Sometimes your given name just isn't enough. Hockey has had some great nicknames over the years, from ones that are simple and fitting ("The Great One"), to some that are just a perfect play on a player's actual name ("Pickles"). Here we take a look at some of the greatest nicknames in NHL history for past or present players.
It's simple, it's understated ... and it's fitting. Honestly, Wayne Gretzky really doesn't need anything more than this to explain his skill, domination and NHL career. Every discussion regarding the best hockey player of all time is going to start with him, and so far there's no one who has been able to knock him from that throne.
There was nothing on the ice that Gordie Howe could not do. Score, defend, fight, play physical ... it was all there. His all-around abilities helped earn him the moniker "Mr. Hockey," a nickname that was actually trademarked by him and his wife, who was nicknamed "Mrs. Hockey."
It is perhaps one of the most fitting nicknames because it was so representative of the way Dominik Hasek played. He was, simply, one of the most dominant players in NHL history and could change the fortunes of a team in a way few other players could. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Hasek played at a level that was pretty much unmatched by any goalie in any era. He was the reason some of those Buffalo Sabres teams went as far as they did in the playoffs, including the 1998 Stanley Cup Final team.
Georges Vezina was one of the dominant goalies in the early days of the NHL. He earned the nickname The Chicoutimi Cucumber because of how calm he always was in net. (He also was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec.) Vezina, 39, died in 1926 from tuberculosis. Today, the NHL's best goalie is awarded the Vezina Trophy.
As far as line names go, this might be as good as it gets. The Philadelphia Flyers' trio of Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg would grind opponents into dust physically and dominate them on the scoreboard with skill and brute force. They comprised one of the best lines of the 1990s and made the Flyers a feared Stanley Cup contender.
You might think Joe Thornton earned the nickname "Jumbo Joe" for his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, and that is certainly part of it. It also comes from the fact he is from St. Thomas, Ontario, where a circus elephant named Jumbo was hit by a train and killed. Seriously.
Billy Smith backstopped the New York Islanders dynasty of the 1980s, and if his defense, led by Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, didn't clear you out from the front of his net, he would do it himself — with his goalie stick. His fearless, and sometimes reckless, use of his goalie stick as a weapon, as well as his fiery demeanor, earned him the nickname "Hatchet Man" during his playing days.
The origin of Curtis Joseph's "Cujo" nickname is simple, as it combines the first two letters of his first and last name. But it stuck, and it was great. For much of his career he sported a goalie mask that featured a snarling dog that was inspired by the Stephen King novel of the same name ("Cujo").
You know your nickname is good when that is literally what everybody knows you as. That is the case with Edouard Cyrille "Newsy" Lalonde, one of the greatest players in the early days of the NHL. He earned his nickname for his days working as a newspaper reporter and printer.
Bernie Geoffrion earned the nickname "Boom Boom" for having what was, at the time, one of the hardest slap shots around. He was also one of the innovators of the shot and one of the league's elite goal scorers in his era, becoming the second player in league history to score 50 goals in a season, a feat he accomplished in only 64 games.
You know you are a great goalie when media and fans refer to you as "Mr. Zero." That is what former Boston Bruins goalie Frank Brimsek became known as during the 1938-39 season when he recorded six shutouts in his first seven games, including a 231-minute-and-54-second scoreless streak. When he retired, he held the records for most wins and shutouts by an American-born goalie, marks that would not be broken for more than 50 years after he stopped playing.
Part of the Detroit Red Wings' famed Russian Five, an awesome nickname in its own right, Igor Larionov was dubbed "The Professor" for his cerebral approach to the game. Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman called him a "real brainy player," and Sergei Fedorov said he was one of the smartest players he played with. Larionov was also one of the players who was instrumental in Russian stars defecting to the NHL.
It really does not need any more explanation than the fact that at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, Gill was the size of a battleship on the ice and just as intimidating. He never provided a lot of offense, but he was a massive presence on the ice and won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 when they beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
The significantly smaller and younger brother of Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Henri Richard, dubbed "The Pοcket Rοcket," carved out a legendary career of his own with the Montreal Canadiens. He won 11 Stanley Cups with the team. Henri was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979 and was part of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players list in 2017. He often gets lost among the many Canadiens greats, but his career was nothing to sleep on.
In 18 seasons in the NHL, Nikolai Khabibulin played with Winnipeg Jets, Arizona Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers. He earned himself The Bulin Wall nickname as one of the league's top goalies. He was at his best with the Lightning, backstopping the team to the 2004 Stanley Cup. He had a .933 save percentage and five shutouts that postseason, one of the best playoff performances in league history for a goalie.
Pavel Bure burst onto the scene with the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 with 34 goals in only 65 games. He almost immediately became one of the most feared goal scorers in the league. Who knows what he would have accomplished had knee injuries not curtailed his career.
Andrew Hammond's 2014-15 season with the Ottawa Senators is still one of the wildest runs in recent memory. He came out of nowhere to single-handedly turn the team's season around. "The Hamburglar," as he was known since his college days, had fans in Ottawa littering the ice with hamburgers after Senators victories, which turned into free McDonald's for life for the goalie. (It wasn't as good as it sounds, though, as there was a limit on how many burgers he could get.)
In sticking with the food theme, sometimes a nickname is just so obvious that you have to go with it. That is the case with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, whose nickname is, well ... "Pickles."
Two players in NHL history can claim this name. The original "Little Ball of Hate" was longtime NHLer Pat Verbeek, who was given the name by former New York Rangers teammate Glen Healy, making him a tag-team partner with teammate Ray Ferraro, who was dubbed "Big Ball of Hate." Then in 2011, Boston agitator, pest and all-around great player Brad Marchand was given the tag by then President Barack Obama during the Bruins' White House visit following their Stanley Cup victory.