Keep Your Stick On The Ice: 4 Hockey Idioms And What They Mean

Sports metaphors are all over the English language, especially in North America. Here in the USA, most everyone knows what means to strike out, for example, or to score a touchdown – and people use those phrases regardless of whether they actually enjoy the sport they’re from.

Being obsessed with hockey I make a mental note every time I hear an idiom from that sport. Like most sports idioms they’ve taken on a meaning of their own, often disconnected from the game that created them in the first place. With that in mind, here are those idioms in context – both in their sport and life in general.

Keep Your Stick On The Ice

Many people don’t even realize this is a hockey phrase – they know it only as Red Green’s life-affirming sign off. But anyone who’s ever played hockey has heard this a lot: it’s a favorite of coaches, dads and even teammates. Visit any rink, in any small town, and you’ll hear it multiple times: “Keep your stick on the ice!”

The idea here is simple: when playing hockey you never know when the puck might come your way, so you should be ready for it at all times. Keeping your stick on the ice means you can shoot at a moments notice, important when you’re on the receiving end of a lucky bounce or a great pass.


Hockey’s a fast game, so it’s important to always be ready – where your stick is when the puck comes could easily be the difference between a win and a loss. So “keep your stick on the ice” is advice every young hockey player needs to hear.

But there’s a reason Green ends his show with this phrase, even though he rarely mentions hockey itself. You never know when an opportunity is going to come up, so you might as well be ready all the time just in case.

Keep Your Head Up

It’s easy – in hockey as well as life – to only focus on one thing. In hockey this means looking down at the puck while you skate, and doing has disastrous consequences.


“Keep your head up” is another common phrase in small-town rinks, and for good reason: if you’re looking down at the puck, instead of up at the play, you’re going to get blindsided eventually. You’ll probably even get hurt. There’s a lot going on at once on the ice, so it’s important to learn to handle the puck by feel so you can use your eyes to keep track of the other players on the ice – fail to do that and you’ll end up on your ass.

Tunnel vision is dangerous in any context: if you’re only paying attention to one thing you can bet some other thing is going to eventually sneak up on you. Keep your head up.

Skate To Where The Puck Is Going To Be

This one’s just basic physics: both you and the puck are quickly moving around on the ice, so if you constantly skate toward where the puck is right now you’ll probably never be near it. Don’t skate to where the puck is: skate to where the puck is going to be.


Of course, this isn’t unique to hockey: anyone who’s played the classic arcade game Space Invaders can understand the meaning easily. In that game the aliens move quickly, so you need to aim not at where they are but where they will be by the time your bullet gets there.

Whatever the context, this phrase is a good reminder that the world changes. If you’re always chasing, and never anticipating, you’ll find it hard to achieve much of anything.

Drop The Gloves

Everyone’s heard this one, even if they’ve never watched hockey in their life: drop the gloves. When hockey players are about to fight they first drop their gloves. It’s a declaration of intent, a signal that you want to fight.


There’s nothing too deep here: it’s just people hitting the crap out of each other to make a point, commonly to inspire their team. Sometimes, in order to rally people, you need to do something that has absolutely nothing to do with the goal at hand. To win a moral victory. It’s silly, but it works.

What Did I Miss?

This list isn’t suppose to be complete, so let me know what other common hockey idioms are out there in the broader culture, and what they mean to you. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Why Louis C.K. doesn’t let fans take pictures of him.

Are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them? It may seem like a silly question, but it’s worth thinking about.

This week comedian Louis C.K. did an iama (“I Am A…”), which is essentialy an intrview with the Reddit hivemind. Reddit loves Louis, so the results were wonderful, but I want to talk about one comment in particular. Louis only recently rose to national prominence, and is now regularly recognized on the streets of New York City where he lives. When a Redditor asked Louis how he feels about this, Louis explained why fans wanting pictures with him made him enjoy meeting them less, at least until he stopped doing pictures with them.

“Every person on the planet now has a camera,” said Louis, “so it sometimes happens that up to 20 people in one day or more want me to pose with them for a picture that they can put it on Facebook. That’s a lot. Also I don’t like doing it. It makes me feel weird.”

He didn’t always mind connecting with fans. In fact, he used to love it: “I remembered that when it was earlier in my career, when someone would say something like, once or twice day, I really liked it and felt genuine interest in them and gratitude”.

So Louis adapted a new policy. “I refuse to ever take a picture with anyone,” he said. “I just say no. I don’t do that. But I shake their hand and I talk to them for a bit. Because I like that. I can tell this disappoints people for a second but as we talk they feel okay about it.”

An actual conversation. An actual experience. To me, that’s better than a photo.

Not so long ago, if you wanted to take pictures, you had to conciously decide to carry a camera with you. Not anymore. Everyone carries their cell phones everywhere, and all of them have built-in cameras.

So we take pictures constantly, creating an entire genre of photos we didn’t have a word for just ten years ago: the Facebook photo. It’s a quick snap of yourself and your friends, with a touch of where you are in the background, taken primarily to document the fact that you hung out with a given friend.

These photos can be fun, but they can also take away from actually enjoying a given moment.

In 2006 I wrote about how technology was starting to intrude on real moments, in real life. Some friends and I, during a trip to the St. Louis, stumbled upon a view of the World Series from the top story of a parking garage. It was amazing, but when I turned to my friends to talk to them about it I was interupted by cell phones. Everyone was on the phone, asking if their friends and famailes were watching the game and explaining that they were watching the game from a parking garage. I couldn’t share the moment with them, because they were sharing it with someone else.

People pay more attention to their phones now than I could have imagined way back in 2006. What you pay attention to matters, however, so I”m going to ask again: are you having actual experiences? Or do you do things simply for the sake of recording and sharing them?

Think about it. Sure: you can look at photos and videos whenever you want, but actual experiences only happen once.

Let Me Pay For TV Online – An Open Letter

Game of Thrones is quickly becoming the most pirated series of all time. I was contemplating why this might be, and ended up arranging my thoughts in the following open letter.

Hi. My name’s Justin Pot, and I’m one of those “young viewers” you talk about during your meetings. I know, I know: it’s hard to think of us as individual humans with freewill instead of as statistics that determine your corporate fate, but stick with me for a moment.

I like watching some of the shows you guys put out. Community, Parks and Rec, Mad Men and Game of Thrones are among my favorites, and all add something valuable to the Zeitgeist of popular culture and bring happiness into my life.

Here’s my point: I have never, and likely will never will, pay for a cable subscription. I might be willing to pay for a few TV channels or TV shows on an al le carte basis, but you are never going to persuade me to pay for a cable subscription that includes channels I’ll never watch. Put simply: I want to pay for the content I’ll actually watch and not subsidize crappy channels or reality shows.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well, you’d never be willing to pay for any content under any circumstance, you pirate.” To which I say: yarr. Also: you’re wrong. I donate hundreds to public radio every year, something I’m not even remotely required to do. And I’d be happy to pay for access to my favorite TV shows.

You make that hard. I can’t buy any episodes from season 2 of Game of Thrones in any form right now, and online streaming is limited to those who already pay for cable. HBO: you don’t even offer an online-only option.

So here’s the deal: offer your shows on an al le carte, subscription basis and I’ll happily pay to watch them, particularly if there are no commercials.

This is usually the point where people threaten to pirate the shows unless media companies give them the deal they’re looking for. Judging by how frequently shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones are pirated, many people make this argument.

I don’t think I have to. The truth is, if I no longer had a way to access any of your shows, my life would go on. There is plenty of free, high-quality entertainment that is in all honesty probably better for me intellectually than your content. Public radio, high quality YouTube channels like Crash Course and Ze Frank, and Ted, just to name a few. Plus I can, you know, go outside, read a book or take part in an actual conversation.

My point is this: television used to demand most of the free time of Americans. It doesn’t any longer. Piracy isn’t the primary reason for that. Social networks, gaming and online video are all eating into the time we’d previously spend mindlessly watching your content. Last year millions decided cable was no longer worth paying for. Pulling your shows from the Internet is going to change that: it’s going to make your shows irrelevant.

Piracy is not your primary enemy: the shear amount of choice we all have is. If you’re not going to make it easy for me to access your content, I’m not going to bother. I love TV, but not enough to pay for a service I don’t need.

5 Articles You Should Read Tonight

So much of the web is short little snippits, manufactured with keywords in mind to increase a site’s hitcount, so finding quality articles  is very relaxing for any blogger. I read some great articles last night so I thought I’d share.

One of my favorite pages on the web is Instapaper’s “Browse” page. Instapaper is a web app for reading long articles without distractions, and the “Browse” page provides plenty of great articles for reading. I love picking four or five articles from this page at random, sending them to my eReader and making myself a cup of tea.

Let Us Pay by John Lanchester
London Review Of Books

The last five years have been depressing for the newspaper industry. Classifieds, a former cash cow, are now essentially worthless. Subscriptions are down and advertising revenues with them.

Yet many newspapers have millions more readers than ever before.

John Lanchester explores this contradiction, and says the problem is that newspapers make it too hard to pay for articles online. His solution: a sort of iTunes for reading. Great analysis, and something everyone with an interest in writing professionally should read.

The War On Cameras by Radley Balko
Reason Magazine

Did you know it’s illegal in many states to record video of police officers? Neither do most residents of those states. Balko points out numerous examples of people being arrested for recording police officers, and the not-exactly-relevant wiretapping laws being used to make it happen. Some police officers, essentially, argue they have a right to privacy, and as such cannot be recorded without permission.

It’s a great example of the law failing to keep up with technology. Cell phone cameras being ubiquitous today makes more such cases inevitable. Will the laws be overturned?

Why I’m An Atheist by Ricky Gervais
The Wall Street Journal

Gervais’ recent stint hosting the Global Globes caused no shortage of controversy. So much so, in fact, that many missed his sign-off: “I’d like to thank God for making me an athiest.” Weird, right?

Not really. If you want a better understanding of the comedians views on religion I highly recommend this article. Don’t worry: it’s not a Dawkins-style attack on belief. Rather, Gervais simply outlines how he came to his conclusion, with his signature wit. Worth a read regardless of your faith (or lack thereof.)

The New Rock-Star Paradigm by Damian Kulash Jr.
The Wall Street Journal

How can musicians make money in the digital age? If anyone knows, it’s OK Go. Kulash outlines how his band is making a decent living in the age of downloads employing a centuries-old technique: patronage. OK Go, since leaving their record label behind, has found sponsors for their famously viral videos. This allows them to be as creative as possible, and also lets them make a good living doing what they love: making music.

Again, anyone trying to figure out how the creative process will work in the Internet age should give this article a read.

The Commandments by Jill Lepore
The New Yorker

There’s been a lot of talk of the constitution lately, but what does the document really mean? Lepore examines the history of this document and the various historical movements that tried to define it. As tea party types increasingly study the constitution as though it were a infallible religious text it’s important to realize its imperfection. The founders did not agree on the document itself, and it changed many times through history.

If you’re American, this article provides clarity. If you’re not, this article provides context for the current obsession.

Feel free to share any more great articles in the comments below.

‘Digital Drugs’ and the sad state of TV journalism

Yep, this video is hilarious, and not only because it’s completely out of touch with reality. It’s hilarious because it parodies contemporary journalism better than The Onion or Stephen Colbert could hope to. Here’s why:

  • Several of the people interviewed hadn’t heard of the phenomenon before being interviewed, but got to talk about it on TV anyway.
  • Everyone interviewed came to the conclusion that this “drug” is harmful and will lead to real-world drug use.
  • No context whatsoever given to binaural beats, a technology that dates back to 1839.
  • No explanation about how binaural beats even work. Seriously, at least read the Wikipedia entry.
  • The sentence “I heard it was, like, some weird demons and stuff through a iPod or something” was filmed. At some point the producer decided to include this sentence in the story, and that producer wasn’t working for Comedy Central.

It’s pretty obvious the team behind this story has no idea how to use the Internet, but if you haven’t come to the conclusion check this out:

Yep, that’s right: they’re using IE 6. You can clearly see YouTube telling these people to upgrade or switch their browser, but they don’t know what that means…and are too busy using the amazing power of journalism to rid the web of virtual drugs.

Good job, News 9 Oklahoma City! You’ve demonstrated in three minutes just how close Idiot America‘s come to taking over our lives.

How to stop the internet from mocking your kid

The Internet can be a harsh place, particularly if you’re an eleven-year-old girl with a penchant for talking trash. So if – after your lovely offspring decided to spend 5 minutes of her time cussing out the entire Internet – your address and phone number are leaked onto the web, and you start receiving pizzas and prostitutes at your door, you might think the best thing you could do is wait for your daughter’s harassers to get bored.

You’re wrong. Here’s how to handle the situation:

As you can see, there’s a number of things this father got right here. In summary:

  • Be angry. The only thing the web respects is anger, so it’s important that you not appear too level-headed.
  • Alert the culprits that the authorities are after them. The Internet being a well-regulated place, such threats are extremely credible and will be taken seriously.
  • While you’re at it, be sure to mention the “cyber police.”
  • Throw in some kind of nonsense sentence, such as “the consequences will never be the same.” This will show how angry, and thus how serious a potential threat, you are.

As you can imagine, Jessie’s problems with the Internet stopped after this video was released. Learn from these simple steps and the web will never tease your kid again!

Or you could, you know, make her stop saying stupid stuff on YouTube. If you want. Whatever.