Pop quiz-which athlete’s nickname was The Great Bambino? Babe Ruth, of course. How about Teddy Ballgame? The great Ted Williams. The Say Hey Kid? Giants center field legend Willy Mays. Now let’s turn it around-can you name the nicknames of these athletes? Kobe Bryant? The Black Mamba. Tim Lincecum? Best known as The Freak. Calvin Johnson? Commonly known as Megatron.
Nicknames are commonplace in professional sports-they’re signs of affection, badges of honor worn proudly by the athletes they’re bestowed upon. In college sports, however, nicknames are less predominant-players are generally in school for four years, while in pro sports, a significant number of players can stay with a team for their entire playing career. Only in very special cases are college teams and players bestowed with nicknames from their fans: Michigan basketball’s Fab Five, Gale Sayers playing as the Kansas Comet for the Jayhawks, or Paul Hornung becoming the Golden Boy playing for the team-that-shall-not-be-named.
This year’s edition of the Boston College men’s hockey has had the feel of a special team, and there are a number of players who have played instrumental roles. Their names are familiar to BC sports fans, but they are deserving of the badge of honor that is a nickname. Below are some suggestions for the consideration of BC fans.
The star of the team is none other than Johnny Gaudreau. The nation’s leading point-scorer, and the presumptive Hobey Baker Award winner, is clearly BC’s leader on the ice. The Carneys Point, N.J. native is small and fast. He plays an all-around game, especially as a key component of BC’s penalty kill, and his hands are soft and quick. Gaudreau has the ability to strike from anywhere on the ice, and he is slippery, always ready to spring off for a breakaway. With great vision, Gaudreau also has the ability to anticipate plays before they happen, or as Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” These traits aren’t uncommon on their own, but together they are something truly special, regal even. It’s fitting that the deadliest player on BC’s team has its deadliest nickname-the King Cobra.
Patrick Brown, the senior captain of the team, is a hard-nosed player. Unafraid to get his hands dirty, Brown is perhaps the best defensive center BC has. Don’t let that fool you, though, as Brown’s 14 goals are good for fourth best on the team. Whenever Brown is on the ice, he will do whatever he can to help his team win, both offensively and defensively. A determined grinder, Brown encapsulates the heart and soul of the team, and he is the embodiment of the team mentality that Jerry York instills in all his players. Brown may not be the flashiest player on the team, but he gets the job done and does all the little things right. While he may not be an American hero, per se, the nickname that fits Brown best is Captain America-he does it all and is the consummate leader.
On the defensive end, Michael Matheson is a highly versatile two-way player. At any point, Matheson can transition from playing at the blue line to driving to the net by using a vast array of moves most defensemen can only stop, rather than execute. Defensively, Matheson uses his 6-foot-2, 189-pound frame to its full potential, providing a rock on which BC can rely. Matheson can be a frustrating player to watch, however, as occasionally a defensive lapse or an overaggressive move in the offensive zone can lead to opportunities for BC’s opponent. Matheson has also taken 20 penalties on the year so far, and is tied with Ian McCoshen for most on the team. With Matheson on the ice, he can either have a beautiful goal, an inspired defensive shift, or a bad play that puts BC on its heels: you can never be too sure, which is why Matheson is this team’s Wild Card.
Steve Santini is the freshman revolution on defense. Big, tough, and incredibly physical, Santini frequently sets the tone early in games. BC fans can’t count the number of times that Santini has welcomed an opponent to Kelley Rink with a huge open-ice hit. Whenever there is a scrum after a play, Santini is the first guy in to defend his teammates. Early in the year, Santini had a penchant for taking major penalties, but as he’s gotten more experience under his belt, Santini has gotten much better. He has become a physical presence while being able to pick and choose his spots, taking just seven minor penalties on the year. Santini may have become more accurate, but he’s no less powerful-he’s BC’s Hammer.
Thatcher Demko is the youngest player in college hockey. He’s also been a rock in net for the Eagles this year. Unflappable during the game, Demko is also becoming well known for his interactions with the crowd during breaks in the action. Demko handled his rotation with Brian Billet with aplomb before establishing himself as the clear No. 1. After giving up six goals to Notre Dame in the first game of the Hockey East Quarterfinals, Demko came back the next afternoon with his head up and let up just two goals as BC evened up the series. Even-keeled and still just a freshman, Demko looks primed to be a backstop on which Jerry York can rely in the biggest moments for the coming years with no reservations-The Iceman cometh.