Other monikers come about because of something a player does on the ice.
Hall of Famer Max Bentley was known as the “Dipsy Doodle Dandy from Delisle” because of his silky-smooth style of evading opponents. Steve Yzerman thought Johan Franzen looked like “a mule” whizzing around the ice as a rookie back in 2005. The nickname stuck. Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette is “BizNasty.”
And some nicknames just happen.
Boston forward Brad Marchand is now called the “Little Ball of Hate,” thanks to President Barack Obama. But the nickname originally belonged to Pat Verbeek of the New York Rangers. He got it because teammate Glenn Healy had already dubbed Ray Ferraro the “Big Ball of Hate.”
“It’s just a bunch of guys probably acting a little bit younger than they should and goofing around,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, known as “Tazer” or “Captain Serious.”
But it’s also a nod to hockey’s roots, a reminder that no matter how big the NHL becomes, it’s not that far removed from its quaint history of small towns and backyard ponds.
“It goes back to the fact that hockey, more than baseball, for example, was a Canadian frontier game … and the large majority of players came from small areas,” said Stan Fischler, the MSG hockey analyst and leading NHL historian.
“(The NHL) is a multibillion-dollar industry. But at the same time, it does have a folksy, family feel about it,” Fischler said.
Indeed, not only does everyone have a nickname, but everyone uses them, too.
Imagine LeBron James’ teammates calling him “Jamesy” or “Headband.” Or Gregg Popovich referring to Tim Duncan as “Duncs.”
It would never happen.
Yet Chicago coach Joel Quenneville routinely refers to his players by their nicknames, and sometimes is the one who comes up with them. The next Blackhawk to call Kane Patrick will be the first.
“That’s part of the beauty part of hockey,” Fischler said. “Apart from the intensity on the ice, it’s a very friendly sport.”
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.