The first step to sports greatness is a great nickname. If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have a great new year their roster needs a nickname overhaul.
There have been a lot of changes to the Maple Leafs’ roster since last season.
Before we dive in to enjoy another season, let’s take a moment amid the hopeful anticipation to get to know this year’s ‘boys in blue’. Harken back, if you will, to pre-COVID times and sitting in the stands as the Toronto Maple Leafs players step on the ice for the first time to the deafening roar of the fans. Recall how sweet the adrenaline felt as the announcer belted out the names — and nicknames — of the Leafs players responsible for that game-winning goal.
While COVID currently has us watching from home (at least the beverages are cheaper!), let’s take time to get acquainted with our Leafs, their sobriquets and take time to consider some new monikers I’ve bestowed herein to help diehard fans cheer on the boys this year.
Maple Leafs Forwards
Joe Thornton: Jumbo Joe
If you follow hockey at all, you know the name Joe Thornton. After all, the upcoming NHL season will be his 23rd. Thornton’s nickname throughout his extensive career has been Jumbo Joe. For some fans, they may assume this nickname is due to his large stature, standing at over 6 foot 4 inches — but there is another reason for the nickname. Jumbo was the name of a famous elephant in PT Barnum’s circus that died in a train accident in Thornton’s hometown of St.Thomas, Ontario in 1885. There is a monument in the town commemorating Jumbo the elephant, and one day there may be one for Jumbo Joe.
Auston Matthews: Awesome Moustachews
Auston Matthews was the Leafs’ leading goal scorer last season with 47. He was one goal shy of tying the league’s top goal scorers, Alexander Ovechkin and David Pastranak. The syllables of his first name are basically composed of the words “awe” and “stun.” Suffice to say, the kid’s got talent and also some stylish facial hair. Therefore, we’ve nicknamed him Awesome Moustachews.
Mitch Marner: Mitch the Stitch
Mitch Marner is one of the league’s best playmakers. He led the Maple Leafs in assists last season with 51. For a player who can really pass the puck, set up plays and thread the needle, we’ve gone with the nickname Mitch the Stitch.
Jimmy Vesey: Slim Jim
A slim jim, apart from being a brand of beef jerky, is a tool used to get into locked cars. For Jimmy Vesey, a player who likes getting the inside position and working his way to the front of the net, this may be the perfect nickname.
John Tavares: Johnny Toronto
John Tavares is from Mississauga, which for all intents and purposes is Toronto. It was his childhood dream to play for the Leafs. He is the local-boy-made-good, the hometown hero and the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For these reasons, he is simply Johnny Toronto (pronounced with the hometown cadence: Toe-ron-ah).
William Nylander: Will Ny the Hockey Guy
For hockey fans old enough to remember, Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill, Bill, Bill!) was a TV show that ran in the 1990s. Now, what does this bowtie wearing, lab coat enthusiast have to do with hockey, you ask? Friction? Inertia? Physics, perhaps? The answer is: very little. However, that TV program’s enthusiasm, wonder and delight in science is the same that William Nylander brings to hockey. Now, while we may be stretching a bit to make this nickname fit, we couldn’t pass up on Will Ny the Hockey Guy.
Ilya Mikheyev: Souperman
Upon arriving from Russia, a reporter asked Mikheyev what were some of the challenges of transitioning to playing in Toronto and in his response he plainly mentioned: “I like soup.” Little did Mikheyev know the fanaticism of Toronto hockey fans, and that this innocent statement would propel him to a Campbell’s Soup sponsorship deal and forever label him: Souperman.
Alexander Kerfoot: Kerfootloose
Kerfoot has some great rushing highlights from his three seasons in the NHL. He is quick on the breakouts and when he gets the puck he can really wheel, which is why we nicknamed him Kerfootloose. Jump back!
Zach Hyman: Zach Attack
Zach Hyman is a ravenous wolverine whose appetite for vulcanized rubber cannot be satiated. He battles through the corners like a bull through a hedge maze, grinds like an axeman, digs like a squirrel after a nut and — more often than not — comes up with the puck. Thus, he is dubbed the Zach Attack.
Alexander Barabanov: The Russian Bear
Fresh from the KHL, we will have to wait and see how Barabanov fits into the Leafs lineup. But, from what we know, he is a solid skater and works hard along the boards. For a tough Russian, we went with The Russian Bear.
Jason Spezza: The Spezz Dispenser
Jason Spezza has been in the league a long time. Yet, over his 17-year career in the NHL, he still finds ways to wow us (for example, him dropping the gloves during the qualifying round last season). Just when you think you’ve seen all he has to offer, he pops out another sweet treat for us to enjoy. Hence his nickname, The Spezz Dispenser.
Wayne Simmonds: The Wayne Train
A common complaint of the current Leafs squad is that they lack physicality. Enter Wayne Simmonds, who over his 12-year career in the NHL has amassed over 1,650 hits, which is by far the most of any player currently on the Leafs. Simmonds crushes players with the force of a runaway locomotive, which is why he is affectionately known as the Wayne Train.
Maple Leafs defense
Morgan Rielly: Boats
This seemingly unrelated hockey nickname is actually a reference to Rielly’s jersey number, 44, and how the two numbers look similar to the sails of tall ships. I know, I know… hockey players are weird.
TJ Brodie: DJ TJ
Brodie was a big addition for the Leafs this offseason. They needed to shore up their defense, and Brodie does just that. He is a great positional defenseman who can strip players of the puck and set up the next big play, earning him the title DJ TJ.
Jake Muzzin: Fuzzy Muzzy
Jake Muzzin has the three things that make a solid defenseman: he can blast the puck, he can knock people down and he can grow a great beard. For the latter, we had to call him Fuzzy Muzzy.
Justin Holl: Hollywood
Justin Holl’s rise to becoming an NHL defenseman was a long journey. He played his first NHL game the day after his 26th birthday. However, the hard work and commitment paid off, Holl scored a goal in his very first game and has become a staple of the Leafs defense. It certainly sounds like a Hollywood story to us.
Mikko Lehtonen: The Finnish Bobby Orr
Prior to signing with the Leafs, Mikko played in the KHL and earned the nickname, The Finnish Bobby Orr. Now, any comparison to the iconic number 4 will be sure to attract attention. With this being his first season in the NHL, we are excited to see how he earned this flattering comparison.
Zach Bogosian: Wake Me Up Before You Bo-Go (Wham!)
Yes, this nickname doesn’t really relate to Zach Bogosian. But, the duo who sang the 1984 No. 1 hit was named Wham! and here is where the nickname comes to life. Zach Bogosian is a good old fashioned lay ‘em out defenseman. Therefore, we’ll call him Wham! for short.
Rasmus Sandin: Rasmutazz
This young Leafs defender got his start last season, and in 28 games netted 8 points, 22 shots, 22 blocks and 33 hits. He can do it all, and with some flair to boot.
Travis Dermott: The Skin Doctor
Yes, his last name is somewhat similar to a Dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions. Yes, sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
Maple Leafs goalies
Frederik Andersen: Steady Freddie
We’ve all seen the Leafs eke out a win after being heavily outshot. This is usually due to some stellar goaltending by the Leaf’s netminder, Frederik Andersen. When the Leafs are trapped in their end, the players on the ice are dead tired and things are looking bleak, Andersen is there to make the big saves, which is why he has earned the moniker Steady Freddie.
Jack Campbell: Jack Be Nimble (Jack Be Quick)
Last season, Jack Campbell had six starts and finished the season with a .915 save percentage, giving Steady Freddie some much-needed rest. With great movement within the crease and a quick glove, he’s perfect for the nickname Jack Be Nimble.
If you’re anything like us, then you enjoy your hockey games fast-paced, your beverages ice cold and your nicknames punned up to the max. Heck, maybe some of these names don’t have the staying power to last the season, but I think we can all agree that our acute case of ‘Leafs fever’ has the fortitude to outlast yet another optimistic season.