Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Is it possible to build a six-man starting lineup of NHL players whose names all rhyme?

It’s the dead zone of the offseason, so you know we’re getting weird. It’s fine, all the important people are at a cottage, we can do whatever we want and nobody will notice.

Today, that means tackling a simple question: Can we come up with a six-man starting lineup of well-known NHL players where all of their last names rhyme?

Plot twist: This turns out to not be such a simple question after all. But for once, it’s not because the answer is hard to find, although (spoiler alert) it’s that too.

Instead, it’s that apparently we can spend a lot of time arguing over what it means for something to rhyme. I kind of assumed that was a straightforward concept, but I ended up going down a rabbit-hole of literary and linguistic theory, and learning about terms like perfect and imperfect rhymes, not to mention slant rhymes and eye rhymes and whether a rhyme is masculine and feminine.

I did not appreciate any of this, because I’m a sportswriter, which means I made a commitment to stop learning new things a decade ago. But it became clear that we could make this whole thing way too easy if we went with the looser definitions, like just looking for matching final syllables. Screw that. Gretzky doesn’t rhyme with Crosby and Neely and Selanne, and we’re not making a team of guys whose last names all end in “son” or “ov” or “chuk”. What, you want to do things the easy way? Is this your first day here? Full-name rhymes only or get out.

We’re also going to note the obvious rule that matching names don’t rhyme (so no team made up of Sutters), and neither do different names that sound the same when spoken out loud (so no Billy Smith and Ryan Smyth). The one concession we’ll make is to go with generally accepted pronunciations and be a little lenient on what counts as a match, so please don’t fill the comment section with explanations of the etymology of subtle differences between two names from different regions of the world.

We need three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie, and we’re looking for perfect rhymes using names today’s fans might have heard of. Can it be done?

As we like to say around these parts in August: This is completely pointless, let’s do it.

I started the search with what seemed like an obvious strategy: Focus on one-syllable names. If we’re saying the whole thing has to rhyme, then lets keep that whole thing as short as possible, right? And as luck would have it, there are plenty of one-syllable names on the list of hockey royalty, so if we want to build around a star then we should be in good shape.

For example…

Attempt #1: Team Hall

This one has all sorts of potential, both because the name is nice and simple and lends itself well to rhymes, and also because we have the flexibility of starting with either Glenn Hall in goal or Taylor Hall up front. And we can immediately drop in another modern-day star in Eric Staal.

From there, though, the trail goes cold on us. We said we wanted a roster of six reasonably well-know players, and while Team Hall could open its doors to lesser-known NHLers like Kevin Dahl, Terry Ball, Bob Wall and current depth guy Nick Paul, it wouldn’t really seem like a worth entry. Let’s look elsewhere…

Attempt #2: Team Orr

There’s some momentary excitement when we realize we can start with a blueline of Bobby Orr and Eddie Shore, but it’s only temporary. We could put Jamie Storr in net, but Jay More was a defenseman and we’re already set there. There isn’t much else to work with that I can find, and while I have no doubt that I’ll miss some candidates here and there as we go through this, I don’t think there’s enough to work with on Team Orr.

Attempt #3: Team Clarke

Another strong start here, as we can build around a pair of 1970s Hall-of-Famers in Bobby Clarke and Brad Park. But again, that initial excitement wears off quickly, as we have to break the news to the comic book crowd that there’s never been a Stark in the NHL. There has been a Mark (90s defenseman Gordon) and a Dark (a few games in the 80s from defenseman Michael), but that’s about it.

The old-timers are letting us down. Let’s see if we have better luck with something a little more modern…

Attempt #4: Team Stone

We have a sold foundation up front with Mark Stone and Shane Doan, which is a decent start. I’m not sure if we can get away with Travis Moen for the third forward slot, but that’s OK because there was an Original Six-era forward named Tod Sloan who played for 13 seasons and was a Hart runner-up one year. That’s a solid top line.

From there, though, I’m not sure where to go. The NHL has never had a Cone, and our dumb rules that I’m already regretting keep us from using a Malone or Varone. So chalk this one up as another false start.

At this point, we’re starting to realize that this is going to be tougher than it seemed, which won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s a regular to Offseason DGB content. I don’t think we even get off the ground with some other well-known one-syllable NHL names, like Hull or Howe or Roy. Come to think of it, that last one might not even be one syllable depending on how French the person saying it is trying to be. This whole thing may have been a bad idea.

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