By any other name: Illinois hockey nicknames

By Cole Henke

Talking to Illinois hockey players can be confusing for somebody who hasn’t been around the team much.

Most of the players refer to each other by nicknames. Some are just shortened versions of the players’ last names, and sometimes they are hard to decipher. Some have good stories behind them.

Some of these stories can be shared, and some of these stories can’t. For instance, before the seniors graduate, the team has one last big outing, and they make shirts for the younger players with certain nicknames on the back. The players said that those are known strictly within the confines of the team and aren’t public information.

Junior captain Austin Zima, a.k.a “Zeems,” doesn’t really know why the players make each other nicknames, but he also said it wasn’t unusual for the sport.

“I honestly think it is just a hockey thing,” Zima said. “I had the nickname Zeems before I got here. I got it back in my youth league days, and it has just followed me.”

Even head coach Nick Fabbrini has a nickname. His players call him “Fabbo.”

“I actually got that nickname during sophomore year of high school on my baseball team,” Fabbrini said. “The names are all terms of endearment, and nicknames have been a part of every hockey team that I have been associated with.”

One of the funnier stories about a nickname, according to Zima, is that of Joey Caprio’s, who the team calls “Magic Man.” This started during a game last year when Caprio scored a simple goal and didn’t do anything special. Amidst the normal cheers from the coaching staff and teammates, Fabbrini told the team to “call him the Magic Man.” The name stuck with Fabbrini, and he still calls Caprio the “Magic Man.”

Caprio has another nickname, though, and he isn’t the only one. His normal name on the ice is Cap. Outside of the rink, Zima has another nickname. One night they all went out as team, and sophomore Eric Cruickshank, a.k.a. “Cruicksy,” decided that Zima needed an alter ego. Cruickshank had “Naustin,” or something similar to Austin in mind.

Zima had another.

“He told me he wanted to be called Simeon,” Cruickshank said. “When I asked why, he said something along the lines of ‘I picture myself in Alaska, and I am hunting a beaver and then after I get it I just throw the beaver over my shoulder and walk home.’ That’s Austin Zima in a nut shell honesty.”

Freshman defenseman Benjamin Jeon has been labeled “Kinger.” His name is different from the others because Jeon actually has no idea why he is called Kinger. His teammates refuse to tell him why they gave him that name.

Sophomore defenseman Shaunak Pal has brought in a lot of nicknames in his time at Illinois. Most of them are building off of his unique name. His most common nickname is “Brum,” which is his middle name.

“We just thought Brum was a really funny middle name,” Cruickshank said. “Another one we call him is Shaunawak. We will make up new nicknames for him every day. We just do it to give him a hard time some times, but he likes it. ”

The names all come naturally. There is no team meeting early in the season to decide each player’s nickname. According to Cruickshank, most of them are out of convenience. Using Caprio as an example — there could be four Joey’s out there on the ice, but there is only one guy out there that will respond to the name “Cap” or “Capper.”

According to Cruickshank, the nicknames serve as ice-breaker. A new player comes in, and instead of being called his real name, he is given a nickname. It can make a player feel like they are fitting in more.

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