Like many athletic endeavors, there are specific hockey terms needed to understand the sport. With the definitions of these hockey terms, even a newcomer can watch a hockey broadcast live or on television and follow the action of one of the most exciting sports around. Whether you're watching NHL hockey or a youth game, the following hockey terms, unique to the game, are essential for understanding the action. Take a look.
- Icing. Since hockey is played on ice, a newcomer could think hockey terms like "icing" could mean any number of things. What "icing" refers to is a defending team shooting the puck from their own defensive zone (inside the blue line closest to their goal) all the way across the goal line at the other end of the ice. At different levels, this is whistled in different ways; for example, in international play, icing is automatic, with the official blowing the whistle as soon as the puck crosses the opposing goal line, but in the NHL, a player from the opposing team must touch the puck for the whistle to be blown.
- Offsides. Other sports, most notably soccer, also use the term "offsides," but in hockey terms, offsides means that an attacking player has entered the opposing team's offensive zone ahead of the puck. A player is offsides if he crosses the blue line closest to the other team's goal before the puck does.
- Power play. A power play in hockey terms is when one team is penalized and the offending player removed from the ice (two minutes for a minor penalty, five minutes for a major penalty), allowing the team on the power play a manpower advantage. Power plays are important as they often provide the best scoring chances for teams during the course of a game. The opposite of a power play is the penalty kill.
- Checking. Checking is a blanket term for defensive maneuvers, but in hockey terms what is often meant by checking is "body checking," or when one player uses his body to hit or impede the progress of another player. Body checking happens mostly around the boards, the barrier around the ice surface, when a defensive player rams another, using his shoulder or hip, into the boards. Stick checking (lifting the offensive player's stick) and poke checking (using one's own stick to poke the puck away from another player) are two other types of checking in hockey terms.
- Common penalties. The remainder of the hockey terms that need to be understood are common penalties. These include tripping (self-explanatory), hooking (using the blade of one's stick in a hook-like manner to impede the progress of another player), crosschecking (hitting another player with the shaft of the stick held between two hands, normally in the small of the back), and delay of game (flipping the puck over the glass from one's own defensive zone to stop play). These are all minor, or two minute, penalties. Fighting is always a five minute major penalty, and often boarding (body checking a defenseless player from behind into the boards face-first) is a major penalty as well.
Now that you know these common hockey terms, a game that seems quite complicated can make a lot more sense. It moves quickly when you watch, but you'll get the hang of it and hopefully enjoy the fastest sport on ice.