NHL name game: Four generations of monikers from P.K. back to Odie

Tuesday July 21st, 2015

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)

Mike Green, John Tavares, Marc Staal, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf

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. 

Ryan Miller, Ryan Callahan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Suter

NOTABLES: Chris (19), Nick (16), Alex (15), Drew (14), Jake (10), Justin (9), Tyler, Brandon, Kyle (8)

Chris Kreider, Alex Ovechkin, Drew Doughty, Jake Allen, Tyler Seguin

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.

P.K. Subban, P.A. Parenteau, J.T. Miller, J.T. Brown, T.J. Oshie

FOREIGN ACCENTS: Nikita (4), Dmitry (3), Henrik (3)

Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov, Nikita Nikitin, Nikita Zadorov, Henrik Lundqvist


TOP FIVE: Dave (30), Bob (28), Mike (24), Rich/Rick (23), Mark (20)

Dave Taylor, Bob Gainey, Mike Bossy, Rich Sutter, Mark Messier

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. 

Tiger Williams, Butch Goring, Rocky Trottier, J.J. Daigneault, J.F. Sauve

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.

Gord Lane, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Moe Mantha, Larry Murphy

OF DISTINCTION: Gates Orlando, Cleon Daskalakis, Nevin Markwart, Corrado Micalef, Hakan Loob and Peter Loob were among the most memorable names.

Gates Orlando, Cleon Daskalakis, Nevin Markwart, Corrado Micalef, Hakan Loob

FOREIGN ACCENTS: Claude (4), Pierre (3), Anders (3), Mats (3), Michel (3)

Claude Lemieux, Pierre Larouche, Anders Kallur, Mats Naslund, Michel Goulet


TOP FIVE: Bill (7), Bob (6), Jim (6), Jack (5), Dick, Larry, Ed, Don, Paul (4 each)

Bill Quackenbush, Bob Armstrong, Jim Morrison, Jack McIntyre, Dickie Moore

OH, BABY (Top five most popular names): Michael, David, James, Robert, John (U.S.) 

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.

Dick Duff, Larry Popein, Don Marshall, Ed Litzenberger, Edgar Laprade

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). 

Gordie Howe, Gump Worsley, Dutch Reibel, Red Kelly, Butch Bouchard

OF DISTINCTION: Maurice Richard, Metro Prystai, Aldo Guidolin, Orval Tessier, Fleming MacKell, Parker McDonald, Calum MacKay

Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Metro Prystai, Aldo Guidolin, Orval Tessier, Flem MacKell

FOREIGN ACCENTS: Jean/Jean-Paul/Jean-Guy (3), Marcel (2)

Jean Beliveau, Jean-Guy Talbot, Jacques Plante, Dollard St. Laurent, Marcel Pronovost


TOP FIVE: Billy (4), Frank (4), John, George, Reginald, Charlie, Alex (3)

Billy Boucher, Francis Cain, Frank Finnigan, Reg Noble, Charlie Langlois

OH, BABY (Top five most popular names): Robert, John, William, James, Charles (U.S.) 

PLUS/MINUS: Long gone names from this era that you just don't see anymore include Cyril, Ganton, Lionel, Edmond and Lloyd.

Cyril "Cy" Denneny, Ganton Scott, Lionel Hitchman, Edmond Bouchard, Lloyd Cook

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).

Odie Cleghorn, Punch Broadbent, King Clancy, Hap Day, Babe Dye

OF DISTINCTION: Sprague CleghornAlf Skinner, Emory Sparrow, Fern Headley, Dunc Munro

Sprague Cleghorn, Alf Skinner, Emory "Spunk" Sparrow, Fern Headley, Dunc Munro

FOREIGN ACCENTS: Georges (2), Aurele, Rene, Sylvio

Georges Vezina, Georges Boucher, Aurele Joliat, Rene Joliat, Sylvio Mantha

Top 30 Hockey Names of All Time

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