The Pittsburgh Penguins franchise has been home to some of the best and most talented athletes ever to skate in the NHL. From Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis to current sensations Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, the Steel City has been fortunate enough to have a plethora of stars throughout its hockey history.
The world's best hockey league has also been home to some of the most interesting names in sports, due in large part to its strong international flavor.
I have compiled my personal Top 10 list (from No. 10 to No. 1) of the best names to ever take the ice in a Penguins uniform. This list was done just for fun and is obviously open for debate. I would love to hear who other Pens fans think brought an exciting nameplate, if nothing else, to the Pittsburgh locker room.
10. Lasse Pirjeta
The big Finn played only parts of two seasons with the Penguins, but his inclusion on my list is because of the uniqueness of his name (and its close association with the famous TV Labrador) along with the use of it in perhaps the worst play-by-play goal call in Pittsburgh hockey history.
For those of you who do not know what I am referring to or have forgotten the "famous" call, Lasse potted a goal for the Pens in a regular season game (I can not recall the game or opponent) in which Mike Lange had stepped away from the action for a few moments and Bob Errey took over the play-by-play.
When Pirjeta deposited the puck into the cage Errey was not only late on the call, but got so excited and caught up in the moment that his voice completely cracked. It was, unfortunately, my most lasting memory of Lasse's brief stint with the Pens.
9. Tim Tookey
He played just eight games for the Penguins, but his name is just so much fun to say!
He played most of his career in the minor leagues and had some of his greatest success with the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
I always remember enjoying saying his name as a young boy during his playing days. Although, he never made much of an impact at the NHL level is name will always be a memorable one.
8. Zigmund Palffy
When the Pens inked Palffy during then-GM Craig Patrick's "past their prime" spending spree in the summer of 2005 I was ecstatic. I had long been a fan of Palffy from his days on Long Island and LA, unfortunately, Ziggy was a shell of his former self when he donned the black and gold.
The name Zigmund conjures up the image of that lovable comic strip character Ziggy and the surname Palffy sounds like something someone may name their cat. "Hello, these are my kittens Fluffy, Muffy and Palffy...excuse the hairballs, please."
7. Miroslav Satan
Ok, I am well aware that the name is pronounced "Sha-Tan," but the spelling still says Satan! The jokes, puns, and quips are virtually endless. Could you imagine how much crap we would hear if he ever suited up for the Devils?!
Besides the fact that his last name garners a second and often shocked look from anyone who is unfamiliar with the pronunciation, his first name flows pretty nicely as well. Miroslavvvvvvvv...smooth eh?
6. Ron Tugnutt
Honestly, I'm not going to explain this one...just insert your own joke as you see fit. I mean the guys name is Tugnutt...and my wife tells me I'm immature...I just don't see it!
5. Orest Kindrachuk
I am too young to remember Kindrachuk as a player since he retired from the NHL when I was the ripe old age of two. He played three years for Pittsburgh after a trade from the hated Flyers.
The entire name is just so original. It seems like something that an underground punk or metal band would name themselves. Rock on Orest!
4. Ulf Samuelsson
The punishing defenseman from the Pens glory years of the early '90s has a very common Swedish surname, but his first name (which is not all that uncommon either—i.e. Ex-NHLer Ulf Dahlen) helped him earn the fourth spot on my list due to the name's perfect match to the player.
Whether it was from a clean hit or from a (*ahem*) questionable elbow to the gut/rib area you can just envision a breathless forward puffing out that "ULF" sound after encountering Samuelsson in the corner...followed by some choice words for the hard-nosed defenseman as well.
3. Jarkko Ruutu
A fan favorite, but only for the team he plays for, Jarkko has one of the most interesting names in the NHL, let alone in Pittsburgh hockey history. The feisty Finn annoyed opposing players for two years in the black and gold and the "ROOOOO" chant was heard loud and proud in the Igloo.
I love this name so much that I told my wife when we get our infant son his first puppies we are going to name them Jarkko & Ruutu...poor dogs.
2. Zarley Zalapski
Double Z initials?! You do not get much more rare than that. Not only is his name extremely creative and unconventional, but it also just sounds like a good solid Canadian hockey name.
Although, my favorite ZZ moment was the trade that brought over Ron Francis & Ulf Samuelsson from the Whale (side note: I really want the Hartford Whalers franchise back. Whether it is done through movement or expansion the NHL needs Brass Bonanza and the Whale!) he was a talented offensive defenseman and had a nice three-plus-year run in the Burgh.
1. Darius Kasparaitis
His name sounds like a disease and most of his opponents felt he was one. Darius Kasparaitis wins my award for best name in Penguins franchise history.
I must admit that I am a bit biased because Darius is one of my favorite Pens of all time, but just the simple fact that he was so agitating and annoying to other NHLers and his last name sounds like something that would attack your immune system without warning (like one of his patented hip checks) makes Kasparaitis my name of choice...plus he had a brand of pickles named after him, Kasparaitis Krunchers...how killer is that?!
What's in a name? I can't answer that, but I do know there are sure some interesting ones out there. Thanks for reading.