I admit I have a penchant for thinking a lot (too much, maybe) about hockey’s old days. But hey, at my time in life, I guess that’s OK.
The past couple of days I’ve been thinking about modern-era hockey nicknames, and where the Maple Leafs, and other NHL teams, fit in that picture. Other than shortening a guy’s name, I’m not sure how many of the current Leafs have much in the way of a nicknames that stands out as interesting or distinctive.
Of the guys who have been around at least a bit—Bozak, Phaneuf, Kulemin, Beauchemin, Komisarek, etc.— I may be missing the obvious but I’m not calling to mind anything out of the ordinary.
Giguerre is Jiggy or Giggy, I guess, but again, that’s just shortening the name, like “Kabby” with Tomas Kaberle. No real ingenuity there, right?
Nowadays, with thirty teams, there may be some interesting names out there, but if there are I’m largely unaware of most of them. As are, I suspect, quite a number of those who don’t follow all thirty teams as closely as we could when there were a lot less teams.
When I was a kid growing up in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the game had way fewer players (with six and then twelve teams after 1967) and naturally, we knew them all—even before the days of 24-hour sports talk radio and the internet. Some were natural characters who earned a certain reputation, some carried a “second name” around with them from the time they were a kid. Others just picked up a nickname along the way that stuck.
Who was the man who led the Maple Leafs to those four Stanley Cups in the ‘60s? Not George Imlach—it was good old “Punch” (see photo at left). Punch became an icon in
, as he built the Leafs from the also-rans they had been in the mid-‘50s to Cup champions a few years later. Not liked by all his players, to be sure, he nonetheless helped brings championships to Toronto , just like another Leaf legend and coach, “Hap” Day, before him. Toronto
Imlach coached Johnny Bower, the “The China Wall”. George Armstrong was “The Chief”. Allan Stanley was “Snowshoes”. Bobby Baun was “Boomer”. If I’m not mistaken (old fans can help me out here!) Billy Harris was “Slinky”, or something along those lines.
of course had Maurice “Rocket” Richard, and his younger brother, Henri Richard. Henri was often simply called “The Pocket Rocket”— even during a game by broadcasters like the legendary Danny Gallivan. Montreal captain Emile Bouchard was much better known to 1950s hockey fans as “Butch”. Bernie Geoffrion (pictured at right), the rugged Hab winger who is often credited with “inventing” the slapshot, was an all-time great, only the second man in history to score 50 goals in a single season. More often than not, he was known simply as “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion. Montreal
Even into the 1970s,
And did anyone ever call
But I suppose that’s why guys like me, every once in a while, like to step back and just remember the simpler days in sports.
If an old time sports figure like, say, baseball great George Herman Ruth were here, he’d probably understand.
I mean “the Babe”.