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The language of hockey

The Story


How does a mosquito turn into a bantam? Can it happen in an ice palace? And what does it look like when an atom does a spinarama? In this CBC Television clip, language expert Katherine Barber stickhandles us through the many hockey words that have seeped into Canadian parlance. Even parliamentarians can't resist dropping the gloves and facing off over a colleague who's been sent to the penalty box. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: May 22, 2000
Reporter: Katherine Barber
Duration: 3:32
Footage: NHL
Painting: “Hockey on the Creek” by Henry K. Ripplinger.

Did You know?


• In the Ontario legislature, which is featured in this clip, the phrase "penalty box" was used by members nine times between 1991 and 2004, according to the Hansard record. A similar search for the federal Parliament turned up 32 uses of "penalty box."

• For example, in 2002, Mac Harb, then chair of a subcommittee on trade disputes, said in the House of Commons: "What if you have some sort of a penalty box system? If a country commits an offence, it is put on the outside; it can't complain to the WTO, or through whatever dispute mechanism there may be, for a two or three years or whatever."

• Among the hockey words that have made it into The Canadian Oxford Dictionary is "deke." The move is described as: "a fake shot or movement done to draw a defensive player out of position and thus create a better opportunity to score."

• A 1990 newspaper survey of lingo peculiar to Montreal Canadiens dressing room turned up the following: a howitzer (hard shot); buggywhips (skinny legs); a rocko (a goon, short for "rockhead"); a Sawchuk (a shutout, as in goalie Terry); biscuit (puck); and zippers (scars).

• Katherine Barber, who hosts this clip, is editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. As well as her appearances on CBC Television programs, she has appeared on CBC Radio as the "Word Lady."


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