Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Calgary Flames All-Time Best Names

My wife's not much of a hockey fan but when I told her it was Pekka Rautakallio's 60th birthday today, even she remembers that name and I assure you it's not from watching him whirl around the ice as a Calgary Flames defenceman in the early 80s.

So what makes a great hockey name? For one, it has to be recognizable but on the merits of the name itself, not because of any associated career achievements. e.g. Wayne Gretzky would be the most recognizable player of all time, but it's not a great name. On the other hand, Radek Bonk is.

As a tribute to Rautakallio, here is my 23-man roster of the All-Time Best Calgary Flames Names. These are players who have played at least one NHL game for the Flames since the franchise arrived in Calgary in 1980. Unfortunately, this rules out players that were in the organization but never made it to the NHL such as Miika 'Tickle Me' Elomo and Hungarian goaltender Levente Szuper.

Criteria of What Makes a Great Hockey Name

Before we unveil the Flames all-time best names, here is my definition of what makes a great hockey name. This is obviously very subjective and is just a sampling as a lot of criteria can weigh into it.

1. It's gotta be fun to pronounce and make you giggle. e.g. Ziggy Palffy, Jordin Tootoo.

2. If when you're saying it, you break into an accent you don't have, that's a good indicator. My weakness has always been the Montreal Canadiens. I don't speak a lick of French but it is impossible for me to say names like Pierre Mondou, Rejean Houle or Jacques Lemaire without breaking into an outrageous French accent.

3. Alliteration is always good fun. Thanks to all those unimaginative Moms and Dads out there who thought it seemed like a good idea at the time. e.g. Dick Duff, Tony Twist.

4. Names that sound like other things -- beverages, objects, body parts, bowel movements, medical conditions -- always score well. e.g. Darius Kasparaitis, Daren Puppa.

5. There's a certain charm that accompanies 'eye-chart' names, especially once you reach the point after enough practice where you're one of the minority that can actually pronounce the name correctly. e.g. Mariusz CzerkawskiBranko Radivojevic

6. Anything Finnish. Seriously. e.g. Janne Niinimaa, Reijo Ruotsalainen



Calgary Flames All-Time Best Names - 23-Man Roster

Forwards:

I'll start off with the four forward lines. These are the guys who who will dress on opening night.
  • LW Gino Cavallini, C German Titov, RW Hakan Loob
  • LW Eddy Beers, C Kelly Kisio, RW Ed Ward
  • LW Lynn Loyns, C Hnat Domenichelli, RW Sergei Krivokrasov
  • LW Krzysztof Oliwa, C Stephane Yelle, RW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond


While we've got a nice assortment of name styles represented across these four lines, Hakan Loob clearly has the best handle of the bunch. Yes, what I'm saying (and spitting) and you've heard this before is that the Flames No. 12, playing right wing, is the guy that will be counted on to carry the offence. Another interesting observation was that I really struggled to find centres so that is the team's weakness. Titov played mostly wing during his time in Calgary but he played some centre which is why I made him my 1C. 

Other names worth mentioning would be the presence of one-time NHL all-star 'Edward'... or make that 'Ed Ward'. There's Harlequin Romance lead character Lynn Loyns. Also of note, 'PL3' has the distinction of having the longest NHL name of all-time. A fun fact about Letourneau-Leblond is that there are more letters in his last name than minutes played in his three career appearances with the Flames. Lastly, if you play hockey and your last name rhymes with 'freeze your ass off', congratulations Sergei -- you've made the team.

Defence:

Here are the three pairings that will patrol the blue-line.
  • Zarley Zalapski, Pekka Rautakallio
  • Peter Ahola, Kari Eloranta
  • Charles Bourgeois, Pat Ribble

That top pairing consists of two pretty darn good monikers and I can see them playing a ton of minutes, especially considering the next pairing after them. Remember 'Scary' Kari Eloranta? Old No. 20 was prone to the frequent misadventure on the ice and was well-deserving of that dubious nickname. When it comes to regal names, Charles 'Grab my Pipe and Slippers' Bourgeois is just perfect. As for Pat Ribble, the director of The Flintstones called and he needs you back on the set as soon as the game's over.

Goaltending:

Here are the two guys manning the pipes.
  • Rejean Lemelin
  • Rick Tabaracci

Goaltending was also not as deep when it came to unique and interesting names so this is another one of the Flames' weaknesses. Part of the allure with Lemelin, for me, is the French thing, thus he's listed as 'Rejean' and not 'Reggie'. Earning him the starting gig is the fact his last name was often pronounced 'Let-them-in' by disgruntled fans and that's one tough nickname for a goalie to be tagged with. (Isn't that right, Andre 'Red Light' Racicot?) As for Tabaracci, make it 'Ricardo' instead of Ric and you've got a member of the Three Tenors as your back-up goalie. (From that same era, rounding out the NHL version of the Tenors were Sergio Momesso and Luciano Borsato.)

Healthy Scratches:

Filling out the 23-man roster but not dressing for opening night would be these three:
  • RW Vesa Viitakoski, LW Nevin Markwart, G Jason Muzzatti
A good mixture on the bench with the double-V, a guy whose last name sounds like an Italian sports car, and one of my favourites in Markwart. Frequently a healthy scratch in his time with the Flames in the early 90s, I always said Markwart should retire and open his own clothing store and he could call it 'Markwart's Warehouse'. Yeah, sorry about that.

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