Ice-Monikers: the Top 5 Nicknames in NHL History

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In a sport where many of the player’s actual names are impossible to say, an extensive list of nicknames is to be expected. After all, if you can’t pronounce Yarislov, why not just call him Slovvy Joe? It just makes sense. It’s lazy, and doesn’t require educating ourselves. In short, it’s the American way. And in its long history, the NHL has churned out more than just names with a bunch of syllables. It has also churned out some truly great nicknames, and here are the best of the best.

5 Wayne Gretzky – “The Great One”

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Wayne Gretzky was so good at hockey they couldn’t even come up with something clever to call him. It was only after the millionth person looked at him on the ice and said “Damn, this dude is great,” that everyone just gave up trying to be clever and stuck with calling him “The Great One.” What the name lacks in imagination though, it makes up for in the fact that it makes him sound like some kind of hockey deity, which he is. In fact, rumor has it that to this day many Canadian fathers still make their sons sleep with their skates on and have them pray for the favor of the Great One each night before bed.

4 Curtis Joseph – “Cujo”

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Over the course of his twenty-year NHL career, Curtis Joseph was charged with stopping pucks for six different teams and became the first goalie in NHL history to win a playoff game in five different uniforms. However, we’re not here to praise his goalkeeping prowess or his remarkable consistency over a long career, we’re here to tell you he had a sweet nickname: “Cujo.” Sure, it’s only the first syllables of both his first and last names mashed together, and usually that makes for a lame nickname, but in this case those syllables happen to form the name of a horror movie St. Bernard that contracts rabies and proceeds to terrorize an entire town. So yeah, Cujo’s okay by us.

3 Clark Gillies – “Jethro”

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Once in a great while, a nickname is so perfect, so without flaw, that it fits its owner like a velvet glove. This is one of those times. And the velvet glove is known only as “Jethro.” One look at this guy and you just get it. Named for his resemblance to the moronic cousin on TV’s “Beverly Hillbillies,” Clark Gillies and his beard helped lead the New York Islanders to four straight Stanley Cup Championships in the 1980s, a feat that few NHL players have ever accomplished. He also once posed for Penthouse Magazine alongside three of his teammates, a feat that even fewer NHL players can lay claim to. So say what you will about his goofy nickname, whether it was on the ice or in the pages of “Jethro” always got the job done.

2 Pavel Bure – “The Russian Rocket”

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Since the Cold War was comfortably over by the time Pavel Bure rose to NHL prominence, there was nothing uncomfortable or ominous about giving him a killer nickname like the “Russian Rocket.” Given the moniker for his blinding speed, Bure could move faster and more nimbly on ice skates than Mark Wahlberg could in a Mini Cooper. His stellar stick-handling and blinding speed made him an absolute terror for opposing goalies, and his off-ice moves struck fear in the hearts of any Russian man trying to hold onto his girlfriend (Bure once dated Anna Kournikova and is now married to a model fifteen years his junior).

1 Mario Lemieux – “Super Mario”

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Is he a fleet-skating, smooth shooting, Hall of Fame NHL center, or is he a valiant but overweight plumber who chomps on mushrooms and fights dragon-turtles in the name of love? Either way, everyone loves “Super Mario.” Playing at the exact time the video game legend rose to fame, Mario Lemieux’s skills in every facet of the game led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup and rightfully earned him this kickass 8-bit nickname. On the ice, there was nothing Lemieux couldn’t do, and if we’re being honest, if he were tasked with storming Bowser’s castle to save Princess Peach, he’d probably kick butt at that, too.

And those, ladies and gents, are the greatest nicknames in professional hockey history. If we left any out, you’re welcome to make your own list, but know that we are well aware that we left Guy “The Flower” LaFleur off the list. Because any way you cut it, no matter how amazing you were at hockey, “The Flower” is still the worst nickname in the history of sports.

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