How Do You Say ‘Hockey Puck’ In Chinese?

Photo by s.yume on Flickr

No one loves hockey more than Canadians. We invented it. We invented the National Hockey League too, and the National Hockey Association before it, and we killed the Americans in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Did you see that? We killed them. And that was just the women’s team.

Then the mighty Sidney Crosby/Team Canada gold-mining machine took to the ice and the men’s US team went down in flames too.


Now we’re translating it.

Okay, so today’s globalized NHL isn’t quite as Maple-y as it used to be. Canadians made up the vast majority of the NHL until the late 1980s, even though most of the teams were in the United States, when the Edmonton Oilers’ Wayne Gretzky, still regarded as probably the best hockey player ever, defected to the Los Angeles Kings. Then some Russian guy defected to the Detroit Red Wings and that was it, everyone wanted to play in the NHL. Today, you’ll find players from the Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Norway and Switzerland.

(You’ll notice pretty much all those countries represent the ones most famous for their brutal winters. If you want to be a really great hockey player you’ll find the challenges much more, well, challenging if you hail from a warmer clime like Jamaica or Sardinia or the Sahara.)

Around 1970, the NHL was about 75% Canadian. Today it’s about 50% with Americans at 25% and all those other Snowmageddons for the remaining quarter. With the diversification of the NHL and its fan base, this meant, of course, globalizing the language play-by-plays for foreign audiences.

In 2013, Rogers Communications, one of Canada’s biggest media providers, struck a $5.2B deal to broadcast all their games on their own platforms in any language. The regular season games, All-Star Game and Stanley Cup finals are broadcast in more than 160 countries, so of course, doing so in Canada’s multiple if unofficial languages is par for the course.

Several years ago, the CBC was contacted by a Chinese hockey fan who wanted to do play-by-plays in his mother tongue for his fellow Chinese-Canadian hockey fans, which the CBC brought him on to do. Jason Wang found himself quite challenged by the task. While Mandarin Chinese has 370,000 words, they don’t have one for ‘hockey puck’ or many of the penalties, nor even the cultural context for the game. (Apparently Confucius didn’t watch much hockey.)

Currently, Rogers is only broadcasting in English, French and Punjabi, but they continue to reach out to other immigrants. In 2014 they debuted Hockey 101, a brief series of vignettes explaining hockey and its rules, now in eighteen different languages. In that same year, they began broadcasting on China’s CCTV network and for one game, the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Detroit Redwings, the advertisements circling the rink were in Chinese for such local companies as Blackberry, Avis Budget Group and Scotiabank.

In the meantime, with an invitation, Canada is now quietly and very politely invading China. Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics and they need to get their hockey team into shape. Who better to ask than the Gods of Hockey? Two teen players who can’t get high-level training in China are getting it here in Canada, and we’re training the rest over there. Hockey may not be a popular sport right now for the People’s Republic, but it will be. Give us time.

We’re coming for you too with our superior hockey skills.

And we speak your language.

Sorry America, we’re just better than you! (Photo by Robert Scoble on Flickr)

Sorry America, we’re just better than you! (Photo by Robert Scoble on Flickr)



Yappn Corp. provides enhanced machine translation in 67 different languages when we’re not waving the Canadian flag and cheering bilingually for our winners in sports bars. (Please note: No Americans were harmed during the creation of this blog post.) For more information please contact or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.

Written by Cara Buckspan, Social Media and Support Representative and Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.

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