Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google

What's In A Name?

Some Nicknames Offer More Than Meets the Eye

Monday, 03.17.2008 / 1:00 PM / News
By Adam Schwartz  - Staff Writer
Share with your Friends

What\'s In A Name?
Nicknames are as much a part of hockey as sticks and pucks. Almost everyone has one, but few stand the test of time like "Mr. Hockey" or "The Great One."
San Jose Sharks defenseman Doug Murray's nickname is "Crankshaft".
Watch Douglas Murray highlight video
There are many famous hockey nicknames. "The Great One," "Mr. Hockey," and "The Golden Jet" have come to symbolize the players they describe -- Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, respectively.

While most of today's players don't have immediately recognizable monikers, most NHL players have some sort of nickname. Alternate names are part of the fabric of hockey, almost as old as the game itself.

The bulk of these nicknames, however, are simple and derived from the sound of a player's name, such as Colin "Whitey" White or Dany "Heater" Heatley. Yet, there remain a few nicknames that show the creativity necessary to stand the test of time and enter the lexicon of the sport's more colorful nom de guerres.

Usually the genesis of the colorful nicknames is as entertaining and creative as the name itself. Some players get their nicknames as young kids and lug them throughout their career. Other times, the names have been given during their NHL career. Occasionally, a player's nickname will come from something that has nothing whatsoever to do with hockey. The origin of others remains somewhat of a mystery to this day.

Here are 10 of the better nicknames currently being used in the NHL:

San Jose defenseman Douglas "Crankshaft" Murray -- Murray wouldn't reveal the full story behind his nickname, but he is an energetic defenseman for the Sharks and contributes in all three zones.

"I have a lot of energy and I have to keep everyone going," Murray said. "It comes from me having a lot of energy. My former teammate, Grant Stevenson, came up with it when we used to live together."

Players also will shorten a nickname so they can get the player's attention quickly on the ice. Murray's nickname, though, still remains somewhat of a mystery.

Phillips a rock on Ottawa's D
When you go up and down the roster of the big-name players on the Ottawa Senators, one name that might not jump out at you is that of Chris Phillips. ...more
Related Links:

Current NHL Nicknames

VIDEO Player  Nickname 
Douglas Murray Crankshaft
Marc-Edouard Vlasic  Pickles 
Kyle Calder  Grease
Erik Christensen  Crusher
Johan Hedberg  Moose
Mark Parrish  Grumpy
Scott Nichol Scooter
John Madden  Mad Dog
Jordan Staal Gronk 
Jason Smith Gator

"Sometimes they call me 'Cranky,'" Murray said. "But I'm far from cranky. I'm not a mechanic or anything, so it doesn't come from there. There's a little mystery to it."

San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic "Pickles" -- Vlasic, 20, got his nickname because he shares a name with the famous Vlasic pickle company. Vlasic, who is in his second NHL season, was tagged with his nickname during a preseason game for the American Hockey League's Worchester Sharks.

"I was about to play my first exhibition game in Fresno, and the coach of Worcester, Roy Sommer, gave it to me," Vlasic said. "He said everybody's name in the starting lineup, and when it came to my name, he said; 'Pickles,' and nobody knew who he was talking about, so he explained it to me."

Vlasic said nobody picked up the pickle link when he was younger because Vlasic didn't sell pickles in Montreal until recently.

Los Angeles left wing Kyle "Grease" Calder -- Calder, selected No. 130 overall in the 1997 Entry Draft, beat long odds just to make it to the NHL, and earned his moniker from his style of play.

"It (my nickname) was given to me because of the way I play on the ice," Calder said. "Being able to spin off the checks down low and stuff like that."

Calder got his nickname at a young age and it has stayed with him.

"I've had it ever since I was 16," said Calder, who began in the NHL with the Blackhawks in the 1999-2000 season. "It kind of followed me. One of my junior coaches had a friend who coached in Chicago and passed the name on to him, so it's followed me ever since.''

Atlanta center Erik "Crusher" Christensen -- Christensen, part of the package the Penguins traded to the Atlanta Thrashers late last month for star right wing Marian Hossa, is one of the League's best shootout performers.

Christensen's nickname has been with him since middle school. The 24-year-old is stymied about where the name came from, but knows it didn't come from hockey and it isn't very fitting of his soft-spoken personality.

"I got my nickname in Grade 8," Christensen said. "It's not hockey-related and a couple of my long-time friends gave it to me. I'm not sure why they gave it to me because it doesn't fit my personality."

Atlanta goalie Johan "Moose" Hedberg -- Hedberg emerged as the Penguins' starting goalie in the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs after playing with the Manitoba Moose of the original International Hockey League. Since there was no time to get a new helmet, Hedberg kept wearing the moose-adorned helmet he used in Manitoba.

"When I came to Pittsburgh from the Manitoba Moose, I still had my old mask, which had a moose on it," Hedberg said. "I just kept playing with that mask. The fans in Pittsburgh started it by chanting 'Moose,' and it stuck."

Hedberg has continued to decorate his helmet with a moose ever since. 

"I kept the moose on my helmet in different shapes as a good-luck charm," he said.

Minnesota right wing Mark "Grumpy" Parrish -- Parrish, who has played more than 650 games in his 10-season NHL career, is a sound two-way player for Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire. Parrish can score and set up goals, but he isn't much to talk to in the morning, which is where his nickname comes from.

"I'm not much of a morning person," Parrish said. "I'm grumpy in the morning and my teammates always tell me how unfriendly I am in the morning."
Scott Nichol's nickname evolved from his name to "Scooter".
Nashville center Scott "Scooter" Nichol -- Nichol, part of one of the most underrated forward units in the League, is not one of Nashville's most skilled players, but the 33-year-old plays a reliable game for coach Barry Trotz. Like many NHL nicknames, Nichol's came from his name, but still has a unique quality to it.

"It just sort of evolved from Scott to Scotty to Scooter," Nichol said. "I also do scoot around the ice a little bit. I can't pinpoint where I got the nickname or who gave it to me, though." 

New Jersey center John "Mad Dog" Madden -- Madden, one of the League's best defensive forwards, always has played an intense game, ever since his rough upbringing in the urban suburbs of Toronto. Even though Madden can't recall the root of his nickname, it comes from his hard-working style of play.

"I don't know exactly how it came about," Madden said. "I remember as a kid everybody just called me 'Mad Dog,' and it stuck."

His nickname became solidified during his time playing at the University of Michigan.

"It really started to stick in college," Madden said. "When Branch, which was a stick company, shipped my sticks and they said 'Mad Dog' on them and it just took off from there. I think it comes from the intense way that I play. Guys are always telling me to drink decaf before the game because I get so hyped up."

Pittsburgh center Jordan "Gronk" Staal -- In his second NHL season with the Penguins, Staal has two brothers playing in the League and another who is eligible for the 2008 Entry Draft. Staal's former teammate, Colby Armstrong, coined the nickname for the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder.

Jordan Staal's nickname is "Gronk" because he's big and lanky on the ice.
"Colby Armstrong gave it to me and it has stuck with me," Staal said. "I think it's pretty funny. Armstrong noticed that I was a big, lanky guy out there on the ice and then he started calling me 'Gronk.'"

Armstrong, traded to Atlanta last month, explained the unusual nickname this way.

"He's huge, he's like a big monster," said Armstrong, who is no mite at 6-2 and 190 pounds. "We used to call a kid I played with in junior (hockey) 'Gronk' because he was a huge guy like Staal; so that's why I started calling him 'Gronk.'"

Philadelphia defenseman Jason "Gator" Smith -- The Flyers' captain, Smith is one of Philadelphia's most dependable defensemen and plays a stay-at-home style. Smith stands 6-foot-3, weighs 215 pounds and is one of the more intimidating and physical Flyers.

He gets his nickname from a fondness for the University of Florida Gators football team. Smith originally became a Gators fan through a close friend, and the nickname has become popular with teammates since it first emerged.




1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67


J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
Image Map