Happy St. Patrick’s Day, hockey fans.
The Irish have a long history of producing excellent hockey players west of the Atlantic. Kennedys, Fitz-somethings, O’Reillys, O’Donnells, O’Connells, O’-everythings. We’ve seen many sons of Ireland play in the NHL, a trend continuing today.
Patrick O’Sullivan (ó Súilleabháin in Gaelic) is one. He just may have the most Irish name in hockey. Unfortunately his minus-32 rating this season makes him better suited to the links of Ballybunion than this list, because this week we’re looking at both performance and the name on the back of the sweater.
In honor of St. Patty’s, we tip our hats – and our pints – to the Emerald Isle and offer you our Top 10 NHLers with Irish names.
10. Chris Kelly, C, Ottawa
Seventh on the Senators in scoring, Ó Ceallaigh is quietly on pace for one of his best seasons statistically. Kelly is a decidedly Irish last name – the second-most popular in Ireland according to one website – and means ‘bright-headed.’ No wonder, then, that Kelly has turned into one of the Sens’ most dependable penalty-killers.
9. Owen Nolan, RW, Minnesota
Actually born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ó Nuallain is going strong at the ripe old age of 38 in his 18th season. Nolan means ‘noble’ or ‘famous’ and Owen has made himself famous for wearing No. 88 in Quebec when Eric Lindros wouldn’t play there; and for calling his shot – and scoring – against Dominik Hasek at the 1997 All-Star Game to complete a hat trick.
8. Matt Cullen, C, Ottawa
Picked up from Carolina, Ó Cuilinn is a versatile forward who can play both center and wing. His 14 goals and 43 points are good for fourth on the Sens and he plays in all situations for them; 3:58 per game with the man advantage, 2:20 when Ottawa is a man down.
7. Ryan O’Reilly, C, Colorado
The rookie was part of the early Calder talk, but has cooled off as of late. Nonetheless, Ó Raghallaigh has been a revelation in Colorado – second-rounders aren’t supposed to make the NHL in their draft years. O’Reilly is fast-becoming a penalty kill specialist and is sixth in total ice time for the Avs.
6. Ryan Callahan, C, Rangers
The Blueshirts haven’t exactly had the best of seasons, but Ó Ceallagcháin has been playing well: enough to make Team USA for the Vancouver Games. Ceallagcháin means ‘strife’ or ‘contention,’ so Ó Ceallagcháin means a descendant of strife or contention, not a bad name for a Rangers player this year.
5. Tim Connolly, C, Buffalo
It’d be tough to describe Ó Conghaile as ‘fierce as a hound,’ but that’s what his name means, so we’ll go with it. He is in the midst of his fiercest season yet, having already played more games than he has since 2002-03 and has hounded opponents to the tune of a career-high 61 points so far.
4. Bobby Ryan, LW, Anaheim
Picked second after Sidney Crosby in 2005, Ó Maoilriain is on pace for his second consecutive 30-plus goal season. His surname means ‘king’ and although it’s too soon to declare him NHL royalty, it’s not too much to declare him king of the castle in one area: he leads the Ducks with 10 power play goals
3. Cam Ward, G, Carolina
The name Ward translates to Mac an Bhaird in Gaelic, which means ‘son of the bard.’ While it hasn’t exactly been sweet poetry for the Hurricanes this year, there’s no doubt Ward, currently on the shelf with his second significant injury of the year, is a top-notch goaltender. He’s on pace to finish the season with a .913 save percentage on a team that will be in tough to get higher than 23rd overall.
2. Dan Boyle, D, San Jose
Boyle may just have the most interesting name on our list; you can call him ‘Dan vain pledge,’ that’s what Ó Baoill means. Ironic in that the Sharks have been making vain pledges to fans about their playoff chances for years.
1. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago
His last name means ‘battler’ and there’s no denying that’s exactly what Ó Catháin is. The undersized star isn’t afraid to use what he has at his disposal – his stick, elbows – to keep defenders at bay. And it’s working; he’s eighth in league scoring.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
If you enjoy this feature, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine for the exclusive countdown, Starting From 5, and other great features from the world of hockey.