Numberlines: Hockey Line Nicknames Based on Jersey Numbers

By Chernoff, Egan J. | The Mathematics Enthusiast, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Numberlines: Hockey Line Nicknames Based on Jersey Numbers


Chernoff, Egan J., The Mathematics Enthusiast


A line, in hockey parlance, is a term used to collectively describe the three forward positions, that is, Left Wing (LW), Centre (C) and Right Wing (RW). A hockey line nickname is exactly as it sounds - a nickname for a hockey line. The purpose of this article is to expound on Chernoffs (2015) notion of hockey line nicknames based on jersey numbers, that is, numberlines. (Apologies to my fellow Canadians, but I will be using the term hockey jersey, as opposed to hockey sweater, throughout this article. I know, eh!?) This article begins with a brief discussion of the history of hockey line nicknames, which allows for the parsing of numberlines and quasi-numberlines (nicknames based on numbers associated with hockey players). Focusing, next, on jersey number restrictions for the National Hockey League (NHL), a repeated calculation of the number of possible numberlines winnows down the number from a theoretical upper bound to a practical upper bound. Moving beyond the numbers, the names of natural numbers - those with a certain panache (e.g., Untouchable, McNugget, Frugal, Hoax, Narcissistic, Unhappy, Superperfect and Powerul numbers) - act as a gateway to the notion of numberlining, the process of attempting to coin a numberline. Two particular examples, The Powers Line and The Evil Triplets provide a window into the process of numberlining. Prior to concluding remarks, which explain how numberlines and numberlining fall in line with the NHL's recent embrace of fans' use of social media, the article details how adopting hockey line nicknames based on jersey numbers can be used as a possible venue to rename questionable hockey line nicknames.

That '70s Line: A Prelude

One of the greatest hockey line nicknames, in my opinion, was coined during the 2014 playing of the National Hockey League's (NHL) Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tanner Pearson (LW), Jeff Carter (C) and Tyler Toffoli (RW), a line for the 2014 Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, was, at some point during the season, given the nickname That '70s Line. The nickname, deftly conflates the numbers they wear on their jerseys (#70, #77 and #73, respectively) and the period sitcom, That '70s Show (which aired on Fox for nearly a decade). The nickname stuck.

That '70s Line definitely has staying power. To be clear, I am referring to the staying power of the line's nickname, not the line, nor the individuals that comprise the line. Yes, individually and collectively, Pearson, Carter and Toffoli, i.e., That '70s Line, were integral to the Los Angeles Kings winning the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In that sense, both the line and also the individuals had a sense of staying power. However, in January of the 2014-2015 NHL Season, a scant few months after winning The Stanley Cup, Tanner Pearson suffered a broken ankle. Just like that, That '70s Line was no longer together. The nickname, though, it lives on and is still widely used.

That '70s Line became a meme. Hockey commentators and journalists, those on TV, radio and in print, without so much as a hesitation, drop the line's nickname; and, in most instances, use the nickname as if every person watching, listening or reading knows who was on the line, when the line existed, the importance of the line and on and on and on. The meme began to grow. For example, once Dwight King, who wears the number 74 on his jersey, replaced Tanner Pearson, the new line of King (#74), Carter (#77) and Toffoli (#73) was quickly dubbed That '70s Line 2.0. The new nickname nicely conflates the numbers they wear on their jerseys, That '70s Show and 2.0, which is read as 'two-point-oh'. (Originally, 2.0 was a computer-sciencebased term for the second version of some-thing, but, more recently, has turned into a marketing based term.) As another example, the Chicago Blackhawks almost got into the action... almost. With Patrick Kane (#88), Marian Hossa (#81), Antoine Vermette (#80) and Teuvo Teravainen (#86) all playing forward for the Blackhawks, the nickname, That '80s Line (yes, there was a TV show called That '80s Show), was proposed to some of the different line combinations that were playing together (e. …

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