How to Sound Like a Hockey Expert (Even if You’ve Never Watched a Game)

I don't know anything about Canada's favourite sport, but these tried-and-true phrases help me fit in with even the most passionate hockey fans.

Hockey Phrase HumourIllustration: Clayton Hanmer

So, apparently it’s time for “the playoffs” to start up again. If this information fills your soul with purpose and joy, great! But if it makes you feel a creeping sense of dread as you brace yourself once again to be brutally excluded from every known social interaction, please voyage back in time several years with me to one particular office I worked at. Because I think I can help.

Every day around this time of year, there’d be a pause in our team meeting. The air in the room would shift. And I’d instantly know, on a cellular level, that the moment had arrived. I’d glance anxiously at the clock. Our lunch break was 6,000 hours away. Or just one hour. Same thing. My senses grew heightened. I was the arctic hare of this office, listening, twitching, awaiting the inevitable.

They’d all lean back in their chairs. Laptop screens pushed down, various body stretches executed. That was enough work, apparently. And then, sure enough:

“Okay what the hell was that game last night?”

It’s impossible to overstate how passionate, and how constant, the hockey discussion was in this job. Unfortunately, I had nothing to contribute to any hockey conversation at any time, other than repeatedly shrieking “they play it during the Olympics!!”

One day I was venting my frustrations to a co-worker, Mike—a person who knows a ton about hockey while also possessing an acute awareness of how alienating the sports universe is to an outsider. I’d expected him to sympathize and ask which esophagus-destroying coffee kiosk in the basement food court we should give our hard-earned money to today.

Instead, he leapt into action like he’d been waiting his entire life to rescue someone trapped in an endless Groundhog Day-esque hockey conversation she was constitutionally unable to participate in.

“You need stock phrases,” he replied with alarming immediacy. “Completely empty, meaningless sentences you can throw into any hockey conversation to sound like you’re an authority.”

He emailed me a list that day. And I deployed them constantly, with a barely contained and delirious joy. I’d shout one with my feet up on the table, loudly smacking my gum. Then I’d cut people off mid-sentence to shout another. I simply would not be stopped. I would be stared at and laughed at by my whole office, but I was too enamoured of my new identity—a fun, opinionated person I named “Hockey Janet!”—to care.

In case you, gentle reader, ever find yourself in a similar predicament, I share these sacred phrases with you now. Wield them with gleeful abandon and enjoy the sweet new feeling of—what’s this?—belonging.

7 Stock Hockey Phrases That’ll Come in Handy

  1. “They’re just not moving the puck.” You don’t need to know which two teams played; one of those teams failed to move the puck adequately.
  2. “He’s really changed the culture.” At the first mention of a last-namey-sounding word—Tavares! Matthews!—fire this into the discourse. Was the name mentioned disparagingly? With awestruck reverence? There’s no time for irrelevant details; buddy’s changed the culture either way.
  3. “There’s always next season.” Who can argue with this?
  4. “I’m worried about their depth.” Apparently the defensive line (that’s right: I did actually pick up some real terms, too) has to be a certain number of players deep to work optimally. Expressing fear about this not happening? Startling power move. Congratulations, you’re now the undisputed Lord of the Conversation.
  5. “That guy has a real feel for the game.” It means literally anything. It also somehow means literally nothing.
  6. “Say what you want, but the schedule hasn’t done them any favours.” If in doubt, you can always feel confident asserting that the players’ punishing schedule is the reason for their failure to perform good hockey.
  7. “They’ve gotta start letting the game come to them.” What? I have no idea, but this instantly makes you sound like a revered hockey commentator with nine municipal parks named after you and that’s all that matters here.

Next, build on the foundation of these hockey phrases with our ultimate guide to Canadian hockey slang.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada