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Death of the Nicknames

One of the minor details Bubba and I spoke about when we discussed me writing for Canes Country was my identity: Did I want to use my name, or would I rather come up with a pen name? The idea of having a nickname seemed fun, and it would surely protect me from all the scandalous things Bubba wants me to write (I kid).

I also had seen recent stories about Rich "Goose" Gossage’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Gossage has one of those nicknames that is probably more widely known than his real first name (and is also the proud owner of some of the best facial hair in sports history — still!).

It got me thinking about the great hockey nicknames of years gone by. Players like Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrian, Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Johnny "Chief" Bucyk, are all known more for their nicknames than their given names. Coaches and TV personalities got on the ledger in one shot with Don "Grapes" Cherry. And even a legendary nickname like Bobby "The Golden Jet" Hull found a second life with a younger generation — "The Golden" Brett Hull.

Hockey fans were also treated with some fantastic forward line combos: Buffalo’s Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert made up "The French Connection Line;" L.A.’s "Triple Crown Line" featured Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer and Marcel Dionne. And in the 1990s, Eric Lindros played on two Flyers’ lines that sported fun nicknames: "The Legion of Doom" with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, and "The Crazy Eights Line" with Mark Recchi and Brent Fedyk. Carolina even boasted a brief line sensation with "The BBC Line" of Rod Brind’Amour, Bates Battaglia and Erik Cole, with a primary assist to Mike Myers for his Austin Powers song that echoed through the then Entertainment & Sports Arena at play stoppages.

But in today’s media frenzy of non-stop television news, constantly updated sports Web sites and — yes — blogs, one thing that has disappeared from all of sports is the great nickname. If you peruse NHL rosters, you’re unlikely to find any nickname that truly rivals the great monikers of the past. Nicknames for prominent players like Sidney Crosby ("The Next One," "Sid The Kid") and Alexander Ovechkin ("A.O.," "Alexander The Gr8") are either too shorted-sighted or not dominant enough to move to the forefront. Too many are simply a variation of a player’s real name. J-S "Giggy" Giguere, "Jumbo" Joe Thornton, Mikka "Kipper" Kiprusoff or Paul "Goose" Gaustad are serviceable nicknames, but certainly not memorable. Even the few nicknames that have been tagged onto Carolina players, like Ray "The Wizard" Whitney and Niclas "The Secret Weapon" Wallin, are either just OK or tongue-in-cheek silly.

Yes, there are some good ones kicking around the NHL, my favorites being Johan "Moose" Hedberg, Johan "The Mule" Franzén and Nikolai "The Bulin Wall" Khabibulin. I’m sure there are a few more (and we’d love to hear your take), but it seems the days of the fun, memorable sports nickname are over.

So I guess we’re forced to live in a sports world of A-Rods, LT’s, Big Z’s and — forgive me — Man-Rams. Me? I’m going to stick with just Cory for now. But maybe I’ll give Goose a call about growing some of that dandy facial hair.