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Fear the Five: The best (worst?) hockey cliches

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The key to a good blog item, like winning hockey games, is getting pucks deep.

2017 NHL All-Star - Media Day Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first installment of “Fear the Five,” a recurring series where we present a lighthearted list of five things somehow related to hockey. The lists aren’t presented in any particular order.

And before you ask, yes, it is a slow news day.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

There’s a new Spider-Man film coming out this weekend, so there’s a good chance you’ll hear that phrase uttered at some point. You may very well hear it in a context unrelated to Peter Parker’s webslinging adventures, too, as the famous phrase has become so widely used to the point of cliche.

But Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom have nothing on hockey’s pantheon of platitudes. Tune into an interview with a player, coach, or executive, and you’re likely to hear a litany littered throughout the conversation.

“Getting pucks deep”

Like many great cliches, “getting pucks deep” relies on widely accepted conventional wisdom that is not be as important as previously believed. If you’re “getting pucks deep,” or dumping it into the zone, you’re able to forecheck aggressively and force the opposing team to make turnovers in their own zone, leading to your own offense.

Of course, entering the zone in this manner is far less preferable to entering the zone with control of the puck, and teams shoot and score more off of controlled zone entries. That won’t be enough to stop players and coaches from talking about “getting pucks deep,” even as teams are moving away from dump-and-chase strategies.

“Put pucks on net and good things happen”

Instead of just saying, “you know, I really have no idea how that shot from the blueline went in,” players opt to use this as reasoning for how they scored. You’re also just as likely to hear it when a player scores off of a fluky shot as you would be when a player picks a corner.

As one of the most overused phrases in the sport, it’s nice summation hockey’s “team-first” culture where most are quick to deflect praise instead of actually taking credit. Plus, given it’s repeated usage, I’d bet it’s influenced more players to take bad shots than them wanting to pad their Corsi and Fenwick percentages.

“Hard to play against”

You may think that all professional athletes in the best league of a particular sport would be “hard to play against,” but you would be wrong. Being “hard to play against” means playing a physical, hard-working style, perhaps even with a tinge of nastiness.

This one is great because it combines many other hockey cliches. “Jam,” “battle,” “the dirty areas,” “paying the price,” and vaguely related truisms coalesce into some kind of cliche Voltron that manages to say nothing while also being the highest compliment a player can receive.

“An X-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey”

No, score effects don’t make this one any less useless. Whether it’s about a two-or-three-goal lead, the cliche is wrong. Statistically, the most dangerous lead in hockey is a one-goal lead, which one might expect since it’s literally the smallest possible lead.

This is the Roll Safe meme of hockey cliches, and you can almost hear everyone who uses the cliche point to the side of their head. It relies on a nonsensical premise as the foundation for counter-intuitive wisdom. You surely don’t want to get complacent when leading by more than just a goal, but come on.

“Your best players have to be your best players”

This cliche is so intuitive that it’s confusing. At first, you hear it and think “duh." You give it any thought, and you’re dying to talk about the mail.

It's basically saying "in order for the conclusion to he true, the conclusion has to be true," like if Descartes wrote "I am, therefore I am."


Got any cliches that we missed or suggestions for future “Fear the Five” topics? Give us your thoughts in the comments!