September 17, 2007
Top 10 Hockey Nicknames
By SUN MEDIA
In this day and age, the great hockey nickname is a thing of the past.
Take a player's last name, toss a "y" or an "er" on the end of it and voila, you have a nickname.
Not so in the days gone by when almost every hockey player had a clever moniker that was every bit as recognizable to fans as the athlete's real first name.
There were so many to choose from it was almost impossible to narrow this list of great hockey nicknames to just 10. Then again, this is a top-10 list, so we had to suck it up.
Consider some of the fine handles that didn't make our list even though they belong to some of the greatest players ever to wear skates.
There's the Great One (Wayne Gretzky), the Grate One (Esa Tikkanen), Super Mario (Mario Lemieux), Golden Jet and Golden Brett (Bobby and Brett Hull), The Dominator (Dominik Hasek), Mr. Hockey (Gordie Howe), Sid the Kid (Sidney Crosby), the Finnish Flash (Teemu Selanne), the Rocket (Maurice Richard), the Pocket Rocket (Henri Richard) and Stevie Wonder (Steve Yzerman).
All are great nicknames in their own right, but we were looking for the good stories behind the nicknames - like why former NHL goon Jim McKenzie was known as Easton Bat (unfortunately, we can't print that).
Here's what we can print:
10. Frank "Mr. Zero" Brimsek
Brimsek was a rarity in the NHL back in the late '30s - an American hockey player and a goalie no less. The Boston Bruins had their doubts about bringing him up to the big club, but when they did in 1938-39, Brimsek proved to be a star, recording 10 shutouts in his first season and leading his team to the Stanley Cup. Thusly, he earned the nickname that forever had him mistaken for a villain on the cheesy old Batman TV show.
9. Ken "The Rat" Linseman
Linseman gave new meaning to the term "stick and run" while skating with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA and several NHL teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. Although the name applied to his chippy style of play, and his propensity for stirring up trouble without finishing, Linseman was actually given his moniker by Bobby Clarke, who thought the kid looked like a rat as he leaned forward while skating. Besides, next to Clarke, this super pest looked like an angel.
8. Sid "Old Bootnose" Abel
A member of the Detroit Red Wings' famed Production Line along with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, Abel had a fine career that landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1968. He also had a funny nickname that was given to him after an altercation with Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard. As legend has it, Abel slugged Richard and knocked him to the ice. Richard immediately popped up and levelled Abel with a single blow, breaking his nose in two places and leaving him forever with a boot-shaped proboscis.
7. Georges "The Chicoutimi Cucumber" Vezina
He was from Chicoutimi and was cool as a cucumber -- it's as simple as that. Oh yeah, and they named the trophy for the NHL's best goaltender after him, so that would suggest he was pretty good. He tended goal for the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until 1925 and showed remarkable toughness, playing his last season while suffering from tuberculosis. He died four months after collapsing twice in his last game.
6. Freddie "The Fog" Shero
An NHL defenceman and later coach of the famed Broad Street Bullies, Shero didn't actually earn his nickname for the fact that he played blanket defence or because his teams rolled over opponents. Instead, he brought the name with him to the NHL after winning a Manitoba bantam boxing championship and leaving all of his opponents dazed and confused. Shero turned down a chance to become a professional boxer to join the NHL, but judging from those Stanley Cup-winning Flyers of the '70s, he brought a fair bit of his pugilistic wisdom along with him.
5. Dave "The Hammer" Schultz
Not much question where this nickname came from. What else would you call the toughest hombre on the toughest team in the history of pro sports? Schultz brought the hammer down so often that he holds the NHL record for most penalty minutes in a season with 472 (1974-75) and it's a mark that may never be broken, considering only three NHL players even had 200 penalty minutes last year and fighting is going the way of the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques.
4. Andre "Red Light" Racicot
A charter member of hockey's Hall of Shame, Racicot earned a nickname no goalie could love not long after a most undistinguished debut in the 1989-90 season. Called upon by the Montreal Canadiens to relieve the rarely replaced Patrick Roy, Racicot played just 13 minutes in his first game and let in three goals on six shots. He went on to play parts of four seasons with the Habs and while his numbers weren't always horrible, he had a reputation for giving up soft goals. Therefore he was forever stuck with a nickname so bad he must be tempted to tell people it's not because he's a lousy goalie, but because he really likes prostitutes.
3. Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion
Geoffrion claimed to have invented the slapshot and while that is debated by some people, there's no question his nickname came from his love for the big blast. Geoffrion's handle was given to him by Montreal sportswriter Charlie Boire, who heard two booms every time a slapper was unleashed -- one when Geoffrion put everything into the shot and the other when the puck hit the boards (we assume this was in practice, since technically you are not supposed to hit the boards when taking a slapshot on net). Boom Boom certainly did manage to get a few shots on target during his career, scoring 393 goals in 883 games,
2. Alf "The Embalmer" Pike
Before he became an NHL player with the New York Rangers, this Winnipeg native worked as a licensed mortician and his nickname fit nicely as he was described as a tough customer on the ice. Pike helped the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1940 and later became their coach but strangely enough was fired because players considered him too nice to be behind the bench.
1. Stu "The Grim Reaper" Grimson
An embalmer would be a good wingman for this former NHL goon, who put up just 17 goals in 729 career games, but managed to accumulate 2,113 penalty minutes. A knuckle-chucker extraordinaire who worked as an enforcer on eight NHL teams, Grimson may not have been as feared as the real Angel of Death, but he certainly earned his nickname and had a reputation as one of the toughest fighters in the game. His nickname should still come in handy in his post-NHL career -- he's a lawyer with the NHL Players Association.
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