Busting Hockey’s #1 Myth: Unpronouncable Names



By Peter Christian

Every hockey fan has heard it at least once. Most have heard it a handful of times. The “it” I’m referring to is the lamest excuse to not watch the NHL on the planet.

It’s the “I can’t pronounce the player’s names” excuse. I’ve heard it everywhere. From family members who watched me grow up playing the sport to national sports figures and writers who are just to lazy to get involved. The excuse has spread its talons so deep into the sports culture that it has become more than an excuse, people actually think its true. There are sports fans out there who actually think that nearly every player in the NHL has a name that is a facial workout just to say. Except for one tiny fact: It’s a myth.

Yep, the whole thing is a big fallacy.

pronounced Asso-Mu-WAH

The names in hockey aren’t any tougher than any other professional sport in North America. Not when you consider that names like Favre, Ginobili, Nowitzki, Nnamdi Asomugha and Daisuke Matsuzaka have become easily pronounced in the other sports. The problem however is that NHL was one of the first leagues to truly welcome international players into its teams. The league expanded and so did the search for talent in Europe which meant that the NHL faced an influx of players with Northern and Eastern European backgrounds. Russian, Czech and Finnish players seem to sport the most difficult names to initially pronounce but just as with any name, a closer look is usually all it takes. Take a name like Ilya Bryzgalov. At first glance that looks like a mouthful of consonants. But a second look shows that it really isn’t that hard (Ill-Yah Brizz-GAL-off) to pronounce at all and after a little practice it simply rolls off the tongue. In fact that is the case with nearly every European name in the NHL (with the exception of Zybnek Michalek… that one takes some work).

pronounced tayves

That doesn’t mean there aren’t names that are truly tough to pronounce (even after seeing them spelled out) or make you scratch your head altogether, but those names largely belong to North American players. Names like Stastny (Stas-NEE), Toews (Taves), Phaneuf (Fah-NOOF), Bouwmeester (BO-Mee-ster) and my personal favorite Byfuglien (BUFF-linn) nearly always take someone else to pronounce them the first couple times so you can remember them. So if those names are from within our own borders or from our neighbors to the North, there’s no reason we can’t learn their names’ right? I mean we put up with a guy from Mississippi who pronounces his name FARVE but spells it FAVRE, don’t we?

So I think it’s time to put this whole name pronunciation thing to rest so that we puck heads can start focusing on the real reasons all you other folks don’t watch the most entertaining sport in the world.

You can also find Peter Christian’s “Rink Rat’s Cheese” blog at The Washington Times Communities

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  1. The names have nothing to do with it. For some reason hockey just doesn’t translate to TV. Growing up in a non-hockey environment, I had no interest in hockey. When I later moved to the North and went to a game, I was able to feel the excitement. Hockey is one of the most exciting sporting events to attend but is quite dull on TV to someone who is not a rabid fan. This is precisely the reason soccer has failed in the US. People who are really into soccer love it but it lacks a casual fan base in the US. However, soccer is doing a superb job of promoting it’s sport to youth and could become a major sport in America in the coming years….. after we become a Socialist country! :))

  2. I disagree with Chris. I think hockey translates very well on TV. In y opinion, it’s the sport that benefits the most from people gradually switching over from standard def. to high def.

    I’d watch pee wee hockey if it was on high def.

    I thin the biggest problem with the NHL is that it’s trying to attract too broad of a base.

    Look at the MLS. Clearly not a major sports league like the MLB, NBA and NFL. But it’s getting stronger because the league has targeted people who love the sport.

    The NHL should focus on being the league that features the best players in the world and not on becoming the most popular sport. The quality of play would remain high and the hardcores will pour money into the league.

    If you want to gradually expand, fine. That’s what businesses do. But the NHL shouldn’t focus on the casual fan right now.

    Oh, and hockey last names might be the best in any sport in the U.S.

  3. Peter Christian says

    OK, HJB we we aren’t arch enemies anymore, even though you do cheer for the Yankees, Tigers and Red Wings, we seem to have found some common ground. Consider the hatchet buried.

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