With the Pittsburgh Penguins currently taking on the Nashville Predators in the 2016/2017 Stanley Cup Final, I, like most Pittsburghers, am experiencing some intense hockey fever right now.
They say hockey players are a different breed; they’re loyal, passionate and tougher than any other professional athletes on the planet: “Look at the baby, Le’Veon Bell, out for the rest of the year with a torn MCL. Had that been a hockey player, he would have surgically repaired his own knee during the second intermission and been back on the ice in time for the start of the third period.”
Amen to hockey memes, eh?
Anyway, in addition to all those other amazing attributes, what I’ve also noticed about hockey players is their genius creativity with regards to the nicknames they give one another.
Yes, whether I’m listening to a postgame interview or watching one of those “mic’d up” segments on the NHL Network, I’m always amazed at how imaginative these players are when referring to their teammates.
And that got me to thinking about all those boring NFL and Steelers nicknames I’ve been subjected to over the years:
Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. Dick “Night Train” Lane. David “Deacon” Jones. Ted “The Mad Stork” Hendricks. Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. “Neon” “Prime Time” Deion Sanders.
I could continue with the long list of unimaginative NFL nicknames, but I don’t want to put you to sleep before I get to all of those lame Steelers nicknames:
“Bullet” Bill Dudley. “Mean” Joe Greene. Terry “The Blonde Bomber” Bradshaw. “Hollywood Bags” L.C. Greenwood. Jerome “The Bus” Bettis. James “Deebo” “Silverback” Harrison. “Big” Ben Roethlisberger. Casey “Big Snack” Hampton. Joey “Peezy” Porter.
I can go on, but again, I want you to get through this piece without passing out on your keyboard.
On the heels of a steep decline in ratings in 2016, I think what the NFL needs right now is a huge dose of NHL creativity, specifically regarding player nicknames.
While “Big Ben” is a cool enough nickname, how much more appealing and marketable would Roethlisberger be if his teammates called him “Bergsy”?
“That a way to avoid that sack, Bergsy!”
How much closer to his teammates and the fans would backup quarterback Landry Jones feel if everyone called him “Jonsey”?
“That a way to throw that pass, Jonsey!”
I tell you one thing, if Jones had a cool nickname like that, you probably wouldn’t want to lash out at him after having a bad performance.
Think about all the t-shirts that could be sold, and the fan clubs that could develop if NFL players were a little more creative.
Imagine how much of a household name 2016 first round pick Artie Burns would quickly become if his teammates nicknamed him “Burnsy.”
“That a way, Burnsy! Way to make that interception, Burnsy!”
What about starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, currently nicknamed “Big Al,” or backup inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who has been dubbed “Dirty Red”?
Not only are “Big Al” and “Dirty Red” boring nicknames, they’re also downright mean.
Regarding Villanueva, who is 6’9”, do you think he enjoys his teammates, his co-workers, reminding him of his height every time they speak to the media about him?
What about Matakevich? I mean, it’s hard enough making it in the NFL when you come into the league as a seventh round pick out of Temple; it’s got to be doubly-tough to move up the inside linebacker depth chart when your teammates are constantly referring to your hair color and implying that you don’t wash it.
Perhaps both players need an NHL nickname makeover.
“That a way, Villy! Way to protect Bergsy’s blindside, Villy!”
“That a way, Matsy! Way to move up that inside linebacker depth chart, Matsy!”
It’s no secret the NFL wouldn’t be where it’s at today without the many innovations it borrowed from its old AFL rivals back in the 1960’s.
I think if the league did the same today with NHL nicknames, today, football would suddenly become much more exciting.