Years ago, someone called my office asking for a “Walter McMuffin”. After a hearty laugh, the receptionist informed me of the malaprop and put him directly through. Sensing an opportunity, I figured what the heck, I’ll play along. Clearing my throat, I picked up and cheerfully said, “Hi, this is Walter McMuffin.” For the next five minutes, this random person I had never met (and never would) showed he actually believed my name was Walter McMuffin, referring to me as such several times in an otherwise-innocuous conversation about banking. Having told this story numerous times, there are a number of people in the world today who refer to me as “McMuffin”. Believe me, I’ve been called worse.
Hockey, as with all teams sports, has its share of nicknames. Granted, unimaginative teammates and announcers frequently add a “y” or “ie” to last names: “Jonesy came to play tonight,” and call it good. Conversely, there are some nicknames that show real flare and inventiveness. Sometimes they are quite clever, and in other instances pretty damned funny, but now and then, both clever and funny. Those are the kind that make lists such as the one you’re about to enjoy.
Thus, without further ado, we bring you the five funniest nicknames in the NHL today:
Maybe it’s just me, but the very idea of Detroit Red Wings second-line left winger Johan Franzen being nicknamed Mule is really amusing. This is a nickname you’d expect to see pinned on a 4th line enforcer, not a 30 goal, 50+ point Swedish top-six forward on one of hockey’s most storied franchises.
He’s a big boy, all right, at 6’3″, 222 pounds, and was tagged with that monicker by “Stevie Y” himself, Steve Yzerman. Yzerman saw Franzen churn his way up and down the ice en route to two goals and an assist in an opening-round 2005 playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche and said, “He’s big and strong and he reminded me of a mule that day.” Just like that, it stuck. Mule now has 164 regular season goals in 513 games, all with Detroit. Unlike his farm animal namesake, however, this Mule isn’t genetically sterile.
Players hurt themselves in all sorts of ways, but doing so while eating pancakes is certainly a new one. That’s how Anaheim Ducks left winger Dustin Penner injured his back while playing for the Los Angeles Kings during the 2011-12 season. “Apparently it’s one of those mysterious things, where you can throw it out sneezing. I just leaned over to dip into some delicious pancakes that my wife made. It’s just like it wraps around you and squeezes. So it was disappointing.”
Jose Theodore is a decorated goaltender, having won the Vezina (2001-02), Hart (2001-02), Saving Grace Award (2001-02) and Bill Masterson Trophy (2009-10), along with 286 regular season and 21 postseason games. By most accounts, he’s had a hell of a career, lasting 16 years in the NHL. He is rumored to be on the verge of signing for one more season
With all that said, he’s generally been considered a disappointment in the playoffs, sporting a career 21-30 record. Moreover, five of his nine trips to the playoffs have resulted in a goals-against mark north of 3.00. Hence, the play-on-words nickname. It’s unfortunate for him, but funny for us. Hey, I’m nicknamed after a breakfast sandwich.
The Little Ball of Hate
As hilarious as this nickname is, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand isn’t even the first to don it. The nickname was coined by New York Rangers goaltender Glenn Healy to describe Verbeek, who played alongside The Big Ball of Hate Ray Ferraro.
Marchand is focused, physical and feisty — the three f’s. That’s the type of player who tends to earn outstanding nicknames, and Marchand has had several during his career, including Squirrel, Weapon of Mass Distraction, Tomahawk, Rat, Pigeon, and Nose-Face Killah. However, given that President Barack Obama even acknowledged Marchand as “The Little Ball of Hate” during the Bruins’ trip to the White House (“What’s up with that nickname, man?”), that’s the one that finally stuck.
The Car Bomb/Gorilla Salad
As I just mentioned, annoying pests often earn the coolest nicknames, and without question, Los Angeles Kings forward Daniel Carcillo has not just one, but two of the best out there.
In an era where 300+ PIMs are all but a thing of the past, The Car Bomb (Carcillo’s Twitter handle is @CarBombBoom13) had 324 just five seasons ago — in 57 games. He generated 207 three years ago. In his own words, here’s how Carcillo got the first nickname: “I was at a golf tournament and they were trying to figure out a nickname and Riley Cote came up with car bomb and it stuck ever since,” Carcillo explained. “The way I play and my personality, you know something can set me off so that’s why they came up with that nickname.”
As for the second? It’s out there and frankly, it’s what I’ll be calling him. As for what it means and how it got pinned to him, I’ll let you do your own research. One small hint: it sure as hell isn’t a breakfast sandwich.
Any comments or suggestions? Feel free to include them below, or message me on Twitter at @McLaughlinWalt.