Quick, name a current NHL line that has a catchy nickname. Drawing a blank? Yeah, you probably are, and there may be a few reasons for that. One, hockey nicknames have taken a hit as of late. They don’t really have the zest they used to. For every inspired nickname like Johan “The Mule” Franzen, you have multiple nicknames such as Patrick “Kaner” Kane. Another reason you may have a tough time coming up with a nickname for an NHL line combination is that lines aren’t often together for prolonged periods of time in today’s NHL.
The days of throwing three players on the ice and keeping them together for extended periods are gone. These days, the pressure to win at all costs is extremely high. When a player’s production dips or surges, the coach changes line combinations — in a hurry. A third reason we don’t get memorable line nicknames today is because the days of three players staying on the same team and playing productive hockey together are dwindling.
Back in the pre-salary cap days a team could sign two or three superstars and keep them together for a long time, allowing them to develop some chemistry. For the most part, those days are behind us as well. In the big picture, it’s pretty silly to get hung up on something like a nickname, but it does add some personality to the NHL. As these nicknames are slowly phased out of the sport, it’s nice to look back on the old days. With that in mind, here are the five best NHL line nicknames in NHL history.
1. The Legion of Doom
The Philadelphia Flyers “Legion of Doom” played together for a brief time, but during that period, right wing Mikael Renberg, left wing John LeClair, and center Eric Lindros were one of the most productive lines in the NHL. The name was given to the Flyers’ trio for their goal-scoring talent as well as their physical play, which was mostly led by the hulking Lindros. Renberg, LeClair, and Lindros came together after another great nicknamed line, “The Crazy Eights,” was split up. Lindros played on that line with Brent Fedyk and Mark Recchi.
The “Legion of Doom” was assembled during the 1994-95 season and played together through the 1996-97 season when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in four games in the Stanley Cup final. The breakup came in the offseason after that sweep, when Renberg was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Chris Gratton. During their time together the trio played in 547 games and scored 666 points (305G, 361A). Lindros and LeClair would play together for three seasons after Renberg was traded. No member of “The Legion of Doom” is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but there is some hope that Lindros will be inducted in the next class.
2. The French Connection
“The French Connection” teamed up for the Buffalo Sabres between 1972 and 1979. The long-running line was made up of Rick Martin at left wing, Rene Robert at right wing, and Gilbert Perreault at center. The name of the line came from the fact that all three players were French-Canadian, and of course, from the movie by the same name.
The trio would never win the Stanley Cup, but they did take the team to the 1975 final where they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. During their time together, “The French Connection” scored a combined 1,681 points (738 G, 943 A) in 1,536 games. The line was broken up in October 1979 when Robert was traded to the former NHL Colorado Rockies. Of the three players on the line, Perreault is the only one to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
3. The Punch Line
“The Punch Line” consisted of right wing Maurice Richard, left wing Toe Blake, and center Elmer Lach. The line took the ice for the Montreal Canadiens between 1943-44 and 1947-48. Throughout that timespan the Canadiens won two Stanley Cups. During the 1944-45 season, the three led the NHL in scoring, with Lach scoring 80 points, Richard scoring 73, and Blake scoring 67. “The Punch Line” came apart when Blake retired after the 1948 season. All three players are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
4. The Production Line
“The Production Line” was the nickname for the Detroit Red Wings line of fight wing Gordie Howe, left wing Ted Lindsay, and center Sid Abel. The name was fitting in two ways. First, these players could really produce on the ice. Second, Detroit was the principal automotive manufacturing point in the United States when these three future Hockey Hall of Fame members played together. “The Production Line” came into being in 1947 when head coach Tommy Ivan put the Lindsay, Abel, and Howe together.
The three players instantly meshed, and during the 1950 season they finished 1-2-3 in scoring with Lindsay scoring 78 points, Abel scoring 69 points, and Howe scoring 68 points, something that has never been done since then. “The Production Line” would lead Detroit to two Stanley Cup victories. Unfortunately, the line was broken up following the 1951-52 season when Abel was traded to Chicago, where he served as player-coach for two seasons.
5. The Triple Crown Line
“The Triple Crown Line” was the nickname given to the line of right wing Dave Taylor, left wing Charlie Simmer, and center Marcel Dionne when they played for the Los Angeles Kings. The nickname, of course, was a take on the Kings logo, a crown. The three players were together from 1979 to 1984. In their first season together they combined for 269 points.
In the 1980-81 season, all three players topped the 100-point mark, the first time in NHL history that three players from the same team scored more than 100 points. The line would play together until October 1984 when Simmer was traded to the Boston Bruins, but they would never achieve the heights of that 1980-81 season again. Of the three members of “The Triple Crown Line,” Dionne is the only member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com.