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The Best Penguins Nicknames, From Crankshaft to Gronk



Pittsburgh Penguins Jordan Staal: Photo by Michael Miller
Pittsburgh Penguins Jordan Staal: Photo by Michael Miller

More than 700 players have pulled on a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater for at least one game since the franchise was born in 1967;

A few — a precious few, really — have had nicknames that actually were interesting.

Most simply are known by their first name or some variation of their surname, generally with an “s,” “y” or “er” tacked onto the end of it. Occasionally, there will be an interesting twist on a guy’s given name — like how former media-relations man Keith Wehner dubbed Evgeni Malkin “Geno” — but those come around about as often as Chad Ruhwedel hat tricks.

For while NHL players can be breathtakingly creative on the ice, the names they bestow on teammates tend to be so dry that most are a threat to spontaneously combust. Good ones do come along every now and then, however, and here are 12 of the better ones Penguins players have carried over the years.

12. Bones

OK, so this qualifies as one of those names generated by simply putting an “s” after the first syllable in Nick Bonino’s last name, but it’s saved because “bones” is an actual word.

(Nonetheless, one cringes at the thought of what the locker room might have been like if Bonino’s teammates had opted to replace the “s” with an “er” at the same time Patric Hornqvist, who was known by the first syllable of his surname with a “y” added, was on the roster.)

11. The Hammer

Dave Schultz hardly was a popular figure around the Civic Arena during his heyday as an enforcer with Philadelphia, and he didn’t necessarily become beloved here during a two-year run with the Penguins as his career was winding down.

Still, he had a nickname that was a perfect fit for someone who rarely did anything with his hands that didn’t involve making a fist. (Career stats: 200 points and 2,292 penalty minutes in 535 games.)

10. Turk

Derek Sanderson was on his way out of pro hockey when he had a 13-game run with the Penguins in 1977-78.

By then, his game was a pale impression of what it had been during his time with Boston when the Bruins were a powerhouse in the early 1970s, but the nickname Sanderson — whose visage was accentuated by a bushy mustache — picked up early in his career endured.

9. Skillsy

Whoever dubbed Hal Gill this had a keen sense of humor, because for all that Gill contributed to his teams, including the Penguins’ Stanley Cup champion club in 2009, finesse didn’t make it onto the list.

8. The Animal

Dennis Bonvie was one of the NHL’s most feared heavyweights over his nine-year career, two of which he spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The nickname captured his on-ice persona nicely, since the majority of guys who dared to fight him came away feeling as if they’d been mauled by a grizzly bear.

7. Gronk

There were probably at least as many people who referred to Jordan Staal by the painfully stale “Staalsy,” but “Gronk,” which invoked mental images of a caveman, was a perfect fit for a guy who had good size and a propensity for overpowering opponents.

6. Demolition Durby

He led a troubled life off the ice and Steve Durbano could be an absolute terror on it, playing a physical, sometimes violent game that led to him averaging more than five penalty minutes per game over the course of his career.

The trade that brought Bob Kelly, Ab DeMarco and Durbano from St. Louis in 1974 was a pivotal moment for the franchise, and Durbano was adored at the Civic Arena throughout his 66-game stint here.

5. Slats

Glen Sather was renowned as the architect of Edmonton’s dynasty in the 1980s, but his front-office career followed one as a blue-collar winger.

He was feisty but not particularly skilled, so he spent a lot of time during games sitting on his team’s wooden bench. Which was constructed of slats.

4. Crankshaft

Douglas Murray consistently declined to spell out the origin of his nickname, which accompanied him to the Pittsburgh Penguins from San Jose at the trade deadline in 2013.

Knowing the story behind it — the possibilities are intriguing and almost endless — would be nice, but the name is cool and distinctive enough to qualify for this list on those qualities alone.

3. Flat Stanley

Although Brandon Sutter wasn’t terribly fond of this nickname, which was based on the title character in a series of children’s books, it was not unreasonable for a player whose frame was not as thick as that of most of his coworkers.

And it was a lot more fun than “Suttsy,” by which he also was known.

2. Battleship

Perhaps the most spot-on name a Penguins player ever has had.

Kelly owned a lethal wrist shot — he scored 69 goals in 250 games with the Penguins — and complemented it with a devastating uppercut. He could beat you on the ice and beat you up there, too.

1. Sconan the Barbarian

While it would be charitable to say that Dwight Schofield had a modest impact during his 25 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins after they bought him from Washington in 1986 — he scored one goal — his nickname ranks among the franchise’s finest.

He certain came by it honestly, putting up just 30 points but 628 penalty minutes over the course of his career.