Trouble pronouncing NHL players names

November 19th, 2009 by Burgundy Leave a reply »

Hockey is an extremely diverse sport that attracts talent from all around the world. From Russia to the United States. Or from Kyiv, Ukraine to Thunder Bay, Canada. It’s amazing.

One of the few negative aspects of global sports is trying to pronounce various European names. Hell, sometimes I have difficulty pronouncing the names of players born in North America. As such, I’ve compiled a small list of NHL players who’s names I regularly struggle with. If you could provide help, I would really appreciate it.

  • Garnett Exelby
    It’s not that Exelby is a terribly difficult name to pronounce. It’s that I never hear his name called by TV commentators – something I often rely on when learning players names. In fact, the only time I hear Exelby’s name called is when PA announcers reveal the healthy scratches.
  • Tomas Plekanec
    This is a name I am legitimately confused by. I’ve heard eight or nine different pronunciations.  It’s heard “Ple-kan-ek”, “Plek-an-ix”, “Plek-an-ich”,”Plak-in-axe”, “Plek-an-ex” … actually that’s not very different from the second one. You get my point.
  • Phil Ke$$el
    I’m unsure how to say this name. Are $’s pronounced like ‘sh’ or ‘sc’? Would you pronounce it like Keshel or Keschel? I find this very confusing. Perhaps Boston fans can help me.
  • Zarley Zalapski
    I don’t find this name very confusing at all. It’s a name I strongly feel should be included on any list that features cool, hilarious, obscure or strange NHL players names. I would go as far as saying Zalapski is a groovy name!
  • Milan Michalek
    How do you pronounce his last name? Milan and his brother Zbynek Michalek say their last name differently. What the hell? Zbynek says it like “Me-hal-ek” while Milan says it “Mi-ck-alek”. This isn’t supposed to make sense, right?
  • Luke Schenn
    I don’t know too much about this player. He’s rarely on the ice. Especially in critical moments and third periods. However, I’m starting to identify the name “Schenn” with “turnover leading to goal against”. Hopefully I’ll learn the correct way to say his name after the next Battle of Ontario.

Stay classy, difficult to pronounce NHL players names. You have me thoroughly confused.

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  1. Kels says:


    Some are hard. Karlis Skrastins was one I just could never manage no matter how hard I tried. ;)

    I listen to Montreal radio quite a bit. I believe it’s Pleh-kan-nets.

    And I just heard in the Rangers/Ottawa game last week that both brothers are now going by Mi-kahl-ik – haha I think? That one still stumps me. But they are going by whatever Zbynek was being called. K sound not H sound on the second syllable.

    Could be totally wrong, but that’s what I am going with!

  2. Fantana says:

    I throw one into the mix here… Dustin Byfuglien – how many people got that name wrong the first time they tried to pronounce it?

  3. Ryan Classic says:


    The Michalek thing drives me nuts. I’ve heard two broadcasters say it differently in the same game, hell, the same shift.

    The Pittsburgh broadcast today kept saying “Alex-and-er Pee-card” which led to us all bantering about bad pronunciations of player names. My favourites: Pascal “Dew-poo-is” and Mike “Fiché”

    I also hear Pleh-kan-etch more often than not.

  4. Burgundy says:

    @ Kels – Thanks for commenting. Welcome to Stayclassy! Honestly, who goes and changes their name like that? I remember the Huet debacle from a few years ago. Ridiculous. I still can’t pronounce Plekanec

    @ Fantana – I believe I thought it was Dustin BI-FÜÜG -LI-EN.

    @ Ryan – Good call on Skrastinstichernich. Or however you say it. The Peeecard thing was pretty annoying last night. I do like the Dupuis one. That’s good. There could be a round 2 of this blog soon.

  5. Ryan Classic says:

    @ Fantana/Burgundy – I always went with Bi-fugly-en until CBC corrected me. Took a few times before I realized they were the same player.

    @ Burgundy – Skrastins and my Avs go back a few years. Peecard was driving me insane tonight, thank goodness that game’s over. Even the Ducks broadcasters could get Marty St. Louis right (though Phoenix’s went with Mar-tinn Saint Louie). As for Doo-poo-iss, I had a friend in high school with that last name, and we called her that a fair bit. Good sport about the whole thing.

  6. Chris B says:

    I’m always amazed by the number of pronunciations commentators can get out of simple names like Modano. I constantly hear ‘Mow-dar-no’ or ‘Mow-du-no’ or even ‘Madd-en-oh’.
    I think Byfuglien caused a lot of commentators a lot of sleepless nights in his debut season.
    One name i’m never sure of is Lucic. Again, heard all sorts of pronunciations of it. Does anyone have the definitive one?

  7. Burgundy says:

    @ Chris – Thanks for reading. For Lucic, the consistent way I’ve heard is “Loo-cheech”

  8. Ryan says:

    “Exelby” is pronounced “useless.”

  9. Burgundy says:

    I like that Ryan. I might have to use that in an upcoming blog!

  10. Kels says:

    @Burgundy – Thanks.

    I always got annoyed with the brother thing. Kaber-ley versus Kaber-la. Seriously? Even the Sauer brothers didn’t want to pronounce their names the same way. I’m like you are American! Get on the same page!

    I’ve known a few switches in names. Alesh – Ko-ta-leek was AleS Ko-ta-LIK for a bit. That was annoying. And Boris Mironov kept switching back and forth between MIR-a-nov and Mi= RON-ov. And it was like, buddy, no one cares, so please stop. Hu-ey/HueT was the worst though.

    @Ryan – Thanks for Karlis. I just think it’ll always be one that I can’t say without over-thinking.

    I love the Coyotes but Tyson Nash was really killing me with Lecavalier the other night. Instead of Le-cav-al-yay he was all Le-cav-al-ye-ay or something, adding another syllable.

    Some of the all-time worst I’ve ever heard on air (all a long time ago) – Wayne Getz-ke-nee, Mark MessieR, and Chris Kelios.


  11. Arzee says:

    Props for spelling Kyiv correctly.

  12. Burgundy says:

    Big time stick tap to Google for the assist on that one. Thanks Arzee!

  13. Julie V. says:

    Plekanec seems like it’s pronounced differently in French and in English.

    In French, I always hear “ThoMASH Plek-a-nets” and in English I often hear “Thomas Plek-a-ness”

    Also, my own last name, that I share with an NHL player, VEILLEUX. Growing up in Saskatchewan with such a name is something, but commentators really should be able to pronounce it correctly.

    It is pronounced vay-yeu or vay-yuh if the “eu” sound baffles you. Not vay-yoo, you don’t pronounce the Ls as Ls and you DON’T PRONOUNCE THE X.


  14. Misko (pro. Mishko) says:

    the Michaleks pronounce their names the same way, they just speak differently. If you’re not listening careful, then you’ll miss it. In Michalek (mee-”ch” aa lek), the ch is pronounce like your coughing something up. The Scots have the same sound used like Loch and other words you might find on Scotch bottles. Plekanec is (Ple kaa netz)

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