[Cache – #21]
The winters are long in Canada. To accommodate hockey season, they have to be. We Canadians know that the weather is just another Gary Bettman conspiracy – along with his endless conniving to keep hockey in the desert and out of the Great White North – to keep us on the couch now thirty days into Spring.
It was on the couch that I first heard this nickname for Alexander Ovechkin: Great Eight. Alex is also called Ovie; compared to The Great One (or The Great Gretzky, take your pick) or Super Mario, or even Sid the Kid, either name is lame. Why?
My first assumption was that Ovechkin’s name just doesn’t lend itself easily to nicknaming – compared to, say, goalie Jim Carey, whose nicknames include The Net Detective and The Mask. But in fact, even though we don’t usually associate hockey players with unbridled genius, their nicknames demonstrate an impressive breadth and depth of creativity. Jim Carey’s handles may be obvious, but a serious burst of creativity is required if you’re a goalie with a name like Nikolai Khabibulin. Et voila: The Bulin Wall and The Nyetminder.
The main nicknaming tools seem to be references to appearance, as with my carrot-topped great great uncle, Mervyn (Red) Dutton; behaviour, as for Ed (Crazy Eddie) Belfour, who once offered a cop one billion dollars to let him off a charge; and playing ability, as with Scott (Captain Crunch) Stevens, legendary bodychecker and career-ender (just ask Eric Lindros).
Commonly woven together with these techniques are cultural references (present in all of the above); and alliteration (such as for Canadiens’ greats Rocket Richard, Red Light Racicot and Bernie [Boom Boom] Geffrion).
So what fitting name can we come up with for Ovechkin? Caveman, in light of his Cro-Magnon forehead? How about O-Magnon? Ovechkin celebrates every one of his many goals like he just won the Cup in overtime – so maybe Yahoo, after the brutish creatures in Gulliver’s Travels. Or maybe, for a forward who clocks in at six foot two / 230 pounds, The Big O.
Or maybe we just need more time to figure Alex out. We’ve had 18 years to get the measure of Gary Bettman, the NHL’s Napoleon, our diminutive Darth Vader.
Wikipedia’s list of hockey player, hockey team and arena nicknames: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ice_hockey_nicknames
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