There's something about a playoff hockey game that makes otherwise normal people speak in strange tongues. It's a phenomenon that's sure to be on display this weekend, as the Wisconsin men's hockey team makes its first Frozen Four appearance in 14 years, starting with Thursday night's game against the Maine Black Bears in Milwaukee.
"That Bishop kid was standing on his head until Pavs deked top shelf and then went five-hole on him to light the lamp," somebody might exclaim, for example.
Loosely translated, that means Maine goaltender Ben Bishop had been playing exceptionally well until Badger star Joe Pavelski faked a high shot before putting one between Bishop's legs for a goal.
Aside from their sweaters (hockey talk for jerseys), puckheads are most easily identified by how they speak, particularly in the heat of an exciting game. Having grown up in Minnesota, where many kids learn how to snap off a wrister - execute a quick, accurate wrist shot - by age five, I'm accustomed to the lingo. But it can be off-putting to those who are just now getting swept up in Badger hockey hoopla.
So I've put together a little cheat sheet of puckisms for the uninitiated. This is by no means comprehensive and will probably be of no use at all if the Badgers manage to get involved in another sudden-death triple overtime, as they did a couple weeks ago. (Some particularly excited local puckheads allegedly began speaking Quebecois when Verona native Jack Skille put away the game winner against Cornell.)
The short pants that hold the pads protecting a player's hips and thighs.
A physical collision between two players, typically against the boards. Only effective if it separates a player from the puck, even though fans often cheer when a check results merely in a loud bang on the boards.
The area immediately in front of the goal. Checking the goalie in the crease is sure to result in a donnybrook.
The area on the rink bordered by the boards and blue line that contains the goal a team is defending. In order to win, a team needs to control play in the defensive zone.
A fight. Hockey announcers seem to be the only people who still use this term. In college hockey, fighting is strictly prohibited, and a player can earn a multi-game suspension for participating. But that doesn't stop announcers from dubbing just about any instance of pushing and shoving on the ice a donnybrook.
The open parts of the goal not protected by the goalie are numbered holes, starting with the one hole in the lower left corner. The five hole is between a goalie's legs. It's not at all inappropriate to suggest that Maine goaltender Ben Bishop, at 6'7", probably has college hockey's biggest five hole.
The Austin, Minn., band that is perhaps most famous for its song "I Wanna Drive the Zamboni," which is played in hundreds of arenas as the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine makes its mesmerizing journey around the rink.
Light the lamp:
Score a goal. This refers to the red light behind the net that lights up when a goal is scored, often accompanied by a loud horn. Other cute names, used mainly by TV sports anchors, include "pucker the twine" and "put the biscuit in the basket."
The area on the rink between the blue lines. In order to win, a team needs to control play in the neutral zone.
The hockey version of a fast break, usually meaning three offensive players skating against two defenders.
The area on the rink, bordered by the boards and the blue line, that contains the opponent's goal. In order to win, a team needs to control play in the offensive zone.
A bad goaltender who, like a sieve, lets just about anything through. Wisconsin fans are largely credited for inventing the Sieve Chant back in the '70s. After each Badger goal, the band plays "On, Wisconsin!" followed by a series of drum rolls during which fans draw circles in the air, then point at the opposing goalie, and chant "Sieve!"
Standing on his head:
A way of saying a goalie is having a spectacular game. The Badgers' run to the Frozen Four is due, many say, to goalie Brian Elliott standing on his head in three consecutive shutouts.
A great save made by the goalie.
The upper part of the goal. Also referred to as "the roof" or "upstairs."