• Sam Currey

Ten Hockey Terms to Know As A New Hockey Fan

Every sport will eventually develop a language around itself to describe its unique facets if around long enough. Ice hockey has a rich history, and along with that comes a lot of official terminology and slang. While some terms are pretty self-descriptive, others are not as straightforward and could confuse someone learning about the sport. Here's a list of ten common hockey terms helpful to any new hockey fan.

Slap Shot

a hockey player taking a slap shot.
Photo by: https://unsplash.com/@crousg

"Slap Shot" is a commonly used term in ice hockey, and even a person who has never watched a hockey game has probably heard the term at some point. While Miriam Webster defines a slapshot as: "a shot in ice hockey made with a swinging stroke," that definition doesn't quite capture the whole picture of this exciting part of hockey.

What makes a slapshot different than just any other shot on goal? The important thing to know about slap shots is that the player creates an immense amount of force and leverage by "slapping" the ice right in front of the puck with their stick.

By striking the ice in front of the puck, the player bends the flexible hockey stick, which snaps back, creating a slingshot effect. This makes for a high-velocity shot, potentially around 100 miles per hour.

Freezing the puck

When listening to the announcer's broadcast of a hockey game, you are more than likely to hear the term "freezing the puck." This has nothing to do with the temperature of the hockey puck but instead is an act most often done by goaltenders in an attempt to stop play and let their team reset with a faceoff in their defensive zone.

A goalie will often freeze the puck when there is a lot of offensive pressure or if the team needs some time to reset for any reason, often after a shot attempt.


Icing is another common term. It occurs when a player sends the puck across the center line and the red goal line of the opposing team without being touched by any other player. While it is not a penalty, icing is an infraction resulting in a faceoff in the offending team's defensive zone. Icing the puck is only legal when a team is down one player (shorthanded) and attempting a penalty kill.

Line Change

Many sports only allow player substitutions during a stoppage of play. Hockey, however, brings extra excitement to this otherwise inconspicuous part of the game by allowing substitutions during the course of play.

You will realize how often these substitutions or "line changes" happen if you pay attention. There is a nearly constant rotation of players hopping over the boards to relieve their teammates because of fatigue, personnel matchups, or other reasons.

Effective line changing requires coaches, players on the bench, and players on the ice to pay close attention to each other and the game—

this is something the most successful hockey teams have down to a science.


Offside infractions are common in hockey and possibly one of the most frustrating calls to hear, especially if you think your team has just scored.

An offside occurs when a player enters the offensive zone before another player sends the puck across the line into the zone. Many goals are taken off the board because of an offside call that comes down a fraction of a second.

Top Shelf

a hockey player getting ready to take a shot at the goalie and go top shelf.
Photo by: Andy Hall (https://unsplash.com/@tsbcreative)

The "top shelf" is the area of the goal above the goalkeeper's shoulders but below the goal's crossbar. This is considered a sweet spot for players taking a shot on goal and requires a skilled and quick reaction from the goalkeeper to block a shot directed at this area.


A "hat trick" refers to when a single player scores three or more goals during the course of a game. Something about this magic number of three goals is extra special and cause for celebration from teammates and fans. Sometimes fans throw their hats onto the ice to celebrate this somewhat rare occurrence.


Dangle is a combination of body and puck movement to avoid or fake out an opposing player to get by them. A dangle is a combination of trickery involving the player's body movement and the puck. This relatively new term has been adopted heavily in the last five to ten years. Having a sweet dangle is crucial to being a skilled offensive player.


Bobby Clark showing a perfect hockey smile with several of his chicklets missing.

This is a funny one. Hockey players are well known to have a widely varying number of teeth—this has, believe it or not, a term: "chiclets."

If you're not familiar, Chiclets are, by many, considered to be one of the

worst chewing gum to come into existence. These short-lasting, unimpressive, small, uniform white squares of slightly minty chewing gum have become the slang term used in hockey to describe a player's teeth.

Keeping your head on a swivel is important to avoid losing some chiclets, but if you play hockey long enough, it is bound to happen eventually.

Yard Sale


When a player gets hit hard enough that their helmet, gloves, stick, or various other pieces of gear come off of their body and spread across the ice, we call it a yard sale. Being on the receiving end of one of these hits is something no one wants to experience, especially when you have to scramble around the ice collecting your belongings.

This term is also often used to describe the scene after players take part in a fight, when this gear can often be found scattered across the ice. Most good hockey fights end in a yard sale.

Next time you're watching a game, you're bound to hear some of these terms. Hopefully, this list helps you have a better idea of what is going on and a better understanding of the wonderful sport of ice hockey.

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