Colourful nicknames in professional sports have gone the way of the dodo. Just a few decades ago, most hockey players had unique monikers and not just the first syllable of their last name with an -s or an -sy attached at the end.
The Montreal Canadiens were on the high end of the unique scale, most likely due to the language duality of the players and fan base. Here’s your chance to test your trivia knowledge and possibly learn a few new nicknames.
Q. What historic Montreal Canadiens goaltender was known as “The Chicoutimi Cucumber”?
A. George Vezina played for the Canadiens from 1910-11 to 1925-26. He died in 1926 due to tuberculosis, after playing just one game in net for Canadiens in 1925-26. The nickname was derived from the fact the Georges was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec and that he was ‘cool as a cucumber’ in the net.
Vezina led the NHA / NHL with the best goals against average seven times over his career. The Vezina Trophy was introduced for the 1926-27 season to recognize the top goaltender in the NHL each season. Georges won Stanley Cup championships with the Canadiens in 1915-16 and 1923-24. He was part of the inaugural class of Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in 1945.
The Georges Vezina rookie card from 1911-12 is one of the most sought after hockey cards in the world. Book value on the 1911-12 Imperial Tobacco C55 card is $6,000. However, auction prices reach much higher value.
Q. What 1970’s NHL scoring champion was nicknamed “The Flower”?
A. A simple translation from French to English. Guy Lafleur or ‘the flower’ was the Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL’s top scorer in three consecutive seasons, 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78. Guy was the first overall pick by the Canadiens at the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft. He played in the NHL from 1971-72 to 1990-91 with the Habs, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques.
Before entering the National Hockey League, Lafleur played two legendary seasons of junior hockey in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts. In 1970-71, his 130 goals in just 62 games shattered any known Canadian Major Junior record. It still stands as the second highest total in QMJHL and CHL history, eclipsed by Mario Lemieux’s 133 in 1983-84 with Laval. However, Super Mario played eight more games than Lafleur.
Q. Which Montreal defenseman was nicknamed “Big Bird”?
A. Tall with a big beak and a shock of curly hair, Larry Robinson somewhat resembled the Sesame Street character as he skated around the ice. The long time Canadien and Hockey Hall of Fame member won two Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman.
Robinson played in the NHL from 1972-73 to 1991-92 with the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings. Since, he has kept busy behind the bench in the NHL. He has served as head coach of the Kings and New Jersey Devils, as well as, assistant coach of the Kings, Devils and Sharks. Currently in 2013-14, he is associate coach with head coach Todd McLellan.
Q. Which Canadiens Hall of Fame forward was nicknamed “The Roadrunner”?
A. At just 5’7” and as fast as the cartoon character, Yvan Cournoyer fit the nickname well. Cournoyer was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982. After three years of junior with the Montreal Junior Canadiens of the OHA, Yvan joined the Habs full-time in 1964-65. He remained with Montreal throughout his career and retired after playing just 15 games in the 1978-79 season. In his final four years with Montreal, he served as team captain. In each of those four years, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup championship.