NHL nicknames are lame, but are we getting the full story?

Apr 2, 2018, 5:00 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2018, 10:20 am
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski or "Goose", right, and Arizona Coyotes left wing Brendan ...
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski or "Goose", right, and Arizona Coyotes left wing Brendan Perlini or "Pearls", left, talk during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Canucks 1-0. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The question has bothered me for as long as I have covered the NHL. I finally decided to ask.

Why are NHL players’ nicknames so lame?

There have been memorable ones like ‘The Great One,’ ‘The Rocket’ or ‘The Golden Jet,’ but it generally takes the elite status of someone like Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard or Bobby Hull to warrant that level of creativity.

Normally, if your name ends in a consonant, you just add a ‘y’ or an ‘er’ to the end. ‘Kellsy’ (Clayton Keller), ‘Doaner’ (Shane Doan), ‘Schenner’ (Luke Schenn). If it ends in a vowel, you just replace it with an s: ‘Doms’ (Max Domi), ‘Rants’ (Antti Raanta), ‘Pearls’ (Brendan Perlini). If the name is too long, like Brad Richardson’s or Jordan Martinook’s, you just go with ‘Richie’ or ‘Marty.’

“When I first signed and went to Chicago, I was thinking ‘these guys have been here five years, six years. They probably have some different nicknames’ and then everybody was like, ‘Seabs’ (Brent Seabrook), ‘Duncs’ (Duncan Keith) or Corey Crawford was ‘Crow,'” Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta said. “Any time you see a new guy, it takes like two days for them to have a nickname. [Darcy] Kuemper got here and it was ‘Kuemps.’

“We’re not very bright guys, I guess, so we just need to go easy on those.”

In the most creative Coyotes instances, you get ‘Goose’ (Alex Goligoski), ‘OEL’ (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) or even ‘Rhino’ (Zac Rinaldo), which is probably the best nickname the Coyotes have to offer.

“I love that nickname,” Rinaldo said. “It fits.”

It does with Rinaldo’s aggressive style of play, but that nickname is a rare example in a sea of dull choices while the NFL offers: ‘The Refrigerator,’ ‘Megatron,’ ‘PrimeTime,’ ‘Beast Mode’ and ‘Sweetness.’

The NBA has ‘The Mailman,’ ‘The Answer,’ ‘The Polish Hammer,’ ‘CP3’ and ‘The King.’

Major League Baseball has ‘The Penguin,’ ‘The Mad Hungarian,’ ‘The Big Hurt,’ ‘Crime Dog,’ ‘Charlie Hustle’ and ‘Big Papi.’

My favorite NHL nickname of all time is for Pat Verbeek: ‘Little Ball of Hate.’ The Coyotes had a pretty good one with former goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, ‘The Bulin Wall,’ but by and large, hockey nicknames lag behind other sports.

Or do they?

When pressed on this matter, Rinaldo peeled back a tiny corner of the layer that still shields the locker room from public or media visibility.

“Sometimes, there’s an inside joke with the team and we can’t tell anybody,” Rinaldo said. “Christian Fischer is ‘Stinky’ or ‘Stinks’.”

Do you have a reason for that nickname?

“Yeah, we do, but I’m not telling you that,” Rinaldo said, laughing. “Amongst the public we go safe. In the dressing room, amongst ourselves, we don’t go safe at all. We keep them within the team because if we didn’t, there might be some legal trouble.”

In the true spirit of investigative journalism, I decided to dig a little deeper after Rinaldo’s revelation, but I was immediately rebuffed.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Fischer deadpanned.

Leave it to veteran Brad Richardson to pull the lid off a rookie’s nickname, much to the surprise of teammate Kevin Connauton, who asked if Richardson was really saying all of this on the record.

“It’s because he wears his underwear nine days in a row on a road trip,” Richardson said of Fischer. “You can’t do that. It’s inhumane. Take him to the humane society and put him down.”

And that should be the last word on nicknames.

Coyotes at Flames

When: 6 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta
Radio: KTAR 92.3 FM
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Records: Flames — 36-33-10. Coyotes — 28-40-11.
Season series: Flames lead 2-1
Injury report: Flames — Fs Sean Monahan (wrist, hip), Kris Versteeg (hip), Matthew Tkachuk (upper body), Marek Hrivik (upper body) and D TJ Brodie (upper body) are out for the rest of the season. D Travis Hamonic (upper body) is day-to-day. Coyotes — F Laurent Dauphin (lower body), D Niklas Hjalmarsson (lower body) and D Jason Demers (upper body) are out for the rest of the season. F Christian Dvorak (lower body) is day-to-day but did not travel with the team.

Flames scouting report: The Flames ended a season-high seven-game losing streak with a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. … Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau returned in that game after missing two games to be with his father, who had a cardiac event March 25. … Gaudreau leads the team with 59 assists and 82 points. … Former Coyotes Michael Stone and Mike Smith missed Monday’s practice but are expected to play. Stone’s wife, Michelle, gave birth to the couple’s first son Monday morning. Smith took a maintenance day.


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NHL nicknames are lame, but are we getting the full story?