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By Bryant Li Summer Staff Writer
When it comes to nicknames, sports have given us some of the best and most creative ones. Hockey and the NHL in particular has a rather rich history of nicknames that induce memories or legendary players just by mentioning their monikers. Most of the greatest nicknames come from the past, as modern day nicknames have become nothing more than abbreviations of the player’s name with an “er” or a “y” added to the end. These are 20, in no particular order, of the greatest nicknames to ever grace the NHL with a few honorable mentions that just missed the list.Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe
1. Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe
Gordie Howe’s nickname shows just how much he meant to the game of hockey. His career lasted 26 years in the league and he played across an astounding five decades into his 50’s. He was the inspiration of some of the greatest players to ever play the game including legends Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Hull, who both met him as kids. Howe was the NHL’s leading point and goal scorer until Gretzky overtook him. His style of play best represented the game of hockey and he is one of the game’s most complete players. So much so that a “Gordie Howe Hat trick”, which includes a goal, fight, and assist, was named after him.
2. Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky
An undisputed fact, Wayne Gretzky is the greatest to ever play the game of hockey. Hence his nickname “The Great One”. Anyone who hears the nickname is likely to know who it references even if they don’t follow hockey. One needs not look further than his resume, which includes an incredible 61 NHL records that still have yet to be broken to this day. He holds the record for the most goals, assists, and points in NHL history, and has won four Stanley Cups (two back to back, two Conn Smythe as playoff MVP) as the superstar of the Oilers during their dynasty years. Not only that but Gretzky’s 99 has been retired league wide, and no one will ever wear it again in honor of him. Gretzky has indeed earned the right to be called “The Great One”.
3. Mario “Super Mario” Lemieux
“Super” is the most accurate word to describe Lemieux, whose nickname also coincides with the “Super Mario Bros.” video game. His NHL debut was around the same time that the popular, “Super Mario Bros.” video game arrived in North America, hence his nickname. Lemieux was the superstar that rejuvenated a dry Pittsburgh Penguins franchise and led them to their first Stanley Cup in ‘91, which was part of a back to back championship in ‘92. Lemieux further lived up to his “Super Mario” nickname when he miraculously returned from battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was such an incredible moment that in his first game back the cross-state and biggest rival Philadelphia Flyers fans gave Super Mario a standing ovation, something rarer than seeing a shooting star.
4. Billy “Hatchet Man” Smith
Anyone who played against Billy Smith or watched him play knows exactly why he was called the “Hatchet Man”. Smith’s goalie crease was his, and he made sure everyone knew it. He defended it with his stick, swinging it like a hatchet to any opposing player that skated through it or got too close for his liking. He used his stick so aggressively that the NHL mandated goalies tape the butt-end of their sticks because he was known for vigorously jabbing players with it. When he retired in ‘89 he led the NHL in penalty minutes for a goalie.
5. Derek “Boogeyman” Boogard
One of, if not the greatest, enforcer to ever grace the league, Boogard certainly lived up to his nickname. He was one of the last great fighters in the league and was a nightmare for other players and enforcers alike when he was on the ice. He was voted the second most intimidating player behind fellow enforcer Georges Laraque. His fighting skills, size, and mean streak helped him live up to the Boogeyman nickname.
6. Connor “McJesus” McDavid
Dubbed as the next “great one” and perhaps with even more hype than Sidney Crosby entered the league with, Connor McDavid’s expectations were set before he was even drafted. Drafted 1st overall in 2015 by a struggling Oilers organization, the fans believed he was the savior to their team’s problems. So far McDavid hasn’t disappointed, being one of the league’s top scorers since his rookie year, and leading Edmonton to their first playoff appearance in 11 years in 2017 after last appearing in the Cup Final in 2006.
7. Patrick “Showtime” Kane
The 2014 playoffs against the Minnesota Wild was when “Showtime” was born, as Kane was seen saying it after scoring yet another highlight reel goal. Previously known as “Kaner”, Kane has now been referred to as “Showtime” and boy does he live up to the name. Kane is one of the most dynamic and creative players in the league, and everytime he has the puck on his stick he’s a threat. His superb hands and incredible backhand have him putting on a show almost every game.
8. Jonathan “Captain Serious” Toews
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews’ nickname origin is somewhat of a mystery. Former teammate Patrick Sharp claims credit for it, while Toews himself credits Brent Seabrook. Regardless of its origin, Toews’ constant business-like attitude led the way for a new era of success for the Blackhawks as they won three Stanley Cups in six years and most resemble a dynasty in the modern era.
9. Teemu “The Finnish Flash” Selanne
Selanne’s nickname came from Ken Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press, who coined the nickname after Selanne’s rookie year. The speedy and dynamic Finn entered the league with a bang, setting the record for the most goals scored by a player in their rookie year at 76 goals. Selanne’s speed continued to be one of his biggest assets up until his retirement in 2014.
10. Pavel “The Russian Rocket” Bure
Bure lived up to his name by using his blazing speed to terrorize the opposing team. He was one of the purest goal scorers the game has ever seen. His speed, acceleration, and agility were aspects of his game that were far and above all others during his time in the league. He was one of the most high-powered players of his time, and everyone came to games to see the Russian Rocket fly.
11. Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion
Bernie Geoffrion was known as one of the pioneers of the thundering “slap-shot”. His ever-lasting contribution to the game earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”.
12. Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson
Grimson stood at 6’6” and was one of the most feared enforcers during the 1990s. With over 2,000 penalty minutes to his name, Grimson earned the “Grim Reaper” nickname as a play on his surname.
13. Maurice “The Rocket” Richard
One of the game’s first legends, Maurice Richard excelled in using power and speed to become known as one of the most dominant scorers during the NHL’s first half-century. Legendary and rival goaltender Glen Hall remembered his encounters with Richard saying, “When he came flying toward you with the puck on his stick, his eyes were all lit up. It was terrifying”.
14. Pavel “The Magic Man” Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk could do magical things with the puck on his stick, and his hands were like none the league had ever seen. Anytime he had the puck it was like he had it on a string. It seemed impossible for opponents to take it away from him, and when it seemed like he was bound to lose it he would come away with it to the amazement of everyone. His skill, flair, and hands were second to none and they hypnotized his opponents and fans-alike.
15. Nikolai “The Bulin Wall” Khabibulin
In reference to the Berlin Wall that went down in 1989, Khabibulin’s stellar play in net earned him “The Bulin Wall” nickname. He was one of the best goalies during his tenure in the NHL and he backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup championship in 2004. Incredibly, it wasn’t until the age of 28 that Khabibulin really hit his peak.
16. Brock “The Flow” Boeser
Hair, “lettuce”, or “flow” is one of the most important things to a hockey player and their appearance. Brock Boeser has some of the best hair in the game. His hair seemingly made specifically for a hockey player. This has earned him the nickname “The Flow”.
17. Pat “The Little Ball of Hate” Verbeek
While Pat Verbeek’s nickname is actually a spin-off of Ray Ferraro’s “Big Ball of Hate” nickname, it still serves him very well. Standing at just 5’9”, Verbeek had a fire in him that made him ornery and strong, and allowed him to rack up an astounding 522 goals. One of the toughest players to play against for his size, Verbeek thought the name suited him well and took it as a “badge of honor”.
18. Bobby “The Golden Jet” Hull
Bobby Hull was one of the greatest players during his time. His blonde tresses, blazing speed, and booming slap shot earned him the nickname “The Golden Jet”. Bobby was one of the most devastating pure goal-scorers in NHL history, and he and his son Brett combined for the most goals by a father-son duo.
19. Scott “Captain Crunch” Stevens
Anyone who knows how Scott Stevens played knows why he’s earned the nickname “Captain Crunch”. Stevens was most known for crushing forwards as they cut across the ice on the offensive blueline. Perhaps his most famous hits are against Eric Lindros in the 2000 eastern conference finals and against Paul Kariya in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals.
20. Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams
A relatively new nickname, Justin Williams earned his moniker by having a knack for stepping up big when his team needed him most, in the playoffs in game 7’s. Williams is 7-1 in game 7’s with seven goals and seven assists in eight career game 7’s.
Sidney “Sid the Kid” Crosby, Artemi “Breadman” Panarin, David “Pasta” Pastrnak, Phil “Phil the Thrill” Kessel, Johnny “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau, Paul “Biznasty” Bissonnette, Joe “Jumbo Joe” Thornton, Alex “The Great 8” Ovechkin, Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek, Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond, Dave “Tiger” Williams
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