DKM Hockey Podcast

Friday, March 9, 2012

Your sister's virtue, Grandma's Cooking, Hockey Nicknames: Things that are Sacred

I have found one fundamental difference between my friends who have played the game and my friends who are fans of the game.  And when I say 'play the game' I mean spent a measureable amount of your youth playing hockey, not spending most of your adulthood wishing you had.  The difference I'm referring to is the use of hockey player nicknames by non-players.

Oh my god, he just called Sissy, "Juggs."
I have a strict, steadfast opinion that unless you've shared dressing room space with a player, you are not to refer to a player by their nickname.  A hockey nickname is not "Super Mario" or "The Russian Rocket."  Please for give me Mr Gretzky, but I'm talking about the different between calling Wayne Gretzky "the Great One" and 'Gretz.'  The nickname is something special intended for guys who've played, lost, and won together.  They are earned either out of respect or through embarrasment.   Not every player has one, and like pubes, you get them at different times.  A nickname is something that is created organically and typically follows a player his whole life.  Sometimes a nickname is a truncated last name.  Sometimes its a by product of how a player plays.  Sometimes, you know better than to ask where it came from and just go with it. 

Did you just refer to me as 'White Devil?'

If you hear a player refer to another player in an interview by their nickname, I believe it is NOT ok for a fan to refer to them by that name.  What irks me more than just about anything on earth is when a fan in the stands refers to a player on the ice by their nickname, casually, like you played Bantams together. Or, someone uses it on twitter and all the gold fish in the twitter pond start twatting it.   In the words of Vincent Vega, that's like placing your hands on someone in a familar way.  I understand the common fan's need and desire to feel part of something they care about dearly.  I get that.  But nicknames are bestowed upon a by a player or coach and become sort of a "callsign" for those who know.  Its like telling your kid it's ok to refer to their school teachers by first name.

There is also a player-to-player code as well. If I haven't shared a dressing room with you, I am not to call you by nickname.  There are a few exceptions, but the first time I meet a guy I've never skated with I'm not going to call them by nickname. However, having Chris Pronger refer to Jaromir Jagr as "Puff Nutts" will forever be indearing to me.

I guess to me, in hockey, there is nothing that screams"Wanna Be" louder than a fan screaming to a player by their nickname. I also can't stand it's justification on Twitter because you're limited to 140 characters.  I can call him 'Rafters' you can't.  Of the NHL venues I've visited multiple times, Penguins fans have to be the worst abusers of this unspoken rule.  I can't tell you how many times I've sat next to a Pens fan in gravy-stained gray sweatpants talking to his mouthbreathing counter-part, "Sid looks good out there tonight"  and "You can tell Gino is going to get one tonight."  Please.  Stop.  It's like getting YOUR last name put on the back of your favorite team's sweater. 
I find myself curiosly aroused by this woman.

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