’s stick makes contact with an opponent’s head or face area. The penalty is called even if the contact is accidental. It is essential for players to maintain control of their sticks at all times to avoid high-sticking penalties. Similar to other infractions, high-sticking results in a two-minute penalty and can be assessed for longer durations if the contact causes injury.

Understanding these penalties and infractions is crucial for both players and fans of ice hockey. By adhering to the rules and regulations surrounding tripping, cross-checking, and high-sticking, players can ensure a fair and safe game.

Goalie-Specific Terms


The butterfly is a fundamental technique used by goalies in ice hockey to make saves. When executing the butterfly, the goalie drops to their knees and spreads their legs apart, with the pads of their leg guards resting on the ice. This position provides maximum coverage of the lower portion of the net, making it difficult for the opposing team to score. By going into the butterfly position, goalies can effectively block low shots and minimize rebound opportunities.

Glove Save

A glove save is a remarkable display of skill and agility by a goalie. As the name suggests, it involves using the glove hand to catch or deflect a shot that is aimed at the upper portion of the net. The goalie extends their arm and snaps their glove up, snatching the puck out of mid-air. This type of save is often seen as a highlight reel moment, as it requires quick reflexes and precise hand-eye coordination. A well-executed glove save can turn the tide of a game and give the goalie’s team a much-needed boost of momentum.

Five Hole

The term "five hole" refers to the small opening between a goalie’s legs, specifically when they are in the butterfly position. It is called the "five hole" because it is the fifth potential opening for the puck to pass through. Goalies aim to keep their legs tightly closed to prevent shots from going through the five hole and scoring a goal. However, skilled shooters often attempt to exploit this opening by shooting the puck between the goalie’s legs. It becomes a battle of wits and reflexes between the goalie and the shooter, as the goalie tries to anticipate and close the five hole, while the shooter seeks to find the perfect angle to slip the puck through.

Understanding these goalie-specific terms is essential for both players and fans of ice hockey. Whether it’s appreciating the skill involved in a glove save, recognizing the effectiveness of the butterfly technique, or following the intense battles between shooters and goalies to exploit or defend against the five hole, these terms add depth to the understanding and enjoyment of the game.

In conclusion, this article has provided a comprehensive exploration of ice hockey jargon, aiming to demystify the terminology commonly used in the sport. By delving into various aspects of the game, from player positions to strategies and penalties, readers have gained a deeper understanding of ice hockey terms. Whether you are a die-hard fan or a newcomer to the sport, this article has equipped you with the knowledge necessary to fully appreciate the intricacies of ice hockey. So next time you watch a game, you can confidently decipher the jargon and engage in discussions about the sport with ease.