Most hockey people tend to get caught up on the big numbers. If a guy scores, he had a good game. If he goes pointless, he didn’t. Our performances are viewed by ourselves and others through the prism of our statistics.

However, there are some moments in a hockey game that not everyone will notice, but will make you smile. It’s a fast game, and there are plenty of little, satisfying things that can be used as mental salve when you go stat-less. Well, at least I pulled *that* off. I sort of helped. 

Below are five of my faves – feel free to tack your own on in the comments. And yes, they’re mostly dirty plays (not dangerous ones), but whatever, they happen.

1) Pushing a guy off-side. 

I thought about writing this column last night when our opponent had a rush – three-on-one, with me back-checking. One of their three had been stretching, and was cutting across the blue, straddling the line waiting to enter the zone. I managed to catch up, push him all of maybe a foot, but right at the perfect time to get the off-side call. I could not have feasibly been more proud of myself (we scored about 30 seconds later). It wasn’t a hard enough shove to earn an interference call, but just enough to get the job done. So fun.

2) Setting a good “oops” pick.

Playing two-on-two down low and trying to get to the net can be a battle, so it’s fun to get “tangled up” with the guy defending your buddy. You generally need to be looking down, perhaps “frantically searching at your feet for the puck,” but you know know full well what you’re doing: cutting off the defenseman trying to stay with your teammate. The other two great pick spots: as stretch guy on the PP, lightly clipping a defender waiting for the on-coming rush (do not knock that d-man down, you will get called – also, you could hurt a guy pretty badly), and on the PP in-zone so somebody can get a clean look from the slot.

3) A well-timed last-second stick lift.

When your opponent doesn’t know you’re there it’s even better. Whether he’s waiting for a pass and about to receive it, or just turning up ice on a loose puck in the d-zone, it’s uber-satisfying to wait until the last second, give a good, hard stick lift, and have solid possession immediately, with the other guy going to wrong way.

4) The butt-end back-check slow down.

Sometimes you’re just getting started on the back-check, and one of their players who’s got their momentum up (or is just plain faster) is about to fly by you. You can’t do it for long, obviously, but if you can catch the guy for a solid second or so with the butt-end of your stick extended out of your top glove hand, you can seriously dampen a guy’s mojo. That’s a leg-burner for that guy. “Full speed ahead! Crap, now I have to get going again.” /retaliation penalty

5) The top-hand poke.

This is a big favourite of mine, mostly because A) I’m in terrible shape and often chasing, and B) most rec hockey refs aren’t aware how much this can mess you up, so they let it go (or don’t notice). When a guy has beat you and is about to shoot – maybe you’re chasing him down on a breakaway, maybe you’re out of position (whatever, you’re behind him) – just push his top hand with the toe of your stick. Not hard, not a spear, just a push right as he’s going to make a play. Suddenly the puck is in their feet, their head is down looking for it, and you’ve bought yourself a few seconds.

Add all these things up, and I probably come off as a dirty hockey player: I assure you, I am not. But hockey’s a fast game, and sometimes you have to do what you have to do make sure the game isn’t easy for your opponent.

So those are my five faves – feel free to add your own below if there’s others worth noting!

Comments (44)

  1. Wow….I found myself going “Yup, I do that…and that…and that…” And have also had the majority of those things done to me.

    One thing I will do during board battles is that if the opposing player has gotten their stick between me and the boards I will pin it there with my hip/leg. This way he can’t go jamming around and my buddy (supposing I actually get some support) can win it out. The fun thing to do (opposing players get really mad) is hold his stick pinned for an extra second after the puck has been moved. Most rec league refs will not call a “holding the stick” penalty but it delays the opposing player from chasing my teammate down. This works especially well when your in the corners in the o-zone. Also results in a relaliation penalty sometimes.

    Oh and if your on the PP. You’ve just created an even larger window for your teammate to do something (or not….such as rec league goes).

  2. When defending the front of your net (ala d-man on Holmstrom) sneakily use the blade of your stick to push behind the offensive players knee. Without fail they will at the very least lose their balance momentarily. Done deftly and at an opportune time it will render them useless for all of 2 seconds.

    • This is dirty. You can destroy an opponents knee or he can lose his balance, fall backwards and hit his head ( essentially slewfooting ) on the ice. I won’t go in to detail as to my reaction to this type of play in retaliation, but I would think if you are willing to do this then you should suffer the consequences.

      • I think you’re overreacting a LOT to this. You won’t “destroy” somebody’s knee doing this with the blunt, rounded end of a hockey stick. As a goalie, I live to to do this to players backing up foor far into the crease.

        • While you may not “destroy” someones knee….there is a very real chance you can dislocate it. It doesn’t take a lot to dislocate someone’s knee when you push into that area.

          You may not thinking you’re pushing very hard, but if it’s enough to make them loose support there….it’s hard enough to disclocate the knee.

      • On a further point, however, this isn’t something I would be doing in Men’s League hockey. Maybe in the playoffs, but definitely not regularly.

        • A better (maybe safer) way to do this is to take your stick in a cross check motion and puch down on the back of the breezers. takes the other player off balance and its easy to get away with.

          • That has been done to me. And while infuriating….doesn’t hurt.

          • The best way to do that is to get your stick in between the back of the pants (note the use of “pants”, not “breezers”) and the guys back, the extended spine guards make this even easier. You can then pretty much steer the guy wherever you want, and unless you really want to be a dick about it all he’s getting is a push in the back.

  3. One of my favorites is on the faceoff. Mostly because I’m too slow and weak to be good at them.
    Give your winger the signal before the puck is dropped, ignore the puck and tie up their centre man, and push him off the puck so its just behind your skates, then your winger comes behind you and takes the puck. Its not really that dirty, but in rec hockey guys get mad. And against a good draw man, its the only way I can win a faceoff.
    I can go from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Yannic Perrault faceoff percentage. Unfortunately, my points also mirror Yannic Perrault, not the Nuge

  4. My coach in high school used to teach our defensemen to stomp on sticks in corners – he even brought in a bunch of cheap entry-level composites that the school had lying around to practice. Turns out, it isn’t too hard to demolish the other team’s sticks in the corners. And, you’ve cost the other team $60-$200!

    • Of course, that should be “isn’t too hard for some.” The smaller and less strong guys couldn’t always generate enough force, and the poorer skaters wound up sitting on the ice more often than not, but a few of our guys go pretty proficient at it.

      • Yeahhhhhhhhh, about that. You need to be prepared to be punched in the face if you’re going to attempt this move. Extremely bush league at the beer hockey level.

        • Yeah seriously, at rec league level, intentionally breaking somebody’s gear is total asshat and deserves a punch in the face.

    • At the beer league level that would be cause for a brawl. If you stepped on my stick just to break it, your the one going home one stick short if you know what I mean.

  5. As a centermen I also enjoy using “the push”. I tend to talk to my defensemen, skate through, tie up, leaving the puck on the dot to be skated into for a one tee. (Nice to get to D involved offensively too). *Side Note* As a minor hockey referee, mens league referee, and decent draw guy myself…I find it amazing how many guys taking draws stare directly at their feet and wonder why the pucks already back on my d’s tape and out of the zone!

  6. I used to do these two things when I used to play

    When I was backchecking, usually If I’m the last forward I’d give the other teams D-Man a nice chop to the back of the leg (go for the knee if you’re really gutless). Usually the refs are watching the play in the other end so its an easy cheap shot

    The other thing I’d do is when I was on D and battling with a guy in front of the net I’d try and knock him down into the puck as its being shot at our net

  7. I often enjoy “guiding” an opposing player clear of the front of the net – on the back check, you follow your man to the slot, and when he goes to slow up to catch a pass or screen, you keep skating, and push him smoothly but firmly out of harm’s way – if done correctly, it looks like you are both still skating. Works best with guys that are not super strong on their skates.

  8. When I play D, sometimes I’ll lay my stick blade a little flatter on the ice, just behind the forward’s skate, so when they shift position, their foot is on my stick blade. Then I yank it out from under them just hard enough to shake their balance. I tell you, there are some forwards that just HATE that.

    Another D move is in the corners, you always have to keep your head on a swivel. There were a couple of guys who loved to come in dig along the boards, but they’d also take the opportunity to smoke you from behind. So I learned to choke down on the stick, and leave the butt-end hidden by my elbow, so when those jerks came in, they’d get a little reverse-spear in the guts.

    As a forward, I’m the guy that stands in front of your goalie and lets everyone else bounce pucks off of. So sometimes I’ll load up on the chili for the pre-game meal, just to make like miserable for the goalie and Dman in charge of moving me. But those are lonely games, b/c no one will sit near me on the bench.

    • “… just to make LIFE miserable…”

    • Another one!

      While digging in the corners, I’ll often times push my knee between the forwards legs and pin one of the to the boards. If you do it right, it’ll turn their hips and open ‘em up. If that doesn’t work, I’ll get low, get them up on my thigh, then just lift them off the ice and pin them on the boards. Done right, they’re basically hanging in mid air. Super easy to one-hand the puck away after that.

  9. On a faceoff, right as the ref is making the motion of dropping the puck, swat the other centermans stick away from the dot and win the draw in all of one motion. Takes practice and timing, but if executed properly, you have an easy win and a bewildered center on the other team.

    When back checking, yell “drop” behind the puck carrier works at making him think your a teammate waiting for a drop pass. Be ready for cross checks and hacks though for the rest of the shift.

  10. Those plays are about as ‘dirty’ you should get in rec hockey. As a defenseman you, can use a can opener every now and then in front of the net as long as you don’t make them fall down. Just put stick between an opposing players legs and use a little leverage to help them widen their stance.

  11. When playing wing on a faceoff place your stick directly behind the skate of the other teams winger. Just as the puck is being dropped, give it the slightest push. Push too hard and he’ll fall, but usually I can get it so that it just slightly knocks him off balance, forces him to stand up straight, and I am free to pick up the puck if it’s loose. Plus, people hate that and I’ve drawn more than a few retaliation penalties from it.

  12. At the face off, you can reach over and pull the belt strap of the other guy’s pants. It’s pretty bush, but pretty funny if you know him. Probably better suited for a practice line-up or a beer league game.

    He has to skate with pants loosening and drooping, take his glove off to re-tighten, or go to the bench.

  13. As a goalie, my favorite move was sliding the blade of the stick into the back of screeners’ skates. A good quick jab was all it took to get the screeners scrambling for balance and might even get them to fall. If they fall in the crease, then any potential goals would get waved off. Ticked off a few guys this way, so be sure to have a grit player nearby to redirect the heat.

  14. i like number 5. sometimes a player will shield the puck with their body, making the top hand poke tough. if you are quick enough you can tap the puck carrier, say a right handed shooter, on the right elbow/hip/shoulder with your blade and they’ll move the puck across their body to their back hand, then commence top hand poke, take puck and go back the other way.

    it really baffles people.

  15. Not much feels better than bringing the puck around your own net with a man on you, only to stop, bank it off the back of the net and watch him fly by. Finish it off with a crisp pass to your guy on the wing and you’ve got something to think about on the drive home.

  16. My favorite is when a teammate is back checking and you have absolutely no hope (or care) to make it back in time to stop the play so you give the guy a push with your stick for the boomerang (“Shake and Bake” – Ricky Bobby)

  17. 1. is one of my all time favorites. But unfortunately I must like it too much- started getting whistled for interference.
    5. Top hand poke sounds completely awesome and it just might replace my favorite #1. Also will be the name of my band.

  18. i saw this on a hockey night in canada clip about battling on the boards.

    It’s called “the can opener”

    the guy has the puck pinned on the boards in your zone or something, wedge your stick between the player and the boards and pry that sucker off the boards using the stick as leverage. works every-time and i love the look on their faces going, how is this happening!

  19. My favorite is to squirt water on an opposing wing lining up for a faceoff in front of our bench. Just enogh to make them turn around wtf??

  20. Pushing down on the pants of a forward screening in front of the net in the d-zone is one of my go-tos as well.

    Also, when coming out of the corner in the O-zone banking the puck off the side of the net so that it shoots out in front of the goalie rather than trying to thread the needle through sticks trying to go tape-to-tape.

    One of my favorites in college (because I had a cage on) was when guys got in your face and you crosscheck down on the hands. If you’re lucky you get a little forearm or they drop their stick usually resulting in retaliation penalty. Refs will rarely call it and it only takes a little movement to be effective.

  21. damn you’re greeeasssy.
    I love it.
    I’m still a big fan of doing 2 things when battling in front of your own net.
    1. stick parallel to the ice, pushing down on the back of his pants. Totally throws them off balance.
    2. pushing up slightly on the back of his helmet where it meets his neck. This forces the front of his helmet down over his eyes.

    Make sure the ref isn’t looking at you before you attempt either.
    Both often cause the other guy to turn around and two-hand you which can often draw a retaliation penalty.


  22. Didnt see the stick tap.
    As a backchecking forward, can’t remember how many times calling for a pass or tapping my stick would get the puck carrier to dump it back to me without him looking .
    Never hurts to yell “Leave it” to the opposing goalie when he is playing the puck either. It sometimes works.
    One other thing. I always listen for the names of the other team’s best players. a quick “Stevie!” from behind might get you that drop pass or at least confuse him for a second or two.

  23. I find at this level the simplest thing in the world works wonders.

    If you are chasing someone down on the backcheck, just tap at their shin guards, top glove hand, shorts, just lightly, not enough for a slashing call, but constantly.

    It makes it look like you are flailing in desperation, but the amount of bad shooters it puts off is brilliant. A little irritation goes a long way.

    My other favourite, if you play in a contact league. As a D, if you are skating back 1 on1, give the forward the inside. Invariably they will look down at the puck to make thier move, then jam on the brakes with both feet in a reverse ‘hockey stop’ really bend the knees and explode upwards. Only the good players are expecting the hit.

    Course, if you miss you look pretty silly!

    Only problem is if the whiff on the shot completely it can look like you ‘tapped’ too hard and you get called.

  24. Obviously the last sentence was supposed to be after paragraph 3!

  25. In all honesty if you want to stop a player from getting a good shot off weather it’s on a back check or if you are playing D in front of the net. Push on the players top hands elbow, if you push on it or give it a little poke when he is trying to take a shot he will lose control and not be able to do anything but swat the puck into the corner or barley move it in front of him to the point he loses control and the D or whoever is close to him will be able to scoop it up. If you are on D just push on it with whatever hand isn’t holding onto your stick, their is no way to control your stick blade when you can’t move you top hand.

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  29. #5 is gold!! Played in a charity tourney vs Gaston Gingras last year. Came in 2-on-1, other guy is a big shooter so I faked pass the whole while and GG stayed with him. I got in for a late deke – as I was about to slide the puck in past the sprawled goalie I got a little tap on my right elbow (left shooter) and lost the puck completely!! The guys on the bench were all excited that I “beat” GG but he just played me like a fool!

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