There are many aspects of NHL hockey from yesteryear that lifelong fans speak of with the utmost adoration. Pull up a chair to the old-timer’s table at a Tim Horton’s in Quispamsis, N.B. or Steinbach, Manitoba and you’re bound to hear about the glory days of the Original Six, no helmets, true dynasties, post-expansion dominance by teams like the Islanders and Oilers, or when a season regularly produced multiple 50-goal scorers.
Sure, the days of freewheeling offence and stand-up goaltending produced some of the most entertaining hockey that will ever be played – but the fact remains that it’s gone… for good. Of all the intricacies of the ‘old game’ that we here at Houses of the Hockey miss, there’s probably nothing we long for more frequently than the days of ‘full name on back’. This is our tribute to full names on jerseys.
A Trifecta of Howes
Although we’re pretty sure that 50-year old Gordie Howe would have been easy to differentiate from his sons Mark and Marty when the trio skated together in the WHA and NHL, we’re certainly pleased that the team elected to have all three sport their full name. As rare as a father and his two sons suiting up for the same team is, it’s all the more astounding that they managed to do it on three different teams. The Howes spelled their full names out on the back of their sweaters while playing for the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers of the WHA and once more when the franchise transferred to the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979.
Poor Marty Howe never really possessed the same aptitude for hockey that his father or younger brother Mark had, but we can be thankful that his abilities were sound enough to allow him to help leave his family’s mark on the Whalers franchise.
Full Name Familiarity for Rich and Ron Sutter
Twin brothers Rich and Ron Sutter spent two years together in Philadelphia while wearing their full names for the Flyers, then Rich was sent packing for Vancouver and eventually St. Louis. Ron Sutter would later be reunited with his twin brother in St. Louis where the brothers would once again be forced to have their first names sewn onto their sweaters.
The Sutter twins weren’t even the first set of siblings to don the full name look in Philadelphia, the Watson brothers (Jim and Joe) skated together for the Flyers throughout the 1970s.
We can only imagine the mess that could have been had all six Sutter brothers ever played for the same NHL team. Although their parents were prolific producers of NHL talent, they didn’t really mix it up too much when it came the first letter of their sons’ names. They came in packs of twos as Darryl, Duane, Brian, Brent, Rich and Ron.
Today, teams tend to just stick to a player’s last name – maybe a first initial for discrepancy. Earlier this season, two sons of Sutters (Brett and Brandon) skated together on the Carolina Hurricanes for one game. Both players wore only their surname, leaving the only difference between them to be their numbers and the fact that Brett spent most of the evening on the bench.
What A Bunch of Maloney
The brothers Maloney, Dave and Don, played together with the New York Rangers for 6+ seasons before the elder sibling (Dave) was shipped to Buffalo in 1984. Brothers with the same first initial, as further evidenced by the Sutter twins, left teams with one of two options when it came to jerseys: 1) have the guys use the first two letter of the first name (i.e. Do. Maloney and Da. Maloney) or 2) just say to hell with it and put the full name on there.
The Rangers went with full names for the Maloney brothers, which made sense given their short first names. Don Maloney registered five consecutive seasons of at least 20 goals while wearing his full name, a feat he would never accomplish after his first name came off his back.
We’ve probably seen the last of full names on sweaters in the NHL. Some players with hyphenated last names will even eschew having the entire appellation printed on their back. Of course, we can always hold out hope that Jared Staal will materialize as an NHLer and find himself in Pittsburgh with brother Jordan – then the onus is on the club to bring back the full name on back.
We hardly knew you, full name on back…
Stick tap to HFBoards for the Maloney and Ron Sutter images