May 22, 2013

Original Six: Hockey jargon to jettison

By Jesse Connolly

Baseball has its seeing-eye singles. Football has its fair catches. Basketball has its rain-makers. If you try watching sports and don’t have all the lingo down, chances are you’re going to get lost at one point or another. That’s especially true when it comes to hockey. But just as its counterparts do, our beloved sport has its share of heinous, cringe-inducing buzzwords. Here are a few pieces of hockey jargon we all could live without:

6. Bag Skate

I understand things won’t always mean what they sound like. The word noisome has nothing to do with noise. The word nugatory has squat to do with nougat (or candy bars). Following ugly losses, fans are always pining for a coach to punish the offending players with a bag skate. A bag skate. Yeah. That’ll show ’em! Stupid thing is, a bag skate in no way, shape or form involves a bag of any kind.

As a kid, whenever I read the term bag skate, I pictured a whip-wielding coach making players hoof it up and down the practice rink with a duffel bag full of bricks, wrenches and heavy weights around each shoulder. After all, a bag skate was supposed to be torture, right? Much to my disappointment, a bag skate is just a hockey practice with lots of sprints and no sticks. Big whoop.

5. Dressing Room

This may irk a few people, but I’ve never been fond of this term. In American lexicon, players convene in a locker room. But for some reason — and I must confess I use “dressing room” from time to time — hockey folks are adamant about there being a distinction between the two. On the surface, I get it. You walk into the Bruins’ “dressing room” and there are no lockers in the traditional sense.

But is that enough reason to not call it a locker room, like everyone else does? I mean, no one calls a half bathroom a toilet room, right? When I think of a dressing room, I think of a set of rooms in the middle of Macy’s where I angrily come to the realization that the shirts I like don’t fit, not a place where hockey players hang their helmets and skates.

4. Beauty

My brain conjures up a wide array of images when I hear the word beauty: a serene lake in front of a snow-covered mountain, a grinning newborn baby, Kate Upton in a bikini. These are decidedly special things. But nowadays, as far as hockey players are concerned, just about everything on Earth can be called a beauty.

According to a blog I encountered on my Internet travels, a beauty is a well-liked or funny guy on the team. If we’re operating under that premise: Empty-net goals are not beauties, a horde of Twitter fan-boys begging for retweets (“You’re my favorite player and it’s my birthday!”) are not beauties, those terrifying, mangy cats you shared a photo of on Instagram are not beauties. Do us a favor: access your internal thesaurus and stop referring to everything as a beauty. That’d be, well, beautiful.

3. Apples

As a writer that absolutely hates being repetitive and using the same word over and over to describe something, I understand the need to mix things up. What I don’t understand is why anyone ever started referring to assists as apples. Yeah, the assist is designated as an “A” in the box score, and apple begins with that very letter.

But what the heck does an apple have to do with hockey? How about a puck or a pass? What about, I don’t know, being generous? Nothing, as far as I’m concerned. Why didn’t we go with another fruit that begins with “A”? “Did you see Patrice Bergeron’s sick avocado on Marchand’s goal last night?” “No, but I did read that Sidney Crosby had three apricots.”

2. North-South Game

While actually hearing it might not make your ears bleed like some other terms on this list do, north-south game might just be the worst catchphrase a hockey analyst has ever said on the air. The gist of it, I think, is a player or team is going to be focused on going up and down the length of the ice. Beyond that I don’t get really get it.

Are they not allowed to skate sideways? Is this bubble hockey? Should they be acting like a human battering ram, bowling over anything that gets in their way? This new penalty called “interference” may spoil such a plan. Has any team ever been too guilty of playing an east-west game? Are players allowed to deviate and maybe go northeast or southwest? Have I emphasized how stupid this is enough yet? Well, it is.

1. Celly

We live in an undeniably lazy world these days, so much so that the most exercise many of us get stems from the motion of our thumbs furiously texting, Facebooking and ordering a steak bomb from the sub shop a stone’s throw from our houses on our smartphones.

We’ve also gotten lazy when it comes to describing the activities of professional athletes. No longer do they partake in celebrations. Instead, we’ve now begun to refer to them as cellys. It’s simply a silly word that doesn’t jive with the whole hockey-players-are-warriors thing. At all. Can you imagine describing Scott Stevens cellying? Just a few years ago, we had to “blow up” our friends’ cellys if we wanted to get in touch with them. It’s time we blow up whatever page celly is located on in our hockey dictionaries.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.