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.