NHL name game: Four generations of monikers from P.K. back to Odie
Back in May, Canada’s junior Western Hockey League held its draft for players who were born in 2000. As our Extra Mustard post noted, the names that were tallied by blogger Adam Herman of Blueshirt Banter offered a window into 21st century naming customs. Four Coles, four Chases, four Dawsons and four Jacksons were selected as well as a Jaxon, a Rin, a Ryley, a Baxter, a Lach, a Kaiden, a Jayden, a Loeden and such distinctive full names as Gianni Fairbrother and Orrin Centazzo.
This inspired us to look at the most common and distinctive monikers in the NHL by generation, starting with team rosters as of the summer of 2015 and working our way back in 30-year intervals to the old tyme hockey days of 1925. The results were indeed revealing.
Although some names such as Mike, Dave, Bill and Bob have remained common, there have been distinct trends through the years. For example, you don't see many Gords, Dicks, Cecils or Wilfreds these days, but there are more Ryans, Jakes, Tylers and Brandons. Meanwhile the league’ ubiquitous nicknames of yore have given way to initials (P.K., T.J. etc.).
NOTE: For the sake of our tabulations, variations of a name (e.g. Mark/Marc/Marcus, Jon/John/Johnny, Nick/Nicholas/Nicklas) were lumped together. We’ve also included a nod to European, Scandavian and Russian players for they too provide a glimpse into the NHL's ever-changing demographics.
TOP FIVE: Mike (26), John (25), Mark (22), Matt (21), Ryan (20)
OH, BABY (Top five most popular names): Liam, Noah, Ethan, Mason, Logan (U.S.); Aidan, Jacob, Ethan, Nicholas, Matthew (Canada)
PLUS/MINUS: John (+12), Matt (+21) and Ryan (+19) replaced Dave, Bob and Rich/Rick in the top five from 1984-85 when three Mats (Naslund, Hallin, Thelin) but no Matts or Matthews, and one Ryan (Walter), played in the NHL. In the iconic first names department, there is now one Wayne (Simmonds) and one Sid (Crosby) on NHL rosters but no Mario or Gordie.
NOTABLES: Chris (19), Nick (16), Alex (15), Drew (14), Jake (10), Justin (9), Tyler, Brandon, Kyle (8)
OF DISTINCTION: Players using their initials is a modern trend. Among them: P.K. (Pernell Karl) Subban, P.A. (Pierre-Alexandre) Parenteau, J.T. (Jonathan Tanner) Miller and (Joshua Thomas) Brown, T.J. (Timothy Leif) Oshie and (Terrance James) Brennan.
FOREIGN ACCENTS: Nikita (4), Dmitry (3), Henrik (3)
TOP FIVE: Dave (30), Bob (28), Mike (24), Rich/Rick (23), Mark (20)
OH, BABY (Top five most popular names): Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Daniel (U.S.)
PLUS/MINUS: Dave (+28), Mike (+24), Rich/Rick (+23) and Mark (+19) replaced Bill, Jim, Jack, and the Dick-Larry-Ed-Don-Paul tie in the top five from 1954-55. Nicknames dwindled to three: Tiger (Williams), Butch (Goring), Rocky (Trottier). Two players went by their initials: J.J. (Jean-Jacques) Daigneault and J.F. (Jean-François) Sauvé.
NOTABLES: Five Gordies/Gords (Lane, Donnelly, Dineen, Roberts, Sherven),four Waynes(Gretzky,Babych, Groulx, Presley) and four Marios (Lemieux, Marois, Tremblay, Gosselin) graced the NHL but no Sid. There was, however, two Moes (Mantha, Lemay) and six Larrys (Melnyk, Murphy, Patey, Playfair, Robinson, Trader) but, alas, no Curly or Shemp. (Robbie Schremp did not come along until 2006-07, but a Three Stooges line of a Moe, Larry and Schremp would certainly qualify as one for the ages.) Doubles were surprisingly common: two Steve Smiths, two Greg Adams, two Ron Wilsons and two Dave Jensens.
OF DISTINCTION: Gates Orlando, Cleon Daskalakis, Nevin Markwart, Corrado Micalef, Hakan Loob and Peter Loob were among the most memorable names.
FOREIGN ACCENTS: Claude (4), Pierre (3), Anders (3), Mats (3), Michel (3)
TOP FIVE: Bill (7), Bob (6), Jim (6), Jack (5), Dick, Larry, Ed, Don, Paul (4 each)
PLUS/MINUS: Bob (+4), Jim (+4), Jack (+4), Dick (+4), Larry (+4), Ed (+2), Don (+4) and Paul (+4) replaced Frank, John, George, Reginald, Charlie and Alex in the top five from 1924-25.
NOTABLES: There were three Gord/Gordies (Howe, Hannigan, Hollingsworth) and one Sid (Smith) but no Wayne or Mario, and no players going by initials. Nicknames abounded: Gump (Worsley), Dutch (Reibel), Red (Kelly, Sullivan), Boom Boom (Geoffrion), Bud (MacPherson), Skip (Teal), Butch (Bouchard), and Fern (Flaman).
OF DISTINCTION: Maurice Richard, Metro Prystai, Aldo Guidolin, Orval Tessier, Fleming MacKell, Parker McDonald, Calum MacKay
FOREIGN ACCENTS: Jean/Jean-Paul/Jean-Guy (3), Marcel (2)
TOP FIVE: Billy (4), Frank (4), John, George, Reginald, Charlie, Alex (3)
PLUS/MINUS: Long gone names from this era that you just don't see anymore include Cyril, Ganton, Lionel, Edmond and Lloyd.
NOTABLES: No Gordie, Wayne, Mario or Sid, but classic nicknames included Odie (Cleghorn), Smokey (Thomas, Harris), Punch (Broadbent), King (Clancy), Goldie (Prodger), Hap (Day), Hooley (Smith), Babe (Dye), Red (Green) and Shorty (Green).
OF DISTINCTION: Sprague Cleghorn, Alf Skinner, Emory Sparrow, Fern Headley, Dunc Munro
FOREIGN ACCENTS: Georges (2), Aurele, Rene, Sylvio
Top 30 Hockey Names of All Time