Twenty best nicknames in Red Wings history

Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio was known as "Fats."

Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio was known as “Fats” because of his chubby-cheeked baby face.

Dylan Larkin is already making “D-Boss” the most popular nickname in Detroit, but the kid will need to put in a few more shifts before that label makes our list of the 20 best in Detroit hockey history.

20. The Big M

By the time he got to the Wings, Frank Mahovlich had won four Stanley Cups and was already known as “The Big M,” a nickname given to distinguish him from little brother Peter, who also skated in the NHL. Mahovlich won two  more Cups with Montreal after leaving Motown. He’s a member of the Hall of Fame and was ranked #27 on The Hockey News’ list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

19. Iron Man

I’ve written about Garry Unger on this website before, about how he was one of the best Detroit players of the 1970s but was traded away because he wouldn’t trim his hair. Yes, really. Later, with other teams he played so many consecutive games that he earned this nickname.

18. Magic Man

Russian-born Pavel Datsyuk is also known as “Pasha” (a shortened version of his given name and what his family has called him since he was a child) and “Houdini” for his magical movement on the ice.

17. Fats

Alex Delvecchio was called “Fats” by teammates because of the baby-fat face he had when he first came into the league. Fact is, Delvecchio looked about 18 years old for the first 15 years or so of his career. But he played like a man, forming the famed Production Line II with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. All three are Hall of Famers, of course.

16. Little Beaver

I wasn’t able to find out why Marcel Dionne was called “Little Beaver,” but it’s an odd nickname for an athlete. Dionne is one of the players who got away from the Wings in the 1970s. He went on to star for the Kings and when the Hall of Famer retired in 1989, he was second in assists, goals, and points.

15. Lucky

Luc Robitaille got this nickname well before he came to the Red Wings in 2001. Good thing he came to the Wings, because he later got to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in his fine career.

14. Tatar Sauce

A nickname that has proved profitable for Tomáš Tatar, who is also known as just simply “Sauce,” “Hot Sauce,” and “Souse.”

13. Mule

Maybe no other nickname here matches the player any better than Mule does for Johan Franzén, a tough winger who did anything he could for his team. Captain Steve Yzerman gave the moniker to his teammate because Franzén “carries the load.”

12. Dominator

Dominik Hašek played goalie for the Red Wings for four season in two stints, toward the end of his Hall of Fame career. He became the first European-trained starting goaltender to win the Stanley Cup, and was also known as Hašan, which

11. Demolition Man

Tomas Holmström was known to many fans in Detroit by the nickname of “Homer.” He acquired the nickname “Demolition Man” while playing in Sweden for his aggressive style of play, where he was also called “Holma.”

10. Goose

Who wouldn’t love to have “Goose” as a nickname? It just sounds cool. Gustav Nyquist is also known as “Gus” to his teammates and fans.

9. The Professor

As the senior member of Detroit’s famed “Russian Five” in the 1990s, Igor Larionov was the mentor and the master.

8. Zäta

Current star Henrik Zetterberg is also known as “Ice Berg,” “Hank,” and simply “Z” (which is what Zäta means in Swedish).

7. Terrible Ted

With a name like “Terrible Ted” you’d think you might intimidate people, and that’s what Ted Lindsay did in his Hall of Fame career spent mostly in Detroit, where he won four Stanley Cup titles.

6. The Vladiator

Vladimir Konstantinov came to the United States with this nickname, but Detroit fans were happy to accept him as one of their own as part of the famed “Russian Five.”

5. Little Ball of Hate

Pat Verbeek’s nickname was given to him in 1995 by Glenn Healy after fellow New York Rangers teammate Ray Ferraro was tagged as the “Big Ball of Hate.”

4. Wizard of Oz

Chris Osgood, also known affectionately as “Ozzie,” is the most popular and successful goalie to mind the net for the Wings since Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk.

3. The Captain

For fans of the Red Wings who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, Steve Yzerman was the man. #19 scored so many crucial goals and made so many great plays to set up his teammates that he also earned the nickname “Stevie Wonder,” setting many Detroit scoring records. But his leadership was best personified in the name “The Captain,” which he was longer than any other player in NHL history.

2. The Perfect Human

Nicklas Lidström was the greatest defenceman of all-time, a fantastic teammate, a great leader, a clutch player, tough as nails, remarkably gifted, handsome, and durable. He was also a gentleman on and off the ice. When you’re all those things, you deserve to be nicknamed “The Perfect Human.”

Take it from one if his teammates, Chris Chelios, who said: “There’s been guys who are great players, but no one’s better than Nick. As good? Yes. But this is as big as it gets. He’s one of the best athletes ever and…if you’re going to talk about someone who’s perfect, Nick’s pretty darn close to being perfect.”

1. Mr. Hockey

Maybe not the snazziest of the nicknames listed here, but it’s the most regal and it belongs to the unquestioned dean of hockey. Gordie Howe was not only the greatest Red Wing, he was the greatest hockey player in the history of the National Hockey League. Without him the NHL wouldn’t be as popular as it is in the United States, and cities like Los Angeles and Edmonton wouldn’t have teams (thanks to Gordie’s excellent second career in the World Hockey Association). Howe has even trademarked the term “Mr. Hockey.”

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.