There’s something so beautifully juvenile about the hockey vernacular, a regional syntax encouraged by the adolescent groupthink of a young, close-knit locker room that naturally begins to fade between junior and professional hockey, and then again between as players graduate to the uppermost reaches of the sport.
So when Olly Postanin, who along with Jacob Ardown forms the On the Bench duo – a duo that dispenses “Canada’s most misleading hockey advice” – tells Johnny Gaudreau to “grease his snapper” as part of the “fundies of tickling twine,” he’s A) actually encouraging Johnny to score by getting the most out of his release and B) conversing in the familiar if exaggerated vocabulary spoken by so many who have spent a lot of time in hockey dressing rooms.
For Kyle Clifford and Tyler Toffoli, players whose Ontario Hockey League careers began at the age of 16, that language is naturally embedded in the process of making it “to the show,” or, as it is depicted in the NHL EA Sports video game series, “chell.” After praccie, let’s go to Brayden’s house and play some chell.
“Chell is big time,” said Mr. Ardown, characterized by Ryan Russell. “You always want to strive to get into the chell, for sure.”
And as the pursuit of a player’s dream becomes more realized, and as the player’s commitment and structured lifestyle is strengthened, and the players around him mature, branches of the language fall off and are disused. But there still seems to be one word that seeps into the vocabulary of all dressing rooms, regardless of age: beauty.
“I think it started in junior,” Clifford said. “That’s when it really started, and everybody’s a ‘beauty’ in junior. Everybody wants to ‘make the show.’ Definitely, it has huge traction in junior, and then as you get older, you kind of look back and [think] ‘I was kind of dumb.’”
To call attention to it is essentially blowing the cover of the joke. It’s a designation that isn’t easy to define.
“It’s just something hockey guys say when you’re referring to a teammate that you really like – a great guy off the ice, a great guy on the ice, whatever it is,” Clifford said.
It is partly popularity based, and there are apparently gradations.
“I think it’s being really cool and all the guys liking you,” Toffoli said of the word. “If you ask Drew [Doughty], he has a different approach. He’s not a beauty, he calls himself a ‘legend,’ so that’s like the ultimate.”
But there are beauties, beauticians and other derivatives. In Minnesota at this time of the year, there’s Da Beauty League, an off-season, high-level summer tournament of professional and college players.
And though Clifford acknowledges that the use of beauty is somewhat of an “overblown joke,” he still notes its prevalence, as well as the heavy usage of other semblances of slang that have carried over from junior and minor hockey dressing rooms.
“Dewey’s the man at these. I think he still thinks he’s in junior some days,” he said. “Hundo – everything’s hundo percent with Dewey. There are still a few of ‘em. I think when a guy does ‘go cheese,’ all the guys blow it up and just make fun of the saying and say, ‘he went cheese, Toff.’”
Ahh, yes, cheese. A good shot, top shelf. “Oh, cheese is a heavy one,” Mr. Ardown said. “So you can do cheese knees, which is wobble, you can go mid-cheese, high-cheese, low-cheese, that’s all where you want to shoot.”
The vocabulary was on display at Recreation Park in El Segundo last week, when Olly and Jacob met with Toffoli, Clifford and Jeff Carter to offer some direction on fundies, or fundamentals.
“Like, Jeff Carter, he’s always been pretty good at hockey, but you can never not get better, right? Maybe just smile a little bit,” Mr. Ardown said. “That guy’s just a little too serious for my liking.”
Tyler Toffoli, who has 84 goals in 293 games, is also one who can clearly improve.
“Yeah, Ty’s got a pretty good shot, but he could use a little bit of work,” said Olli Postanin, portrayed by Steve Campbell. “But that’s why we’re here, right? That’s why we’re here.”
This fundie session will be aired both on LAKings.com early next week as well as the On the Bench’s social media outlets.
“So obviously we’re down here teaching the boys how to snipe, how to hit, and we taught Carter how to celly, so obviously we’re just trying to get ‘em ready for next year,” Mr. Postanin said. “I think that’s the main goal for us here.”
This way, the world can finally be introduced to Clifford, who took advantage of the opportunity to work with prestigious coaches such as Olly Postanin and Jacob Ardown.
“I think he came a long way in the time that we spent with him,” Mr. Ardown said, tongue firmly in cheek. “He definitely has a long ways to go if he wants to succeed in the NHL, but I think he’s well on the path to it.”
Tyler Toffoli, on regional variations in hockey slang:
The Western guys definitely used more slang than anybody that I played with growing up because their Canadian accents are a little thicker than most city boys from Toronto.
Kyle Clifford, on the team’s more creative nicknames:
We had Stick (Justin Williams). Ethan Moreau we called Chop. … Fras Daddy, just because he loves being a family man. … He’s been a little of everything.
A great day learning the fundies with the boys 👌 pic.twitter.com/f15zuOOkZ8
— #LAKings (@LAKings) August 3, 2017