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Hockey Terminology for Coaches

Updated June 2021

The following is a list of terms that coaches and players should become more and more familiar with as they progress through their hockey careers.

Active Stick- the defensive habit of keeping your stick on the ice and moving it around to visually take away passing lanes from the opposition.

Angling- taking away an opponent’s time and space by steering them and making them skate to where you want them to go to create a turnover. Lead with stick on puck, hands on hands, hips on hands.

Backcheck- a player skating towards their own zone when the opposition is attacking in an attempt to help defensively.

Box out- similar to in basketball, the process of getting on the defensive side of an offensive player in front of your own net to eliminate any chance of them getting a scoring chance off a rebound.

Chip- when the puck is played off the boards. Can be used as a pass, or simply a way to get the puck out of a zone.

Collapse coverage- Can occur at even strength or on the PK when the players lose their defensive system they collapse back to the house in order to reorganize threats.

Contain vs Commit- Alternatives on how to pressure the puck carrier on a forecheck. Contain (crest/eyes) occurs when the opposition has full control of the puck with their eyes up facing the play (you can see their jersey crest or player eyes). In this instance you want to contain them and eliminate time/space in a controlled fashion. Commit occurs when the opposition may not have full possession of the puck or have their back facing the play (you see jersey numbers). In this instance players want to pressure opposition immediately as they have limited knowledge of the forecheck or potential outlet opportunities to make.

Crash the net- the ability and determination to get to the net for rebounds or deflections.

Cutting the ice in half- the process of angling/forechecking when the player properly angles (using their body position and stick) the opposition to force the play to one half off the ice. This prevents the opposition from being able to go back to the other side and enables the attackers teammates to anticipate where the puck will be.

Cycling the puck- Can take form in many different fashions but is essentially supporting teammates in the offensive zone by creating passing options off the boards into an area that can be retrieved by the teammate.

Defensive Side- a habit in the defensive zone where the defender keeps their body between their mark (typically person they are covering) and the net.

Defensive Zone (DZ)- zone of the ice, from the blue line to the end boards where your goalie is.

Delay (button hook)- Executing a move with the puck to provide more time/space for the puck carrier and for teammates to join the play as passing options. Typically is referenced when an attacking player with the puck curls towards the boards (away from defender) to delay and create space. A delay can also be pulling up while facing the play so player can read the entire ice while buying time/space.

Depositing the puck (aka smart dump-ins)- The emphasis when dumping the puck into the offensive zone of thinking about where to place the puck so it falls into the attacking teams game plan and increases the ability to gain possession of the puck.

Dumping the puck- Getting the puck deep into the other teams zone to facilitate changing the players on the ice. At the higher levels, when dumping the puck for a change, players should be taught good placement to avoid quick transitions from the opposing team.

Eat the puck- the play of protecting the puck along the boards in an attempt to waste time off the clock (typically on a PK or near the end of a period).

Forecheck- the ability to work as a team and pressure the opposition when they have control of the puck. The can be an offensive zone forecheck or a neutral zone forecheck.

Front the puck- the process of stepping in front of a shot (generally from the point) to block it before it can reach the net. Typically this is done by a defensive player battling in front of their own net where they can react in time to intercept the puck and transition to offense.

Gap- distance between defend and opposition when opponent is attacking. Frequently used when describing the distance on a rush where you don’t want the gap to be too big as it allows opposition more time and space to make a play.

Gap up- encouraging the defender to follow the play up ice with the puck so if there is a turnover the gap is small.

Half boards (half wall)- the spot on the ice by the hash marks on the boards. Typical place for players to receive an outlet/breakout pass.

High cycle (high switch)- Similar to the cycle in the offensive zone trying to confuse the defense team and open up shooting/passing lanes. Forward skates up the wall and switches with the defensemen who skates down the wall on the board side. Puck can be passed to the D or kept by the F.

(the) House- the area directly in front of the net, the prime scoring area. Defensively you want to protect the house, offensively you want to attack the house. Sometimes can be referred to as the slot which is generally considered the area between the hash marks on the circles.

Head on a swivel- the ability as a defensive habit to watch the puck and the offensive player you are covering. Being able to maintain awareness of where each are allows a defender to constantly adjust where they are to maintain a good defensive position. A good way to teach this is one shoulder on the puck one on your mark, encourages players to not let players go into a “blind spot” by changing their body position vs having to turn their head back and forth.

Icing- when a players shoots the puck from their side of the center red line and it goes the length of the ice, crossing the opposition’s goal line without being touched.

Inside the dots- The goal defensively of trying to keep the opposition to the outside of the ice and therefore protecting the high scoring areas. On an odd man rush against it is keeping in line with the offside dots to force the attacking team outside.

Lunge- skating straight at a player in hopes of creating a turnover. Is a bad habit as a player lunging is easily beat with a simple fake.

Mirror the puck- the defensive process of following the puck carrier from the other team on the defensive side of the puck without fully pressuring them.

Momentum post- the habit of keeping momentum (feet moving) when anticipating a pass so player does not have to start from a standstill. Easiest example if forward on the half boards waiting for a breakout pass, open up to pass and keep momentum so they can receive the pass in stride.

Neutral Zone (NZ)- zone of the middle of the ice between the two blue lines.

Offensive Zone (OZ)- zone of the ice, from the blue line to the end boards where opposition goalie is.

Offside- when a player enters the offensive zone before the puck they are considered offside. At which point the puck cannot enter the zone until the player gets back on the proper side of the blue line. In youth hockey currently there is a no-tag up rule meaning if a player is inside the zone and the puck is dumped in it is an automatic whistle and faceoff. At higher levels players are allowed to “tag-up” by vacating the zone when the puck is shot in without an automatic whistle. *Important note- when using this term for an individual play there is no need to add an “S” to make it plural, if it was a singular occurrence it’s just offside.*

Passing lanes- an open lane between players that a pass can be completed. Offensively the habit taught should be for teammates to move and constantly create passing lanes

Passing to an area/space- making a pass to a soft spot on the ice (a place where no one is) but where can teammate can get to quickly in order to maintain possession of the puck.

Penalty kill (PK)- when you take a penalty that causes you to play with less players on the ice.

Post up- the skill of placing yourself as a good passing option while continuing to be in motion to prevent you from having to start skating with the puck from a standstill.

Power play (PP)- when the opposition takes a penalty that cause them to play with less players on the ice. A power play can be a 5v4, 5v3 or 4v3 advantage.

Rim- wrap the puck around the boards.

Sauce pass- a pass that comes off the ice (while the puck maintains its spin and stays flat) to avoid an obstacle en route to its target.

Scissors (cross, switch)- Offensive move to create confusion and/or set picks where players cross, can be with or without the puck.

Shooting lanes- similar to passing lane but is an open lane for a shot to reach the net without players or anything else between the puck and goal.

Shoulder check- before picking up the puck against the boards taking a glance over shoulder to see where other players, both teammates and opposition are to gather information to make a better decision when puck is retrieved.

Skate on first touch- A phrase to remind athletes to keep their feet moving when picking up the puck.

Stick on ice- the habit keeping the stick on the ice when not directly involved in the play. The point is a player never knows when a loose puck will come their way or how it can prevent a passing lane unintentionally.

Stick on puck- an important habit defensively when pressuring the puck carrier. It involves trying to keep the blade of your stick close to the opponent’s blade to eliminate their options with the puck.

Surround the puck (keeping it in your hip pocket)- keeping the puck on the forehand, beside the body so an action (shot/pass) can occur without having to load the puck before executing a play.

Transition (counters)- the process of moving from offensive to defense or defense to offense depending on possession of the puck quickly.

Underhandling the puck- the ability of a player to control the puck without having to excessively stickhandle to maintain control. Underhandling allows players to get passes/shots off quickly eliminating time for the defensive team to adjust.

Wall- the boards.

Wheel- a type of breakout where the player retrieving the puck picks it up and continues to skate with it.

Zone Entry- the process of skating the puck into the other teams defensive zone. When entering the oppositions zone players want to be able to read and react to the situation to create a scoring opportunity.