Thursday 22 March 2012

Descryptyve Tyrmes for Olde Tyme Hockeyists

When discussing hockey players from long ago, the tendency is to use modern terminology to describe them. A gifted goal-scorer, such as Herb Jordan or Joe Malone, might be called a "sniper", for instance. A physical winger, such as Gordie Roberts, is called a "power forward" (shudder). This is understandable, as an attempt to frame old-time players in terms understood by modern fans, and it may be useful in that sense.

But on the other hand, players are really best viewed in their own contexts, rather than trying to force them into modern roles, which are often imperfect descriptions. In that regard I think it's better to use contemporaneous terms when discussing these players, and not just in the "oh, they called faceoffs bullies, how quaint!" sort of way.

The disadvantage to this approach, of course, is that if you're not familiar with the era, you have to learn these new terms. That's a small price to pay, I think, and if you have an interest in hockey history, it's well worth it.

So to begin with, here are a few descriptive terms that can be used when discussing early hockey goaltenders.

Stonewall: A stonewall goaltender (or netminder, or guardian, but never a "goalie") is one that is simply proficient at stopping shots through his positioning and technique. He frustrates his opponents' efforts by making stop after stop; he would not be said to make a save. Percy LeSueur is an example of a stonewall goaltender.

Flopping: A flopping netminder is one who finds a way to get some part of his anatomy between the puck and the goal. Generally less consistent that the stonewall variety of guardian, a flopping goaltender is more likely to make a spectacular stop. Clint Benedict is perhaps the epitome of this style, as his constant flopping actually led to rule changes for the position, which previously were required to remain on their feet when making a stop.

Stickhandling: A stickhandling guardian is one who tries to liberate the puck from opposing attackers before they can even get a shot off. He challenges opponents by leaving the goal area and uses his stick to separate disc and man. Paddy Moran is a prime example of a stickhandling goaltender, as we've discussed here before.

I'm always open to suggestions for additional "classes" of player, if you will. Next time: defencemen. (Never blueliners.)


  1. I can't wait to find out what they called Chelios.

  2. They called Chelios the finest cover-point of the seven-man era, of course.

  3. Have you stopped writing on the blog or have you just been taking a break?

    1. A reality-imposed break...I'm an accountant in real life so I'm just getting done tax season. Updates will resume shortly!


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