Sunday, February 5, 2012

Playing And Losing At The Name Game

By Andrew McGilligan
SN Staff

In the countless articles I’ve read regarding the Super Bowl, not much has stuck with me.

However, there was one nugget of information I was glad to glean. The nickname of Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is ‘The Law Firm.’

Here’s how New York Times reporter Ben Shpigel described the moniker:

“Since signing with New England in 2008 as an undrafted free agent, Green-Ellis, 26, has become a favorite among Patriots fans, who appreciate his persistence and steadiness as much as they adore his delightfully rhythmic name. Say it out loud: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The mellifluous sequence of syllables could be mistaken for a blue-blooded law firm — hence the moniker — with a tradition of Patriot partners, like Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy.”

Green-Ellis has embraced the name as well, going so far as to use it in his Twitter handle – @TheLawFirmBJGE.

The reason I bring this up is modern day sports is lazy when it comes to nicknames. That’s why ‘The Law Firm’ is so refreshing. Most times what passes for a nickname is a players last name with a ‘y’ or an ‘er’ slapped on the end.

Sadly, the Saint John Sea Dogs – at least to my knowledge – are not bucking this trend. The team has featured the likes of Michael ‘Kirky’ Kirkpatrick, Mike ‘Thomer’ Thomas, and Brett ‘Gally’ Gallant. The Sea Dogs Francophone announcer tried to give Thomas and Gallant ‘The Hammer’ and ‘Hitman’, respectively, but the QMJHL stepped in and made sure no fun was going to be had with player names.

(Side note: I’m not quite sure why the QMJHL did this. I think an official press release mentioned something about the league’s anti-discrimination policy. I chalk it up to Gilles Courteau only taking a stand in matters that have no actual relevance while ignoring real problems facing the league, but that’s a discussion for another column.)

I don’t blame any specific group or the nickname epidemic. I blame all of us. Players, fans and journalists alike, we all have to shoulder some of the responsibility.  In the past, great nicknames came from a collaborative effort on behalf of all these factions.

This seems to be dead period in terms of creative nicknames in the sports world. I will give credit to the trio of former Sea Dogs Alexandre Leduc, Keven Charland and Francois Gauthier who at least tried. They asked me to call them ‘The Baby Blue Line’ in an article I was writing at the time for the Telegraph-Journal. The reason for the name was the colour of their practice jerseys. I decided the name sucked and didn’t include it in the story, plus you can’t be the originator of your own nickname – it’s a rule, I don’t know where it came from, but we have to follow it. (NOTE: I think P.K. Subban tried to get teammates at a recent World Junior tournament to call him the Subbanator and he was promptly shut down. The name was decent, but the rule was properly enforced, no exceptions.)

While I gave Gauthier, Leduc and Charland credit for trying to come up with their own nickname – even though it breaks a rule – I did say it sucked (Baby Blue strikes fear in the heart of no one), but I should mention I’m not very good at creating handles either. During my stint as a sports reporter I tried to come up with monikers for players, but they always seemed lacking. Here’s an example: The LSD line. It was the first letter of the last names of Sea Dogs forwards Peyton Liske, Ryan Sparking and Chris Di Domenico. My thought was their quick puck movement and skills made the defence think they were hallucinating. It was bad then and it’s worse now. Making a drug reference to three teenagers doesn’t seem right.

News 88.9 play-by-play man Tim Roszell came up with a nickname for the trio of Huberdeau-Phillips-Jurco last season. He called them the ‘Bachelor Line’ because all three were eligible for the NHL draft and all the scouts were checking them out. Not too bad, but it didn’t extend past last season.

So here’s the challenge, come up with some good nicknames for the Sea Dogs that are more than just variations on their last names. Let me know what you come up with by sending me your suggestions to @AMcGilligan on Twitter.

As a final note, the only nickname I really liked for a Sea Dog player was ‘The Big Horse’ for Simon Despres. It just fit. However, I can’t take credit for it, the name came from either former bench boss Jacques Beaulieu or assistant coach Jim Midgley.

Photo Credit: Marc Henwood/Station Nation

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