From the very first organized indoor game in 1875 to the founding of the National Hockey League in 1917, ice hockey has exploded in popularity worldwide. Although especially loved in Canada (where hockey is to Canadian kids as baseball is to Americans), hockey can be found in places you wouldn’t expect — for instance, Arizona has a strong youth, adult, and professional hockey tradition, despite not being a place where one could ever reasonably play the sport outdoors.
Not just popular from a participant standpoint, the NHL is also the world’s fourth largest live spectator sport in terms of overall attendance, with over 20 million people going to games in the 2010-11 season — an average of over 17,000 per game. With its fast-paced, hard-hitting action and breathtakingly skillful play, it’s no wonder hockey keeps growing in popularity every year.
Ice ice baby (names)
Got a little one on the way? Love hockey? Want to give them a memorable name? No problem. From the tame to the obscure, there’s a hockey name for every fan. Note: Yeah, these are going to pretty much be limited to boy names, unless you’re a big fan of International Ice Hockey Hall of famer and NWHL player Cammi Granato.
No discussion of hockey names can possibly be complete without The Great One, so let’s just start with Wayne Gretzky right off the bat. If you’re a fan of ’80s and ’90s NHL stars and you don’t want unsuspecting heathens to think your son was named after the titular character from Wayne’s World, you can go with Mario Lemieux. If you’re a bit more adventurous, see Mario’s former linemate Jaromir Jagr — and my favorite player of all time, Theoren Fleury (or Theo for short… and at 5’6″, for a hockey player, he was indeed that).
If you’d prefer something more classic, you could consider Mr Hockey Gordie Howe, Montreal legend Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, pioneering goaltender Jacques Plante, or the Canadiens’ all-time leading scorer, Guy Lafleur.
The just plain fun
Let’s face it: Hockey, being the international sport that it is, attracts players with all sorts of… interesting names. So if you’re really looking to be unique with your future skaters’ name, there’s certainly no lack of choice.
For instance, you could look at former NHL standout Zigmund “Ziggy” Palffy, Nashville right winger Jordin Tootoo, and Ottawa’s first pick in the 1994 entry draft, Radek Bonk. Also making the list are ’80s Calgary forward Hakan Loob, the NHL’s career leader in penalty minutes Tiger Williams, and former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski.
Let’s go, Coyotes
No list of mine could be complete without shout-outs for some of the guys on my local team, the Phoenix Coyotes — namely Raffi Torres, Shane Doan (pictured at top) and BoydGordon (all of whom were born in Canada) — as well as Radim Vrbata, Rostislav Klesla and Michal Rozsival (who all hail from the Czech Republic).
Players, of course, are not the only source of great names. For instance, don’t forget legendary Toronto coach Punch Imlach, as well as Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff (yes, he had a long and productive career as a player as well).
Finally, no discussion of awesome hockey names can possibly be complete without longtime Buffalo winger Miroslav Satan. (Relax: his last name is pronounced “Shuh-tan.” That wouldn’t stop me from naming a son Miroslav Satan Warycka — though my wife probably would.)
Of course, I can’t possibly list all of the good ones here, so you can pop on over to the Hockey Hall of Fame and browse through the list of inducted players and builders. Do a little research, and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect name for your future NHL All-Star!