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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Hockey homonyms

A homonym is two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins. For this post I am loosely applying the term to hockey players that have the same name, either through spelling, or pronunciation. Below are the four hockey homonyms that I can best think of - if there are any more you are aware of, please let me know!

  • Mike Peluso. The first Mike Peluso in the NHL is the 1990s enforcer featured later in this post. The second Mike Peluso played 38 games in the early 2000s for Chicago and Pittsburgh, in addition to being a two-time AHL all-star. These two Mikes are also cousins.

  • Greg Adams. The first Greg Adams was a left winger who played 500+ games for Philadelphia, Hartford, Washington, Edmonton, Vancouver, Quebec and Detroit in the 1980s. The second Greg Adams was also a left winger, playing over 1000 games for New Jersey, Vancouver, Dallas, Phoenix and Florida. This Greg Adams scored three career playoff overtime goals, including two in a single week during the Canucks’ run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. To make things even more confusing, both Greg Adams were teammates on the Canucks during the 1988-89 season.

  • Elias Petterson. The first Elias Petterson is a current-day centre with the Canucks who has played in two all-star games in four seasons; he also won the 2019 Calder and was named to the all-rookie team that season. The second Elias Petterson is a defenceman who was drafted by the Canucks 80th overall in 2022 and currently plays in Sweden.

  • Nicklas/Niklas Backstrom. Nicklas with a ‘c’ Backstrom is a current-day centre with Washington. The Swede was drafted fourth overall and has played his entire 16-year career with the Capitals. He was named to the all-rookie team (2008), finished second in Calder voting and scored over 1000 points. Niklas with a ‘k’ Backstrom was a Finnish goaltender who played ten NHL seasons, nine with Minnesota and one with Calgary. In his rookie season at the age of 28 he shared the Jennings Trophy with Manny Fernandez and finished third in Vezina Trophy voting the following season. Before coming to the NHL Niklas was a two-time best goalie, playoff MVP and league champion in Finland.

Surprisingly, no one named John or James Smith has ever played in the NHL, despite those names being among the most common in the English-speaking world.

Card 412 - Jamie Macoun

A defenceman, Macoun went undrafted, playing three seasons of college hockey at Ohio State. He signed with Calgary as a free agent in 1983, playing 22 games in the 1982-83 season, recording five points. In his rookie season of 1983-84, Macoun scored nine goals and 32 points and was named to the all-rookie team.

Over his next six seasons in Calgary (1984 to 1991), Macoun scored seven or more goals each season and 30+ points four times, recording a career-high 40 points in 1986-87. He also finished with a +30 rating or better in four seasons, finishing top 10 in the NHL each of those seasons. One season after playing in the 1986 Finals against Montreal, Macoun missed the entire 1987-88 season recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident in May 1987. Returning for the 1988-89 season, he contributed nine points in 22 playoff games as the Flames won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, avenging their loss to Montreal three seasons prior.

In January 1992 Macoun was sent to Toronto along with Doug Gilmour in one of the most famous trades in NHL history. In his seven seasons in Toronto Macoun became more focused on the defensive side of his game, scoring only one goal in his final three seasons with the team, a span of 222 games. An assistant captain in his final season, he was traded to Detroit at the 1998 trade deadline for a draft pick. Macoun played in all 22 playoff games for the Red Wings, scoring two goals and four points while winning his second Stanley Cup. He retired following the 1998-99 season.

In 16 NHL seasons, Macoun played in 1128 games, scoring 76 goals and 358 points. In 1991 he won a silver medal with Canada at the World Championships, where he was named the tournament’s best defenceman after scoring four goals in eight games. In retirement Macoun has been involved in several business ventures, including a car dealership and working in real estate in Calgary.

YouTube clip: KOing Jerry Dupont during his rookie season. This was one of only 17 career fights for Macoun, most of which happened in the early part of his career.

Card 413 - Curtis Leschyshyn

A defenceman, Leschyshyn was drafted third overall by Quebec in 1988 after his third season with Saskatoon in the WHL. He turned pro immediately, playing in 71 games his first season, scoring four goals and 13 points. Leschyshyn’s playing time decreased over the next three seasons (68, 55, and 42 games respectively), but he bounced back in the 1992-93 season to post career highs in goals (9) and points (32) while playing in 82 games. This was also Leschyshyn’s first season recording a plus rating (+25), his previous best being -19.

In the lockout shortened 1994-95 season he earned a +29 rating, second in the league behind Ron Francis. The following season he moved to Colorado with the rest of the Quebec franchise and finished sixth in the NHL with a +32 rating. The Avs won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1996, with assistant captain Leschyshyn contributing three points in the playoffs.

Following the Cup victory, Leschyshyn was traded twice in one week in November 1996. First he was sent to Washington with Chris Simon for Keith Jones and draft picks. After playing in two games, he was traded to Hartford for Andrei Nikolishin. For the second time in Leschyshyn’s career he would move locations with a franchise, going from Hartford to Carolina. He played three seasons for the Hurricanes before he was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the 2000 expansion draft.

Leschyshyn played 54 games with the Wild before a trade to Ottawa for a draft pick at the 2001 trade deadline. More than just a deadline rental, he stayed with the franchise for three seasons, making a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003. In August 2005 he signed back with Colorado, but never played again, retiring prior to the start of the season.

In 16 NHL seasons, Leschyshyn played in 1033 games, scoring 47 goals and 212 points. In 2013-14 he was an assistant coach with his former WHL team in Saskatoon, then coached youth hockey in the town until 2018. Since 2019 he has been a pro scout with Colorado. Leschyshyn’s son, Jake, currently plays for the Vegas Golden Knights.

YouTube clip: an interview from his time on CBC’s Battle of the Blades, where ex-NHLers were partnered with professional figure skaters in a Dancing with the Stars style competition.

Card 414 - Mike Peluso

A left winger in the NHL, Peluso was drafted as a defenceman 190th overall by New Jersey in 1984 out of high school hockey in Minnesota. Following the draft he played one season of junior B in Ontario and then four years of college hockey at Anchorage-Alaska, captaining the team during his senior year.

Peluso signed as a free agent with Chicago in September 1989, turning pro with Indianapolis in the IHL. That season he won the Turner Cup and played in two games for the Hawks. In his true rookie season of 1990-91 Peluso played in 53 games, scoring six goals and recording 320 penalty minutes, the second highest total in the league. For a sophomore performance he would lead the NHL in penalty minutes at 408, the third highest single-season total of all time. The Blackhawks made the Stanley Cup Finals that season, with Peluso playing in 17 playoff games, scoring a goal and three points.

Peluso was claimed by Ottawa in the 1992 expansion draft, and in his one season in Ottawa scored a career-high 15 goals and 25 points, along with 318 penalty minutes. In June 1993 he was traded to the team that drafted him, New Jersey, as the Devils and Senators swapped goalies (Craig Billington and Peter Sidorkiewicz respectively). Peluso scored 20 points in his first season in Jersey, and led the playoffs in penalty minutes with 64 as the Devils made the Eastern Conference Finals.

As part of the Crash Line with Bobby Holik and Randy McKay, Peluso played in 20 playoff games as the Devils won their first Stanley Cup in 1995. A year and a half later he was traded to St. Louis in a multi-player deal, playing 44 games for the Blues before he was transferred to the Rangers in the 1997 off-season as compensation for the Rangers’ signing of Larry Pleau as their head coach,

Peluso was claimed off waivers by Calgary before ever dressing for the Rangers, playing 23 games for the Flames before retiring in December 1997 due to a chronic neck injury. In nine NHL seasons Peluso played in 458 games, scoring 38 goals and 90 points while recording 1951 penalty minutes, good for 59th all-time. Only Kelly Chase, with 2017 penalty minutes in 458 games has more penalty minutes in fewer games played.

During the 2004-05 season Peluso coached high school hockey in Minnesota. He has filed numerous lawsuits against his former teams due to medical issues that resulted in severe head trauma during his playing career.

YouTube clip: KOing Kevin Kaminski after a missed kneeing attempt from Kaminski. Peluso stood 6’4” and 225 pounds with Kaminsiki giving up 6 inches and 35 pounds. Peluso racked up 174 career fights to Kaminski’s 36.

Card 415 - Brian Benning

A defenceman, Benning was drafted 26th overall by St. Louis in 1984. The season following the draft he played 17 games for Kamloops in the WHL and four games with the Blues, recording two assists. Benning spent the 1985-86 regular season with the Canadian National Team, then played in six playoff games with the Blues, scoring a goal and three points.

In his first full NHL season, Benning played in 78 games, scoring 13 goals and 49 points (all career-highs), was named to the all-rookie team and finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting. The following two seasons with the Blues he scored 34 or more points each season before a trade early in the 1989-90 season to Los Angeles for a draft pick.

Benning played parts of three seasons with the Kings before he was involved in a blockbuster three-way trade between Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He was shipped first to Pittsburgh with a first round pick and Jeff Chychrun for Paul Coffey before going to Philadelphia as part of the Rick Tocchet - Mark Recchi swap. During the 1991-92 season split between the Kings and Flyers Benning scored 42 points, the highest single season point total since his rookie season.

Just under a year after the three-way trade, Benning was shipped to Edmonton for Josef Beranek and Greg Hawgood. He lasted 18 games with the Oilers before signing with Florida as a free agent for the 1993-94 season. In his first season in Florida Benning scored six goals and 30 points while also recording 107 penalty minutes, the eighth time in his career he broke the 100 penalty minute barrier. He retired after playing 24 games in the 1994-95 lockout shortened season.

In 10 NHL seasons Benning played in 568 games, scoring 63 goals and 296 points. His son Matt has played several years in the NHL and his brother Jim is the former general manager in Vancouver, with the rest of his children playing hockey at one level or another.

YouTube clip: scoring short-side against Grant Fuhr following a beauty saucer pass from Tomas Sandstrom during a March 1991 game against Edmonton.

Card 416 - Stu Grimson

A left winger, Grimson was drafted twice: first by Detroit, 186th overall in 1983, and second by Calgary 143rd overall in 1985. During this time span he played three years for Regina in WHL, and then two seasons with the University of Manitoba. Grimson turned pro for the 1987-88 season, scoring nine goals, 14 points and recording 268 penalty minutes in only 38 games with Salt Lake City in IHL.

Grimson, also known as the Grim Reaper, recorded 397 and 319 penalty minutes respectively in the following two seasons with Salt Lake City, also appearing in four games with Calgary. At the start of the 1990-91 season he was claimed off waivers by Chicago, where he would establish himself as a bona fide NHL tough guy, appearing in an increasing number of games over the next three seasons (35, 54 and 78) while recording 180 penalty minutes or more each season. The Blackhawks made the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals, with Grimson playing in 14 playoff games, recording only 10 penalty minutes and one assist.

Like former teammate Mike Peluso, Grimson was claimed in an expansion draft, in his case by Anaheim in 1993. An assistant captain in his first season with the Mighty Ducks, he was traded to Detroit in April 1995 with Mark Ferner and a draft pick for Mike Sillinger and Jason York. In three seasons as a Red Wing, Grimson played in 81 total games, scoring only one goal in that time, but it was a big one. In Game 3 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals against his former team Chicago, Grimson scored to tie the game at two, with Detroit winning the game in overtime and the series in five games.

Early in the 1996-97 season he was claimed off waivers by Hartford, playing one season for the Whalers before moving to Carolina. During his first season as a Hurricane, Grimson scored a career high in goals (3), points (7) and eclipsed the 200 penalty minute mark for the third time in his career. The summer of 1998 saw Grimson traded back to Anaheim, where he matched his three goal season from the year before.

During the 2000-01 season, at age 35 and after signing with Los Angeles, Grimson recorded a career-high 235 penalty minutes, good for third in the league while yet again scoring three goals. He played one final season with Nashville, retiring due to concussion issues after the 2001-02 season.

In 14 NHL seasons, the Grim Reaper played in 729 games, scoring 17 goals, 39 points and 2113 penalty minutes (44th all-time). In retirement he obtained both an undergraduate and a law degree, working as legal counsel for the NHLPA as well as in private practice. Grimson was colour analyst for the Predators, a role he currently holds with the NHL Network while also working as corporate counsel and vice-president of business development for ThirdHOME.

YouTube clip: the video’s title says it all, Stu Grimson Goes Nuts. These events unfolded during a January 1992 game between Toronto and Chicago, with Grimsonrecording 37 penalty minutes. Also, Jim Hughson’s phrase ‘Manhandling Marouelli’ has inspired the name of my 2000s emo cover band.

Card 417 - Ken Sabourin

A defenceman, Sabourin was selected 33rd overall by Calgary in 1984. Following the draft he played two additional seasons in the OHL, turning pro in the 1986-87 with Moncton in the AHL. Sabourin moved to the Flames’ farm team in Salt Lake City with the IHL from 1987-90, winning a Turner Cup in 1988. During this time he squeezed in four games with Calgary, earning one assist. During the 1989 playoffs he also appeared in one playoff game for the Flames, which was good enough to get his name on the Stanley Cup as the Flames beat the Habs in the Cup Finals that playoffs.

Following the Cup win, 1990-91 was Sabourin’s most successful NHL season, playing in 44 games, scoring two goals and nine points while racking up 117 penalty minutes. In January of that season he was traded to Washington for Paul Fenton. 1991-92 was Sabourin’s final NHL season, playing in 19 games for the Capitals and recording 48 penalty minutes.

1992-93 saw a stop with Baltimore in the AHL before Sabourin returned to the IHL, playing from 1993 to 1998 with Milwaukee and one final season in 1998-99 with Orlando before retiring. Sabourin ranks 19th all-time in games played in the IHL, fifth amongst defencemen. In four NHL seasons he played in 74 games, scoring two goals and 10 points. He currently works as a colour analyst with the Capitals.

YouTube clip: a slow developing scrap between Sabourin and Marty McSorley where Sabourin comes to the aid of teammate Lanny McDonald.

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