Tuesday, June 5

Nicknames essential in hockey communication
Associated Press

DENVER – If you want to be an NHL player, skill is important but a nickname is essential.

Scott Gomez
The New Jersey Devils hope Gomer, a k a Scott Gomez, can "pile" up some goals.
No matter where you turn in a dressing room, players are calling each other by names that are anything but what's sewn on their game sweater or listed in the program.

"We've been doing it since we were kids up in Canada," Colorado Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said Monday before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils.

Some names are more clever names, while others are less imaginative. Many just derive from a player's given name.

"You just add a 'y' or an 's' to the end of the guy's name," the man known as "Footey" said. "Pretty much that's what happens. My buddies do it back home still and I do it to them.

"I don't know if it's the hockey thing, or it's a Canadian thing. I couldn't tell you."

The practice seems to go beyond nationalities. It is universal hockey talk, however.

"I don't know if it's a Canadian thing, or an American thing or a European thing, but it certainly is that way," said Colorado forward Dan Hinote, a Florida native who attended West Point. "You can't get away from it in this league, that's for sure."

Sometimes the names from the NHL season aren't the same as the ones the player is used to back home. Then there's real confusion.

"It's funny when you go home in the summer," Devils forward Scott Gomez said. "I'll be somewhere and I'll hear someone keep saying 'Scott, Scott' and I won't even look around.

"Especially my last name. I've got so many nicknames, I don't even know," "Gomer" added. "It's just hockey. Everyone's got a nickname. If you don't, I don't know what's wrong with you."

Steven Reinprecht of the Avalanche agrees.

"It's kind of funny because every hockey player has to have a nickname," "Rhino" said. "Throw an 'o' on the end of the name or whatever."

It doesn't take long for the new names to develop. Some guys carry them along throughout their careers, others get new ones quickly when they change teams.

"That's the kinship on nicknames. It's wanting to make you feel like a friend," said New Jersey goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, who came to the Devils this season in a trade with the New York Islanders. "I think that's why it's prevalent in hockey, because the guys are friendly."

Colorado defenseman Rob Blake was also traded earlier this season. He, too, felt like he shed his Los Angeles Kings ties when he was able to call his new teammates by pet names.

"It maybe makes you feel more part of a team if you have a little nickname instead of just going by Raymond or something like that," Blake said, using Ray Bourque as an example. "If you have a little bit of a nickname there, it will help you fit in a little quicker."

Sometimes name changes are done out of necessity.

"I think it stems from the coaches, especially nowadays when they have to deal with so many European players," Vanbiesbrouck said. "Trying to come in and pronounce some of the names, first of all, is difficult.

"Especially mine. I know my coach in juniors couldn't wait to shorten it up to something."

Vanbiesbrouck certainly had no question what he would be called once he landed in New Jersey. Hockey people have been calling him "Beezer" for over 20 years.

"It started in junior when Terry Crisp was the coach of our team," said the 37-year-old veteran of 19 NHL seasons. "He came up with it. They just started calling me it and I was like 'I guess that means me.' "

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