The 10 Best Hockey Team Nicknames of All Time

21 May

There’s a tradition in the National Hockey League of placing nicknames on both memorable teams and historic three-man lines, and this list includes both. The Montreal Canadiens, being the most storied and successful franchise in the league, have two entries on the list. Here are my 10 favorite hockey team and tandem nicknames:



  1. Flying Frenchmen – this nickname has been affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens dating back as far as 1917, but the “Flying Frenchmen” I remember are the 1970s Canadiens, featuring players like Guy LaFleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Rejean Houle,  Jacques Lemaire and Serge Savard. The ultimate “Flying Frenchman” on this club was LaFleur, and the Canadiens won 5 Stanley Cups during his career.




2. Broad Street Bullies – this would be the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups using a rugged style of play that was big on intimidation and short on style. They were regularly the most penalized team in the NHL, and most of those penalty minutes were fighting majors or roughing minors, featuring players like Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Andre “Moose” Dupont, Don “Big Bird” Saleske, Ed Van Impe and captain Bobby Clarke, the ultimate instigator.




3. The French Connection – right around the time that the movie “The French Connection”, starring Gene Hackman, was hitting the theaters, Buffalo Sabres’ GM Punch Imlach assembled a line of three French-Canadians. Centered by Gilbert Perreault with Rene Robert and Richard Martin on the wings, the trio was tagged with the French Connection nickname and became one of the most prolific lines in NHL history.




4. MPH Line – if you were to try to name a top line of the 1960s and ’70s Chicago Black Hawks that was named after the players’ last initials, you’d probably guess that the “M” was for Stan Mikita and the “H” for Bobby Hull, but you would be wrong. The players who made up this famous line were Pit Martin, Jim Pappin and Bobby’s brother, Dennis Hull.




5. Triple Crown Line – this line got their nickname because of the team they played for – the Los Angeles Kings, whose uniforms featured a crown logo. Consisting of Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer and Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, they were a prolific scoring line that was the first line in NHL history to have all 3 members score 100+ points in a single season.




6. Big Bad Bruins – this nickname is used on the Boston Bruins’ franchise to this day, for their rugged style of play, but was really earned in the 1970s when the team had players like Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, Carol Vadnais, John Wensink and Mike Milbury, and even carried some of their battles into the stands with opposing fans (see picture above).




7. Les Habitants – this nickname for the Montreal Canadiens is a favorite of their French Canadian fans in Quebec. Like the New York Yankees in baseball and Boston Celtics in basketball, the Canadiens are the standard for their sport that all other clubs hope to be. They are one of the oldest North American sports franchises, and have won a total of 24 Stanley Cup championships.




8. Broadway Blueshirts – this is a long-time nickname New York fans have for their Rangers, an original six franchise that played in the 1920s at the old Madison Square Garden, which was just blocks away from Times Square and the Broadway scene. They were a huge fan favorite in that Roaring Twenty era, having won the Stanley Cup in their second year of existence.




9. Desert Dogs – when the old Winnipeg Jets’ franchise made the unlikely move to the desert to become the Phoenix, and later Arizona Coyotes, they were tagged with this nickname. Coyotes have long been known as “desert dogs”, so the nickname fit the new hockey club when it changed locations in 1996.




10. The Production Line – this line, consisting of hockey legends Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings, was named after their home city’s long-standing automotive industry connection. They are considered one of the greatest lines in hockey history, with all three members having been elected to the sport’s Hall of Fame.


Classic Team Logo of The Day

21 May


Logo of a minor league hockey team that existed from 1996 until 2001, the Manitoba Moose. They played in the International Hockey League and moved from Minnesota to Manitoba to fill the void after the original Winnipeg Jets’ NHL franchise moved to Arizona. They were an independent club during their IHL existence and not affiliated with an NHL franchise. There is a current reincarnation of the Moose that plays in the American Hockey League that is affiliated with the new Winnipeg Jet team.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

21 May


1979 Opeechee hockey card of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, who played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League with three different franchises, most notably the Los Angeles Kings. In L.A., he was a member of the “Triple Crown” line along with Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer. Dionne, nicknamed “Little Beaver”, was the third player in NHL history to reach the 700 goal plateau for his career. He was a two-time winner of both the Lester B. Pearson Award as the outstanding regular season player and the Lady Bing Trophy for sportsmanship, and won election to the Hall of Fame in 1992.


The 10 Best Basketball Team Nicknames of All Time

09 May

In the past I’ve done “list” posts of what I consider the best player nicknames in all four major sports. Now, after careful consideration and painstaking research (thank you Wikipedia and Google), I will publish my lists of the best team or tandem nicknames in those four sports, starting with basketball. Of all the major sports, there aren’t very many memorable team nicknames to choose from, so I had to consider not only pro teams but also clubs from the college and even Olympic ranks. Here’s the list of the 10 best basketball team or tandem nicknames:



1. Showtime (1980s Los Angeles Lakers) – the 1980s Lakers, led by coach Pat Riley, were the dominant club of the decade who earned the nickname with their flashy, upbeat style of play. Their roster included some of the league’s All-time great players like Kareem Abul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes, and won a total of five NBA championships in the decade.




2. The Bad Boys (1990 Detroit Pistons) – coached by Chuck Daly, the Pistons won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 with a rough-and-tumble style of play that featured tenacious defense and rugged physical play that rankled opponents and earned them their moniker. Players like Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and especially Dennis Rodman were among the most hated by their peers in the league at the time. The team wasn’t just a goon squad, however, as players like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley added enough offense to turn the club into a champion.




3. Boston Three Party (Boston Celtics) – one of the NBA’s most storied franchises hit a low point in 2007 following the death of their long time patriarch, Red Auerbach, but the team’s GM at the time, Danny Ainge, made bold moves to acquire two superstars, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to go with the team’s star of the era, Paul Pierce, forming a potent threesome that would be dubbed with this nickname and that coach Doc Rivers would mold into a championship club in 2008.




4. Texas Twin Towers (Houston Rockets’ Centers) – this nickname was more recently used for San Antonio’s big man duo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but the original “Twin Towers” are former Houston Rockets Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajowan. They were a pair of seven footers who patrolled the front line for the Rockets in the 1980s. They reached the NBA finals once but lost to the Boston Celtics. They never won a title as a tandem, but Olajuwan led the Rockets to 2 in the 1990s.




5. Dream Team (U.S. Olympic Team) – this club was put together to represent the United States in the Olympic Games in 1992, the first year NBA players were declared eligible to compete in the games. The media dubbed them the “Dream Team” and they truly were, with a stocked roster that included stars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. Coached by Chuck Daly, the U.S. contingent easily won the gold medal.




6. Fab Five (Michigan NCAA Champs) – we dug into the college ranks for this team nickname, but this group, the University of Michigan hoops team of the early 1990s, earned their nickname. “The Fab Five” were a team of five freshmen – Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, who all started and reached the Final Four two years in a row.




7. Phi Slama Jama (University of Houston 83-84) – another college team, this team, the University of Houston Cougars, got their name for the style of play they exhibited, an exciting fast break game that featured breath-taking dunks. Two of their players, Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler, went on to have stellar NBA careers. This club is credited with popularizing the “above the rim” style of play that is commonplace in both college and pro ball today.




8.  Run TMC (Golden State Warriors 1990s) – this nickname was a play on the rap group Run DMC, with TMC representing the first names of a trio of sharpshooters who played for the Golden State Warriors – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. They played together for two seasons, and under coach Don Nelson, featured a fast-paced, run-and-gun style.


Jordan, Pippen, Rodman


9. Superman, Batman and Rodman – this unit came to be when Dennis Rodman, formerly a hated rival with the Detroit Pistons, joined ranks with Michael Jordan(Superman) and Scottie Pippen(Batman) to form an almost unbeatable threesome for the 1990s Chicago Bulls. In fact, after Rodman was acquired, the Bulls won an amazing 72 games, against only 10 losses, on their way to winning the 1995-96 NBA title, their fourth championship in a six year period.




10. The Heatles (Miami Heat) – following an NBA trend of building a roster made up of a “Big Three” (see Boston Three Party above), Miami Heat GM Pat Riley went out and signed a pair of superstars – LeBron James and Chris Bosh – to join his own star, Dwyane Wade, and the group eventually was dubbed The Heatles, after winning a pair of NBA championships.



Classic Team Logo of The Day

09 May


Logo of a team that plays in the NBA Developmental League, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who came into existence in 2006, and who won their first D-League championship in 2014. Developmental teams in the NBA’s league usually have multiple affiliations, and over the years the Mad Ants have had ties with 13 different NBA teams. The team’s nickname is a salute to the city’s and fort’s namesake, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

09 May


1987 Fleer basketball card of former NBA player Michael Cooper, who played his entire 12 year career in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers. Known for his tenacious defense, he was a key player on the Lakers’ “Showtime” championship teams of the 1980s, helping the franchise win 5 titles. A 6’5 “swingman”, who could play both guard and forward, Cooper also had a knack for adding a touch of offense, especially when his team needed it most. After retiring as a player, he went into coaching, serving as an assistant in the NBA but having tremendous success as a head coach in the WNBA, where is currently coach of the Atlanta Dream. His WNBA coaching resume includes 2 championships while guiding the Los Angeles Sparks.


Buffalo Bills’ 2015 Draft Picks

03 May

There was a lack of fanfare for the Buffalo Bills in this year’s annual NFL draft, as the team had no first round choice. Since I completed a four-part season review of the team after the 2014 season ended, the team has made a lot of big splashes, starting with the hiring of their bombastic new coach, Rex Ryan. General manager Doug Whaley engineered a big trade in which the team acquired one of the league’s top backs, LeSean McCoy, for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Bad boy offensive lineman Richie Incognito was signed to strengthen the offensive line, while the receiving corps was upgraded with the free agent signings of versatile speedster Percy Harvin and tight end Charles Clay. With Ryan planning to use a run-first offensive attack as he tries to figure out who the quarterback will be, fullback Jerome Felton, who blocked for Adrian Peterson’s recent 2,000 yard season, was also brought into the fold. Competition for EJ Manuel at QB will now include veteran Matt Cassel, acquired through a trade with the Vikings, and another free agent signee, Tyrod Taylor, who backed up Joe Flacco with the Ravens for the last 4 years. The Bills also had no fourth round pick this year, so in all they added only six new players to the team. All six should have a good shot at sticking to the final roster. Here’s what the Bills added to the mix in the three day draft:



2. Ronald Darby (DB – Florida State) – with eight cornerbacks already on the roster, this position was a bit of a surprise as the team’s first choice in the draft. Darby is a talented prospect, however. His college numbers are paltry, with very few interceptions, but the Bills’ scouts say that’s because he wasn’t tested much due to his outstanding coverage ability. He has a reputation for not being physical in the run game, so that’s a concern. His greatest asset is his world-class speed, which helps him in coverage.



3. John Miller (G – Louisville) – he’s a good offensive line prospect who lasted until round 3 due to his lack of size, as if being 6’2 and 303 pounds isn’t big enough. He has great upper body strength and his pass blocking skills are said to be better than his run blocking, which is the opposite of most rookies coming into the NFL. Miller should have a good chance of cracking the starting lineup with the Bills, since guard was a weakness in 2014.






5. Karlos Williams (RB – Florida State) – this pick is a bit of a head-scratcher for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being that the team is already loaded with talented backs. It’s hard to see where he fits in, unless he spends a year on the practice squad as a future replacement for Fred Jackson, who is the oldest runner in the NFL. Williams also has considerable off-the-field baggage, including a domestic battery case. On the field, he’s supposed to have a high ceiling for improvement, since he has only played the running back position for 2 years after switching over from safety.



6A.  Tony Steward (LB – Clemson) – with Kiko Alonso being traded and Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers gone, linebacker is a position of need for the Bills, so Steward has a realistic shot at making the team. He was a higher-rated prospect coming out of high school than former Clemson teammate and current Bill Sammy Watkins, but a pair of ACL surgeries, one on each knee, hampered his play in college. If he stays healthy, he could be a sixth round steal.



6B. Nick O’Leary (TE – Florida State) – the Bills had a limited number of picks this year, and amazingly grabbed three players from Florida State with those picks. O’Leary was considered a good fit for the Bills before the draft since offensive coordinator Greg Roman likes to employ multiple tight ends in his scheme. An old school player who catches with his bare hands rather than use receiving gloves, he dropped in the draft because of his poor showing at the combine and his supposed lack of athleticism. Still, he played well enough for the Seminoles to win the John Mackey Award as college football’s top tight end.



7. Dezmin Lewis (WR – Central Arkansas) – seventh round draftees are usually long shots to make NFL rosters, but Buffalo picked up a starter in Seantrel Henderson last year, and Lewis is an intriguing prospect also. He did what scouts look for from small college players, which was to dominate their competition. He also has good hands and brings a dimension to the team that is lacking among the receiving corps. At 6’4 he uses his length to catch balls over shorter defenders. Hopefully he gets some pre-season opportunities to show what he can do as a red zone target.

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Classic Team Logo of The Day

03 May


Logo of a college football team that plays in the Big Sky Conference, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The school fielded its’ first football team in 1931. They have played for the Division 1-AA national championship five times, winning once, in 2003. Lumberjack alumni who have played in the NFL include Michael Haynes, Mike Mercer, Rusty Tillman, Frank Pollack and Al Clark.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

03 May


1959 Topps football card of former NFL offensive lineman Jim Ray Smith, who had a solid nine year career in the league that included five Pro Bowl selections. Smith began his playing days with the Cleveland Browns in 1956 and played 7 seasons for them, then finished his career with a two year stint as a Dallas Cowboy. This card is another  “error” card, which I like to feature on this blog. The team logo shown on the top left of the card is that of the Detroit Lions, and of course Smith never played for that franchise.


Reviewing The Buffalo Sabres’ 2014-15 Season

19 Apr

For the second consecutive year, the Buffalo Sabres finished at the very bottom of the National Hockey League standings, and for the second straight year they also lost out on the top pick in the NHL’s entry draft due to the league’s “lottery” system. Even without the top pick, Buffalo should be able to grab another good prospect with the second overall choice, most likely Boston University standout Jack Eichel, to go with last year’s top choice, Sam Reinhart. One big disappointment of the 2014-15 season, besides the losses and supposed “tank” job to secure a top draft pick, was coach Ted Nolan being made a sacrificial lamb for all the losing. Here is a season review of what was a dismal year for Buffalo hockey fans:

Front Office / Coaching

Now that the dust has cleared from 2013’s front office fiasco involving Pat Lafontaine’s abrupt departure, it’s clear who is running the Sabres’ hockey operations – general manager Tim Murray. It was probably unfair of Murray to jettison Nolan after completely dismantling the team’s roster as the season went on, as Nolan was put into an almost impossible situation. That being said, Murray, by making the move, is being consistent with how he has made decisions so far, meaning that sentiment is not part of his criteria. Murray, at his post-season press conference, intimated that he and Nolan didn’t communicate much, and that he wanted a better “fit”. He also said that, to a man, the players praised Nolan as a “good man”, yet there wasn’t much of an uprising among those players when Nolan was fired. Whoever Murray brings in to coach the team is going to have to be a guy whose strength is developing young players into winners, since that is clearly the Sabres’ blueprint moving forward. There is general consensus among hockey experts that Buffalo’s prospect pipeline is the strongest of all teams in the league, with more to come in this year’s draft. Of course, Buffalo, over the years, always seems to have all kinds of stars-in-waiting in their minor league system, yet those players either totally fall off the map, or never develop into much more than “average” players at the NHL level.


Anders Lindback

Anders Lindback

Consider what Nolan had to go through as far as goaltending was concerned in his two seasons. Since 2013, Murray traded Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halak (now starting for the Islanders in the playoffs), Jhonas Enroth and  Michael Neuvirth. He has been forced to play Enroth, Nathan Lieuwen, Connor Knapp, Neuvirth, Andrey Makarov, Matt Hackett and Anders Lindback. Chad Johnson, acquired from the Islanders, would have probably played also but wound up getting hurt. One of the amazing things about this season was that whatever goalie the Sabres threw into the net, eventually they looked great. Lindback, a throw-in in the big trade Murray made to acquire Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian from Winnipeg, wound up finishing the year as the starting netminder and is most likely the favorite to win the job next year unless one of their prospects steps up and claims the job. I think it’s telling that when Nolan was fired, his staff also was let go, with the exception of goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, who apparently worked magic with whatever goalie he was told to coach that week. Despite finishing the year strongly, Lindback has always been considered a journeyman, so it’s likely that even if he starts 2015 as the starter, Buffalo’s long term answer at the position is far from settled.



Brian Gionta

When you’re the last place team in the entire league for two consecutive seasons and one of the lowest-scoring teams in NHL history, there is no player among the forward ranks whose job is safe. So who will still be on the roster next year from this group, and what will the lines look like, especially with a new coaching staff? Good candidates to remain are team captain Brian Gionta, who started the season slowly but finished strong and did a terrific job, as captain, of holding the locker room together in a putrid situation (GM ripping apart the roster, fans purposely rooting for the opponents to get a higher draft pick, etc.), Tyler Ennis, one player who shows some real offensive skills, Marcus Foligno, who has underachieved so far but looks to be finally developing, Nic Deslauriers, a banger who was the only Sabre to play all 82 games this season, and Zemgus Girgensons, a budding star. Johann Larson brought his “A” game late in the year and should have earned a long look from the next coaching staff, and Mikhail Grigorenko is way too young and has far too much potential to give up on yet. The newly-acquired Evander Kane and top prospect Reinhart are likely to play key roles also. Matt Moulson is an alternate captain and has a multi-year contract, but he needs to provide a little more scoring to secure a top-line role, in my opinion. Phil Varone, up and down from Rochester during the season, showed enough to get a look. How much room there is on the team for heart-and-soul guys like Pat Kaleta, Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick remains to be seen. Anybody not mentioned (Cody Hodgson) was not included for good reason – they’re not seen here since they were invisible for all or most of a lost season.



Rasmus Ristolainen

This group figures to be a strength of the team in upcoming years. Murray gave up a lot to acquire Kane and Bogosian, but a straight up comparison of Bogosian to Tyler Myers, who was shipped to Winnipeg in the deal, is an upgrade for Buffalo. Bogosian immediately stepped in as a pillar on the blue line, as opposed to the yearly waiting for Myers to grow from a boy to a man. Rasmus Ristolainen is an emerging star, and another youngster, Nikita Zadorov, could be even better when he matures some. Mike Weber, voted by his teammates as their unsung hero, is a solid defensive defenseman, and alternate captain Josh Gorges is a good player and locker room leader. Tyson Strachan, Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros are older, stop-gap players who could be unseated next year by younger, better options currently in Rochester, like Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Pysyk  and Jake McCabe.

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