Top 20 Most Mispronounced Names in Hockey History
A few ground rules, before getting started.
To be eligible for this list, a player must:
a) have played at least one game in the National Hockey League and
b) have a name that’s friggin’ hard to say.
Simple enough, but a guy like Sergei Krivokrasov wouldn’t make the cut, because all you really need to do to say his name is sound it out. Cool?
Of course, there’s little reason you would say his name at all, seeing as he hasn’t been at all relevant this millennium (and that’s even taking into account the fact that he last played in the NHL back in 2002). But that’s neither here nor there, and, as a result, you can look forward to seeing at least a few players on this list with names you’ve never heard, nor would want to moving forward.
Here are the 20 most mispronounced ones in NHL history:
20) Branko Radivojevic
You know you’re in for a rough ride when this former member of the Minnesota Wild has the easiest-to-pronounce name on the list.
The Slovak pronounces his name “Ra-di-voi-ye-vich” in case you were wondering. For the record, former linemate and fellow Slovak Marian Gaborik still pronounces his with a hard “K,” which kind of sounds like it could be the cause of his next injury.
I’d instead make a Radivojevic joke, but a guy that only nets 24 points playing with Gaborik and Pavol Demitra doesn’t merit one.
19) Jose Theodore
I understand the confusion. From his current address in Florida to his dark-brown hair and eyes and his clear inability to play anything remotely resembling hockey between 2005 and 2010, everything about Jose Theodore screams Latin American. However, his name is not pronounced “Hozay.” It isn’t even “Joezay.” It’s “Zhozay.”
Admittedly, that bit about Latin Americans not knowing how to play hockey may seem like an unfair stereotype, but how else do you explain Scott Gomez?
Also, his last name is “Tee-o-door,” as there’s no “Th” sound in French. Of course, brief research on my part would also seem to indicate there’s no “Th” in South American Spanish either.
18) Steve Yzerman
Former Detroit Red Wing and hockey great Steve Yzerman makes this list on an admitted technicality. But when the leader of the free world says your name one way, I think by law that becomes the correct pronunciation, no? Everyone who has since referred to him as “Steve Ayzerman” is thus wrong. Skip to No. 1 in this TSN Top 10 to see what I mean.
17) Daniel Tkaczuk
“Keith Tkachuk’s name was hard enough, you know? Adding in a 'Z'? Seriously? Have you no shame? I know it’s pronounced the same way, but, Daniel Tkaczuk, for needlessly messing with hockey fans and journalists all over with your superfluous spelling shenanigans, I deem you fit for exile from the NHL.”
At least that’s the one-sided conversation between him and the Calgary Flames (and then the St. Louis Blues) I imagine took place 10 years ago, seeing as there’s little other reason he wasn’t given more of a shot in the bigs.
Maybe he spit in someone’s coffee? Went out with someone’s daughter and didn’t call her? Captained the worst Canadian team ever at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in 1998?
16) Dustin Byfuglien
Before Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien became the game-breaking (and bone-crushing) d-man we’ve all grown to love, people were mispronouncing his name like he was an extremely ugly extra-terrestrial from the planet Bif.
Granted, Byfuglien is more likely to beat down than beat out the competition at a beauty pageant, and his sheer size (6’5”, 265 pounds) can understandably lead some poor, paranoid schizophrenic to believe the dude’s not human, but, alas, no, it’s pronounced “Buff-a-lin.”
15) Shaone Morrisonn
No, former Washington Capital (and Buffalo Sabre) Shaone Morrisonn is no longer playing in the NHL, but his name will forever be remembered for its non-mainstream, Gaelic spelling of Shawn (and the extra “n” at the end of Morrisonn, as if everyone needed another curveball).
The only reason Shjon Podein isn’t on this list is because, unlike Morrisonn’s name, it doesn’t really lend itself to any other possible interpretation. Personally speaking, I kept thinking Morrisonn’s name was Shane and hoping it was actually Sha-o-nee.
It wasn’t, obviously, but a guy can dream, can’t he…I obviously have set low goals for myself in life. *sob*
14) Stanislav Neckar
Former Ottawa Senator Stanislav Neckar probably should have become a banker instead of a hockey player, boasting a name that is actually pronounced “Netz-cash.” Of course, when one considers his 53 total points (12 goals) in 510 games, other reasons start to creep up.
13) Uwe Krupp
While it might have been tempting to replace the “U” with an “A,” especially after he scored on his own team while on the power play once upon a time, that would actually make Uwe Krupp’s last name “Crape.” He did, however, score the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, so “Croop” it is.
And “Ooovay” for his first name, fyi, at least according to the NHL Broadcasters Association...although that own goal probably would have justified an “Oy vey” instead.
12) Jason Bacashihua
Goalie Jason Bacashihua never quite lived up to expectations as a former first-round pick of the Dallas Stars back in 2001. Ironically, a goalie with the much simpler name of “Mike Smith” was also taken by Dallas four rounds later and actually panned out (eventually).
Nearly polar opposites in terms of their career paths, Bacashihua (pronounced “Buh-cash-ooh-wuh”) never received much of a chance, while Smith finally became a legitimate starting goalie this past season.
My theory: There are only so many times a frustrated coach will try yelling a name in practice before giving up altogether and banishing that player to the minors out of embarrassment.
My alternate theory as to why Smith was handed opportunity after opportunity on a silver platter instead of Bacashihua: The latter's clearly a werewolf. Just look at the picture.
11) Pekka Rinne
I once heard a broadcaster explain that Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne’s name rhymes with “Macarena,” but truth be told I’m pretty sure that was just an excuse to bring up the popular 1990s dance craze and perhaps launch into it on air, as the name is actually pronounced “Peck-a Ree-nay” (and not "Rih-nay" as most others say it).
Thankfully for Rinne, he’s also proven himself to be much more than a one-hit wonder, another reason he need not forever be linked to the song that has become an annoying staple at bar mitzvahs, weddings and any other get-togethers hosted by hack MCs.
10) Semyon Varlamov
Kind of a tricky one, Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov's name is actually “Sim-ee-on Var-laaa-mov,” and not “Varlahmov,” which has become the popular pronunciation over the past few years.
Of course, his teammates just call him “Varly,” mostly because it rhymes with barley, the main ingredient in beer, which is what he was clearly drinking out of his water bottle between plays during the first half of last season when his goals-against average ballooned to 3.00.
That, or, you know, it’s short for Varlamov and is a way around the whole pronunciation issue. Whichever works for you.
9) Daren Puppa
Yes, the inclination is to pronounce the one-time Tampa Bay Lightning goalie’s name like puppy with an “A” at the end instead of a “Y,” but interestingly enough it’s actually “Poop-ah.” Couldn’t have been easy for him growing up, or, you know, playing hockey.
He did end up with a career goals-against average in excess of 3.00 after all. In his defense, it was a different era back then, but then again the jokes are just too easy.
8) Mattias Weinhandl
While most people familiar with former-U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner and the part of his anatomy for which he is most famous would perhaps pronounce this former member of the Minnesota Wild’s name “Weenhandle,” it’s actually “Winehandle.”
Less fun to say, sure, but, what do you expect from a country that believes putting together your own furniture is all part of the homebuilding experience?
7) Mathias Tjarnqvist, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrik Kjellberg, Frederik Sjostrom
Those Swedes and their pesky need to put “J”s everywhere. If that wasn’t bad enough, putting another consonant right in front of it isn’t exactly endearing the Scandinavian country to broadcasters.
If Ikea is the military arm of the traditionally neutral nation (like you didn’t suspect they were secretly plotting, lying in wait to take over America one household at a time, distracting homeowners with wordless diagrams and more Allen keys than they can count), their phonetic system is most definitely the basis for some sort of code.
6) Maxim Balmochnykh
Most would include Maxim Afinogenov on this list, but truth be told all you need to do is sound his name out. Not the case with this Maxim. Not only is this former Mighty Duck of Anaheim’s name hard to pronounce, but it’s hard to spell.
Balmochnykh spent six games with the Mighty Ducks (yes, it was so long ago that the team was still the Mighty Ducks), back in the 1999-2000 season, recording a single assist. He last saw the inside of a rink as a professional hockey player back in 2009-2010 as a member of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dynamo Minsk at the relatively young age of 31.
Clearly, even Russian broadcasters couldn’t pronounce his name and boycotted against him playing one more game.
5) Paul Szczechura
From a guy who has one “Z” in his name, take it from me: You don’t need another. And you certainly don’t need a “C” right in between.
According to Wikipedia, the former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s name is actually pronounced “Shea-hura,” which is kind of disappointing as the “czech” right smack-dab in the middle of the name is rendered completely benign—unfortunately much like his NHL career to date, which consisted of 92 games over the past three seasons.
Don’t fret, though. He’ll get more than enough Czech to last a lifetime when he plays for Prague’s HC Lev Praha in the KHL next season.
4) Wojtek Wolski
Substitute the “W”s for “V”s and you’ll get the correct pronunciation of Washington Capital Wojtek Wolski’s name, assuming of course you also replace the “J” with an “I.”
Now, if only someone could replace his desire to follow in the footsteps of fellow Pole Mariusz Czerkawski. Did it not occur to anyone that Czerkawski was named the Polish Prince because he didn’t like working?
3) Alexander Semin
You just know, all over the world, immature 15-year-old Washington Capitals fans are feeling quite vindicated, laughing out loud as they begin reading this entry. But, alas, no, the newly signed Carolina Hurricane’s name is not pronounced the same way as the word “semen,” as hilarious as that would be.
Alexander Semin finds himself on this list because it’s also not pronounced “Sem-in.”
It’s actually “Syo-min,” but, please, continue mispronouncing it. His lackluster, apathetic style of play makes the ejaculate jokes the most interesting part about him.
Of course, if he were to suddenly see his production rise to unparalleled levels and erupt uncontrollably playing with the two Staal brothers…no, that would…that would actually make it quite worse, wouldn’t it?
2) Jonathan Toews
From “Toes” to “Tays,” Jonathan Toews’ last name has been mispronounced several different ways. However, the Chicago Blackhawks captain actually pronounces his name “Taves.”
Weird, I know, but his consistency, leadership and Stanley Cup all have at least earned him the right to have it said correctly. As for little brother and Eastern Coast Hockey Leaguer David, call him whatever you like.
1) Joe Sakic
It may shock most to learn that good ol’ Burnaby Joe has been living a lie. His name is actually “Sa-keech.” You think you know a guy, and, then, “Bam!” He turns out to be the son of Croatian immigrants. How dare he?! I don’t even want to think about how his first name is pronounced. “Jan”?