Bianca Dempsey / Gavel Media

An Outsider's Guide to Boston College Hockey

It’s no surprise that the average Boston College fan names hockey as their favorite sport here on the Heights—it’s by far one of the most exciting (and least depressing) to watch. But unlike football or basketball, hockey’s popularity isn’t universal among BC newcomers who either hail from warmer climates or who just never had any reason to sit down and watch guys on skates hit a piece of plastic up and down some ice for an hour.

Last Friday night, I attended my very first BC hockey game as the men's team faced Providence College and quickly saw that I had a lot to learn about the Eagles’ favorite winter pastime.

Within the first ten seconds of the game, I realized that I had almost no idea what was going on. I soon picked up my very first hockey vocab word: hooking. It’s just what it sounds like—using your stick (like a hook) to stop another player from moving. Not too confusing. I was an expert on this one by the end of the game, thanks to the four total penalties called for hooking on both teams.

By the end of the game, my hockey penalty jargon had grown exponentially. Some terms like  interference, misconduct, too many men, and tripping I was able to decipher all by myself (hopefully you can, too). Others, however, not so much.

Diving

What I thought it meant: Diving on the ice towards another player and taking them out.

What it actually means: Being overdramatic in front of a referee to try to get a penalty called on the other team.

Roughing

What I thought it meant: When someone pushes another player up against the wall. Like roughhousing, you know?

What it actually means: A minor altercation between two players, such as one hitting the other.

Forecheck*

What I thought it meant: When four out of the five players on offense touch the puck on one play before shooting.

What it actually means: Applying pressure on defense to regain control of the puck.

*In my defense, I heard it as “four-check.” Not that I would have understood what it meant if I had known it was “forecheck,” but whatever.

Boarding

What I thought it meant: Using another player’s jersey to drag you along the ice. Kind of like being a boarder but without the rent.

What it actually means: A penalty called for violently shoving another player into the boards (walls) of the rink.

But really, what’s the big deal about penalties? The offending player hops out of play for a couple minutes and the other team gets a power play opportunity. Turns out having four players on the ice is a whole lot harder defensively than playing with a full five, even for the mighty Eagles. Providence College’s only goal came in the late first period off a power play thanks to a hooking called on BC freshman David Cotton.

One goal, however, just won’t cut it to beat the No.5 Eagles. Goals by freshmen Zach Walker and Ron Greco and senior Matt Gaudreau gave Boston College the 3-1 win in the end.

Seeing the goalies standing in their pounds and pounds of gear at the start of the game, I wondered how anyone ever scores a goal in hockey—the guys take up almost the entire goal just by standing there! That’s part of the reason why the shot-to-goal ratio is so high: Providence finished with 28 shots for one goal and the Eags took 30 to make three. It also explains why a good save percentage for a college hockey goalie is in the low nineties. For comparison, US Men’s Soccer National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard’s save percentage hovers around 70%.

The appeal of hockey is apparent. It’s physical like football, plays almost like soccer, and goes fast like basketball. There’s not even a pause when the puck goes out of bounds, because there is no out of bounds. The players hit the puck at the boards almost as much as they pass it to each other, but all it does is bounce right back without ever going out of play.

Someone big and scary coming towards you? Quick! Smack the puck at the wall. Your teammate’s open but at a weird angle behind the goal? Hit it at the wall. It’s genius, really. Imagine how much more fun watching soccer would be if the lines were replaced with boards.

Yes, I’ve only been to one hockey game. But I’m a fast learner (I think) and I get the sense that you have to be in order to fully immerse yourself in the crazy, vicious-chanting, glass-pounding hockey culture here at Boston College. So congrats on the W, Eagles. I can’t wait to come back for more.

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Ellen Gerst