The NHL's most common and unusual player names from today’s Ryans and Tylers back to the days of Odie and Sprague.
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.