It’s always interesting to read or hear the nicknames given to professional athletes since more often than not, it either has something to do with their personality or it’s tied somehow to an event that happened at some point in their career.
Who doesn’t remember the «Rocket» (Maurice Richard)? Some say that Richard got this nickname from one of his old teammates, Ray Getliffe, who had to play against him in an inter-squad game. He gave him the nickname for his speed and aggressiveness. There have since been others linked to that nickname. The most obvious one being the «Pocket-Rocket», Henri Richard, who received that nickname for being Maurice’s younger brother and being much smaller. Vancouver has also had the «Russian Rocket» Pavel Bure, nickname based on his blazing speed. Ironically, Bure won the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy twice, honnor awarded to the NHL player finishing the season with the most goals, trophy Bure won in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001.
We recognize «Mr. Hockey» (Gordie Howe), «Terrible Ted» Lindsay and «The Great One» (Wayne Gretzky), nicknames needing no introduction. Mario Lemieux had two nicknames: «Super-Mario» and «The Magnificent One». Bobby Hull’s nickname, called the «Golden Jet» because of his blond hair, is the reason for his son’s own nickname (Brett Hull), the «Golden Brett». The most penalized player, Dave «Tiger» Williams, «The Dominator» Dominic Hasek, Doug «Killer» Gilmour, «Eddie the Eagle» Belfour, Félix «The Cat» Potvin and «Stevie Y» (Steve Yzerman) are other well known nicknames. Who doesn’t recall «Lucky Luke» (Luc Robitaille)? We remember «Cujo» (Curtis Joseph), «Big E» (Eric Lindros) and «Burnaby Joe» (Joe Sakic), born in Burnaby BC.
The rough and tough era of the 70’s had their own nicknames, and the movie Slap-Shot used it as a theme. André «Moose» Dupont, Ken «The Rat» Linseman, Dave «The Hammer» Shultz, Gerry «Cheesy» Cheevers, Reggie «The Riverton Rifle» Leach, Glenn «Chico» Resh and the head coach of the «Broadstreet Bullies» (Philadelphia Flyers) Fred «The Fog» Shero are only a few.
Today, we recognize many players by their nicknames alone: «The Bulin Wall» (Nikolai Khabibulin), after the Berlin Wall. «The Finnish Flash» (Teemu Selanne), «Iggy» (Jarome Iginla), «Sid the Kid» (Sidney Crosby), Derek «The Boogie Man» Boogaard, «Big Buff» Dustin Byfuglien, «Jumbo Joe» Thornton his teammate with the Sharks, «Little Joe» Pavelski, are some of them.
As a Habs’ fan, here are some nicknames of players that I recall:
Bernard «Boom-Boom» Geoffrion, «Le Gros Bill» (Jean Béliveau), «The Big M» (Frank Mahovlich), «The Chicoutimi Cucumber» (Georges Vézina) as he was cool as a cucumber, «Big Bird» (Larry Robinson) referring to the Sesame Street character, Michel «Bunny» Laroque, Réjean «Peanut» Houle, and the «Roadrunner» (Yvan Cournoyer) named after the cartoon character for his great speed. Guy Lafleur had one in English, «Flower», and one in French, «Le Démon Blond». More recently, who remembers «Casseau» (Patrick Roy), nickname given to him by teammates in Montreal because he always ordered french fries? Another goalie had a nickname that he’d like to forget: André «Red Light» Racicot, based on the fact that he allowed too many goals. Current Habs’ assistant-coach Kirk Muller had «Captain Kirk» for nickname when he was the team captain. Jacques «Coco» Lemaire, Chris «Knuckles» Nilan, Hector «Toe» Blake and Emile «Butch» Bouchard are other famous nicknames and when we say «The Senator», we recognize Serge Savard.
Today, the tradition continues with «AK46» (Andrei Kostitsyn), nickname based on «AK27» (Alex Kovalev), Roman «Hammer» Hamrlik, «G-Love» (Scott Gomez), nickname discovered during a recent interview with Subban, Cammalleri and Gomez himself, and the newest member of the Habs, «Wiz» (James Wisniewski).
In conclusion, there are nicknames for just about everyone and for the most part, it’s in good taste and good intentions. Those nicknames often help build chemistry on a team and hopefully a better relationship between players, while giving fans something to talk about.
En français: Les joueurs de hockey et leurs surnoms