What Is the Five Hole in Hockey? A Guide to the Term

The goalie looks on as two opposing players jostle for position in front of the net.

Hockey is an exciting sport where the aim of the game is to score goals by hitting the puck past the opposing goaltender and into the net. Scoring a goal is extremely difficult, especially against a seasoned and talented goaltender. One of the ways that a player can score a goal is via the five hole.

So, what is the five hole in hockey?

The five hole refers to the space between the goaltender’s legs and is one of five major holes that players shoot to score. Goalies can protect the five hole with their stick and by dropping to butterfly. The term’s origin is often attributed to bowling since the five pin is in the center.

In this article, we’ll go more in-depth about the five hole, and when players usually aim for it. If you’re new to hockey or are a seasoned veteran who’s curious about some of the terminology, you’ve come to the right place.

Why Do They Call it the Five Hole?

It’s often thought that the name of the five hole originated from the game of bowling. In bowling, there are 10 pins with the fifth pin being the one directly in the center. When a goalie is guarding the net in hockey, the five hole is the only area in the middle of the net that’s open to a potential shot.

Another possible explanation for the five hole being so named also has to do with bowling. The original Canadian version of bowling consists of only five pins versus the 10 pins in American bowling.

The middle pin in Canadian bowling is worth five points when you knock it over. Because hockey was invented in Canada, it’s quite possible that the five hole originated from Canadian bowling.

Another more likely reason that it’s called the five hole is because of where it’s located in relation to the goalie and the hockey net. There are five main areas or holes on the hockey net where hockey players aim when they shoot the puck.

There’s the bottom right section, the bottom left section, the top left section, the top right section, and the bottom middle section which is the one known as the five hole.

Referring to the section between the goalie’s legs as the five hole has become so common, in fact, that it’s now more than just a hockey term or sports jargon. In 2017, Merriam-Webster added the term five hole into the dictionary and made it an official word with a definition. Five hole is defined as “the space between the legs of a goaltender.”

How Many Goals Are Scored Via the Five Hole?

According to John Russo, Ph.D., 27% of all hockey goals are scored via the five hole. Russo is the founder of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League and a former captain for the University of Wisconsin’s hockey team.

He’s an author and contributor for several hockey books and coaching advice pieces and has done valuable research to help coaches in the game of hockey.

Russo also states that nearly half of all goals are scored from within 10 feet of the net, which is usually when the five hole opens up. The closer you get to the goalie, the more they’ll reveal the five hole as a potential scoring option. In short, the five hole is a great option for scoring, especially when you’re able to get close to the goalie.

When Should You Shoot Five Hole?

The college hockey team in blue and white scores via the five hole.

As a rule of thumb, the farther you are from the net the less likely you are to score via the five hole. You should only shoot five hole when you are close to the net and the goalie has limited time to react.

As you approach the goalie, they are more likely to slightly spread their legs and place their feet farther apart from each other. This gives them more ability to protect the other two scoring areas on the low side of the net – the bottom right and the bottom left of the net. Most goalies have quicker reaction times with their arms than with kicking their legs out laterally away from their bodies.

This means that they react more quickly to shots on goal in those areas of the net than they do with the five hole. To close the five hole, a goalie has to drop their legs down into a collapsed position which takes longer than lashing out with a single limb. Because of this, the best time to shoot the five hole is when the goalie is in an upright position with their legs spread apart.

The closer you can get to the goal, the more likely it is that your shot at the five hole will succeed.

How to Shoot Five Hole

Shooting at the five hole in hockey is done the same way that other low shots are done. Low shots aren’t as flashy as high shots that fly past the goaltender’s outstretched arm, but they’re extremely effective.

If you want to successfully shoot at the five hole, here are some simple steps to remember:

  • Follow Through with Your Shot – Following through simply means that you finish your swing pointing toward the area where you want the puck to go. If you shoot and follow through high, there’s a good chance that your shot will miss high. However, if you shoot and follow through with a low swing pointed towards the five hole, there’s a good chance that you’ll hit your mark.
  • Point the Blade of Your Stick – A big part involved with following through on your shot is to point the blade of your stick as you shoot. You should point the blade in the direction that you want the puck to go. This helps to ensure an accurate shot and that you snap your wrist when you fire your shot. Snapping your wrist adds accuracy and power to an otherwise weak five hole shot.
  • Don’t Let Up on the Shot – Finally, you should never let up on your shot when you’re shooting five hole. It’s a common fear that shooting too hard or following through all the way will result in a high shot. However, it’s better to shoot hard and miss slightly high than it is to shoot soft and have the shot easily blocked.

How to Save a Five Hole Shot

As a goalie, you’re the last line of defense against a possible goal. It’s important that you know how to guard every part of the net, especially the five hole since that’s where more than a quarter of all goals are scored.

Here are some tips to help protect the five hole:

  • Perfect the Butterfly – The more you practice dropping to butterfly, the faster you’ll get at it. While no amount of speed will be enough to stop every shot on the five hole, a faster dropping time will help stop some of the slower or slightly off of center shots.
  • Use Larger or Modified Thigh Pads – Regulations are tighter than ever in regards to what type of equipment that goalies are allowed to wear. However, if you play in a lenient league and the rules permit it, you can optionally wear wider knee and thigh pads which add more five hole protection. In short, the only way to successfully guard against the five hole is to move and react quicker than the shot on goal. If you struggle dropping to the ice or moving your feet, you won’t have much success at closing up your five hole.

What Are the Holes in Hockey?

A goalie in green looks down the ice during a stoppage in play.

Outside of the five hole, let’s look at the other main holes that a goalie has to cover:

What Is the 1 Hole in Hockey?

The 1 hole is usually referred to as glove-side high. It’s on the side opposite of the hand that the goalie holds their stick in and it’s the upper corner of the net.

What Is the 2 Hole in Hockey?

The 2 hole is usually referred to as glove-side low. Once again, it’s on the side opposite of where the goalie holds their stick but on the low side of the net.

What Is the 3 Hole in Hockey?

The 3 hole is referred to as stick-side high. It’s on the upper side of the net on the side that the goalie holds their stick.

What Is the 4 Hole in Hockey?

The 4 hole is referred to as stick-side low. It’s on the lower side of the net, on the side that the goalie holds their stick.

What Is the 6 Hole in Hockey?

The 6 hole refers to the area underneath the armpit of the goaltender on the side that they hold their stick on. This hole is created when the goaltender isn’t paying close attention to the movement of the puck and leaves their arm slightly raised.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, hockey is an interesting and exciting sport that essentially has its own language. Knowing what the terms of hockey mean, such as five hole, will help you to better understand and enjoy the game. It will also go a long way in helping you become a better player.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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