What Is the ‘Five-Hole’ in Hockey (And Where Does the Term Come From)?

Hockey goalie

You’ll often hear hockey players talk about “scoring through the five-hole,” which means that the puck went between the goalie’s legs. But why is that called the ‘five-hole,’ and what are the other ‘holes’ a sniper can shoot for?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary—which just added “five hole” in 2017—the term is relatively new, with its first known use in 1980. Sportswriter Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune argues that Hall-of-Fame goaltender Jacques Plante (whose professional career stretched from 1947-1975!) probably first called the area between the goalie’s pads the “five hole.” Over the last 40 years, the term has gained popularity, and not just in hockey.

But why is that space number five? Common wisdom suggests these are the five ‘holes’ where a player can shoot:

  1. High glove side
  2. Low glove side
  3. High stick side
  4. Low stick side
  5. Between the legs
Pure Hockey Five Hole Diagram

You’ll note that many training targets—including the USA Hockey Shooting Target Accushot—mimic this layout, helping players to increase their accuracy by focusing on these five ‘holes.’ The ordering of holes one through four is not that well established, however, and you’ll often find the numbers assigned differently.


Since hardly anyone uses the terms for ‘one-hole’ through ‘four-hole’—choosing instead to say, for instance, “I scored high, glove-side”—these differences don’t matter very much. More recently, some players have come up with the terms ‘six-hole’ and ‘seven-hole’ to describe the spaces between the goalie’s arm and body on each side, but these have yet to catch on in the general hockey community. ‘Five-hole’ is really the only such term you’ll hear players and coaches use.

When it comes to the origin of ‘five-hole,’ there is another school of thought, which maintains that the term actually comes from bowling. In a standard rack of 10 bowling pins, the ‘five pin’ is the one right in the middle, as the ‘five-hole’ is in the middle of the hockey goal. Alternately, in ‘five pin’ bowling, a version of the sport popular in Canada, the head pin is worth five points. Knocking out this five-point pin means leaving a hole right down the middle of the rack. The true etymology of the term ‘five-hole’ thus remains a bit of a mystery.