The Great One. Super Mario. Mr. Hockey.
Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe are three of the National Hockey League’s all-time greats, so it makes sense that they’ve got some of the sport’s all-time best nicknames. Each of them retired long ago, with fans remembering not just their performances but also their nicknames because they help capture the essence and legacy of their respective careers.
Today’s NHL is packed with a new generation of standout players who represent the sport well. These athletes feature their own dynamic personalities and skillsets, which has led to them getting their own unique nicknames.
Presented below in alphabetical order are snapshots of five current players in the league who represent their nickname well. Two of them have already cemented their legacies among the sport’s all-time greats. One is a fringe player with a unique backstory and recent ties to the Colorado Avalanche. The other two are still emerging as relatively new players who show a lot of promise.
Photo credit: Winnipeg Jets/NHL
Kyle Connor, or KFC as he’s affectionately known to Winnipeg Jets fans, is still writing the early chapters of his NHL story but his tale to date has been dynamic. The 23-year-old left-winger for the Jets has inspired T-shirts, memes and more with his nickname, which is short for Kyle you-can-fill-in-the-blank Connor. A first-round draft pick in 2015, the Michigan native played just one season of collegiate hockey for the Michigan Wolverines, earning honors that included being chosen the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2016. After bouncing between Winnipeg and the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate, Connor has produced three consecutive 30-goal seasons and has already amassed more than 200 career points.
Photo credit: Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL
Sidney Crosby, or Sid the Kid, debuted as an 18-year old with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 and was known for his baby face and boyish looks, which is where his nickname started. While he still captures that youthful essence, don’t let his smooth face and grin fool you. The Penguins’ 32-year-old captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion is fierce on the ice. A center and former first-rounder from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, Crosby last hoisted the Cup in 2017 and has blossomed into an icon of the sport. He’s also a potent scorer, producing six 100-point seasons en route to racking up 1,263 career points despite missing significant chunks of playing time while dealing with various injuries throughout his career.
Photo credit: Boston Bruins/NHL
Chuckie Bright Lights, or Charlie McAvoy if you look at a roster sheet, is known for performing on the big stage despite his relative lack of experience playing pro hockey, which is what inspired the 22-year-old defenseman’s nickname. In just three seasons with the Boston Bruins, McAvoy has already amassed a +/- rating of +58. In 67 games with the Bruins this season, McAvoy has five goals and a career-high 27 assists. Originally from New York, McAvoy played at Boston University before turning his attention to joining the NHL. He was selected to the league’s all-rookie team in 2018 and looks to be a standout defenseman for many seasons to come.
Photo credit: Washington Capitals/NHL
Known as the Great Eight, Alex Ovechkin is one of those rare athletes who has truly earned his nickname. The 34-year old captain of the Washington Capitals has worn his No. 8 jersey, which is where his nickname derives from, since making his NHL debut with the Capitals back in 2005. A native of Moscow, Russia, the left-winger isn’t just a Stanley Cup champion from 2018, he’s also clinched eight Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies, is an 11-time all-star, and was chosen to the NHL’s All-Decade first team each of the past two decades. With 706 career goals, he’s No. 8 on the NHL’s all-time goals leaders list and is just two tallies away from tying Mike Gartner for No. 7. Ovechkin’s nickname may not be the most creative, but it captures his dominance as the game’s best goal scorer playing in this century.
Photo credit: Arizona Coyotes/NHL
Carl Soderberg has a fascinating backstory, which many Avalanche fans will know about since he played for Colorado from 2015-2019. Now with the Arizona Coyotes, the 34-year-old center from Sweden is legally blind in his left eye, which is why he’s affectionately known as The One Eyed Swede. A second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2004, Soderberg played professionally in Sweden for a decade before joining the NHL during the 2012-13 season. Since playing in North America, he’s produced 280 points, with his best statistical season coming in 2018-19 when he recorded 23 goals and 26 assists with the Avs.
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