For all of the wonderful words and phrases―many of them time-honored, some of them fairly new―in hockey lingo that the sport’s enthusiasts rightly embrace, there are some that have run their course or had no place to begin with.
NHL fans, commentators, promoters and participants can shoot wide of the net when their coinage misses the mark on what they are attempting to describe.
The expression might needlessly supplant another noun that was doing just fine, and thus prove to be an attempt to fix what was not broken. When that happens, the hockey world is guilty of the linguistic equivalent of a team firing an accomplished coach and setting the team back with a comparatively mediocre replacement.
In other cases, a trending term will take on the wrong meaning, either inevitably from the start or over time as it is constantly applied in the wrong context. A nickname for a player or team, whether it comes from a supporter or a rival, can grow annoying before too long or be inherently classless to more people than just the target.
The following five buzzwords have either exhausted their buzz or logged more than enough five-minute majors through their usage and are long overdue for ejection from the puckhead’s dictionary.
Because he is supposed to be a professional analyst, NBC’s Mike Milbury is one of the worst offenders in recent memory. During the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, he slighted twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin as “Thelma and Louise.”
Before the calendar year was up, the two finesse Vancouver Canucks scorers brooked a similar remark from Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland, who simply termed them “the Sedin sisters.”
Then there are those who refer to Sidney Crosby as “Cindy” with the same obvious intent to belittle his skill, toughness and/or compete level. And unfortunately, these are probably just the surface of the examples.
Fans are perfectly entitled to heckle a rival team or player, but it is embarrassing to be living in the year 2013 and still have to explain to some of these people that gender has no role in this. If you are going to verbally target an opponent, do so in a manner that attacks that individual and not the women’s athletic community.
Is there a problem with simply saying “hash marks” or, to be more precise, “outer hash marks"?
The best hope for “half-wall” serving any purpose in hockey lingo is if it applies to the description of a defensive team seizing control and executing a breakout. Once a winger awaiting the defenseman’s breakout feed along those outer hash marks receives that feed, the transitioning team has brought the puck halfway out of its zone.
But that has hardly any use considering how swiftly and smoothly breakouts tend to occur. Barely a second or two elapses before a team has advanced the puck from the midway point of its end to somewhere out of the zone altogether.
Differentiating the distance of any portion of the boards is not nearly the same thing as, say, stressing the distance of a shot on goal by specifying either the “slot” or the “high slot.”
To that point, if a puck-carrier makes a productive pass or even a quality shot while standing in front of the wall, does the portion of the wall really matter? It’s impressive all the same.
In other words, to say that somebody scored on a bid from the outer hash mark is to turn more heads than to recount a player who shot one in from the inner hash mark. “Half-wall” is meaningless.
This term might have better connotations if people did not constantly use it as a desperate way of defending egregiously injurious hits.
Twice in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs alone, people called a dangerous hit a “hockey play” once the perpetrator received his suspension for it.
Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean evoked the term when Sens defenseman Eric Gryba leveled Montreal’s Lars Eller. One round later, L.A.’s Jarret Stoll took his hockey humility too far when he used the same two words to describe the hit he endured by San Jose’s Raffi Torres.
Yes, hitting is an integral part of the game, but the rationale is prying an opponent away from the puck and, over time, wearing the opponent down through repeated contact. High hits have never fallen within ethical boundaries and, thankfully, do not fall within legal boundaries these days, either.
Sometimes, hits will do more than what the checker genuinely intends, but simply saying “it’s just a hockey play” undermines the effort to curtail injuries.
Of course a hit is a hockey play. The distinction of moves like the ones Gryba and Torres pulled ought to lie within legality versus illegality and responsibility versus recklessness.
As it happened, the Wings proceeded to win four titles in a span of 12 years between the 1996-97 and 2007-08 seasons. That made it convenient for their fanbase to embolden the “Hockeytown” moniker and ignore the not-too-distant lean stretch when Joe Louis Arena as few as 12,496 spectators per night in the early 1980s.
When attendance began to recede circa 2007, media outlets such as Sports Illustrated and the New York Times started searching for a successor to the “Hockeytown” title. The fact is, though, that no single NHL city is entitled to that.
Minnesota may be the “State of Hockey” in the sense that it unconditionally supports the sport at all levels. But a professional fanbase and front office insisting that its community is “Hockeytown,” let alone going out of its way to trademark the darn phrase, is an exercise in pretentiousness at its finest.
Try something that cleverly speaks to a unique aspect of the city, region and/or the team nickname instead.
For as long as the NHL and other leagues dole out an automatic point to each team that ties through 60 regulation minutes, bitter traditionalists are bound to call it a “loser point” for whichever team fails to win the bonus point in overtime or a shootout.
What those who use that expression cannot seem to accept is that, more often than not, a regulation tie is either hard-earned or a fitting penalty for failing to put an opponent away. In turn, it is right for an overtime or shootout runner-up to be half-satisfied with what they earned while the victor feels fortunate, but wishes they had done more to sweep the stakes for the evening.
The expression “loser point” lacks validity because a team that walks away with a single point was not a true loser in that game. If it takes longer to decide a regular-season game than the 60 minutes that are supposed to be enough, it should be reflected as such in the standings.