I’ve promised myself that I would continue posting one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most since I started this blog, which is the “list” posts. So starting this week I’m going to publish a series of posts listing the ten best nicknames in each of the four major sports, beginning with hockey since the Stanley Cup Finals are now underway. It was harder than I thought to whittle the list down to just ten, but here’s my list, in no particular order:
1. Gordie Howe “Mr. Hockey” – let’s face it, when you play a professional sport until age 51, in five different decades, you deserve to have a nickname that starts with Mister and ends with your sport. Howe is generally regarded as one of the NHL’s best ever, and was the idol of other greats who played after him, most notably Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, who is next on this list.
2. Wayne Gretzky “The Great One” – Gretzky is without a doubt the most dominating player in NHL history, and is really the guy most deserving of the “Mr. Hockey” moniker, but he always demurred to his idol, Howe, and was as humble as he was great.
3. Bobby Hull “The Golden Jet” – with his speed and blonde locks, he had the perfect nickname. He was also known for having one of the game’s hardest slapshots. His son Brett also had a highly successful NHL career and became known, naturally, as “The Golden Brett”.
4. The 1970s Philadelphia Flyers – I cheated with this one a bit. The team itself had a nickname – “The Broad Street Bullies”, that will surely appear on a future list post I do of team nicknames. However, they also deserve recognition on this list of individual nicknames, as their roster included gems like Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Bob “Hound Dog” Kelly, Andre “Moose” Dupont and Don “Big Bird” Saleski.
5. Dominik Hasek “The Dominator” – his career blossomed when he arrived in Buffalo and eventually took over the starting goaltending job from Grant Fuhr, and he led a sparsely talented Sabre team deep into the playoffs numerous times with his stellar play. He was rewarded years later when he went to Detroit and helped the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup.
6. Nikolai Khabibulin “The Bulin Wall” – the Russian goalie has had a solid NHL career, and became the first Russian netminder to win a Stanley Cup when he backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning to a title in 2004.
7. Maurice “The Rocket” Richard – one of the most famous players on probably the most legendary NHL team, Richard was the first player to score 50 goals in a single season, and the first player in league history to reach 500 career goals. His younger (and shorter) brother Henri also played for Les Habitants, and was known as “The Pocket Rocket”.
8. Yvan Cournoyer “The Roadrunner” – he played for the Canadiens from 1963 until 1979, an era when the franchise dominated the league with speed and skill, and were known collectively as “The Flying Frenchmen”. They won 10 Stanley Cups during Cournoyer’s career, and his nickname obviously labeled him as one of the team’s fastest skaters.
9. Curtis Joseph “Cujo” – his nickname was derived from the first two letters of his first and last names, but he embraced the comparison with the snarling, rabid dog from the Stephen King movie by wearing a mask painted with the movie character canine on it.
10. Jerry “King Kong” Korab -a big, intimidating defenseman, he earned his nickname by gaining a reputation as one of the league’s toughest fighters during his career. It helped that he looked like a big gorilla.