The Name of the Olympic Hockey Team

Feb 18th 2010

At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 23 American professional hockey players are taking time off from the NHL to play for their national team. If you were to meet one of these men, what would you call him?

Your best bet: Ryan.

The name Ryan may not scream "hockey" to you, but the numbers don't lie. As reader Ian pointed out to me, 6 of the 23 players on the Team USA roster are named Ryan. That's a whopping 26% Ryan rate. For perspective, at its peak popularity the name Ryan accounted for only 1.5% of American boys born.

Of course, this sort of statistical anomaly can easily pop up with small sample sizes like 23 players. If you expand the pool to all of the American players in the NHL, though, you still come up with an impressive 7% Ryan rate. In fact, Ryan is the 2nd most common name in the NHL, trailing only the perennial powerhouse Michael. Many names that are more common for young men in the rest of the country, and the world -- Dave, Matt, Jason, Josh, Chris -- trail Ryan in the NHL.

Again, statistical anomalies happen, but there's a reason this particular distinction falls to Ryan. The key is that hockey players aren't a random sample of American athletes; they're Northerners. Of the 23 Olympic players, 21 hail from New England or Great Lakes states. Even within those states, the players skew Northern. The three New York natives, for instance, were born in Buffalo, Ithaca and Rochester.

Take a look at the NameMapper map of Ryan popularity from 1979, the year Team USA Left Wing Ryan Malone was born:

That's a hockey-country name for you: a high rank of #4 among all boys' names in Wisconsin and North Dakota, a low of #47-48 in Alabama and Mississippi. (In case you're wondering, Ryan does skew white as well, but not dramatically within a geographic area.) Now compare the Ryan map to the William map from the same year:

Sure enough, there are only 2 Williams, Willies, Bills or Billies in the National Hockey League, compared to 19 Ryans. In the National Football League, which draws more heavily from the Southern U.S., the ratio is 23:29.

So what can we expect the U.S. hockey team to look like at the 2034 Olympics? Keep an eye out for new Northern names like Owen, Evan and Jack. But don't expect 26% of any of them. No name in America is as popular today as Ryan was -- ranked #14 --  back in 1979.

<p><strong>#1: <a href="/baby-name/girl/simone"><strong>Simone</strong></a>.</strong>


February 20, 2010 11:37 AM

Bue - You totally nailed the problem I've been having with Mary. Our last name isn't interesting enough to pull it off. So maybe I can convince dh of Marian or Maris (he commented that it rhymed with Paris, but I'll have to counter that it also rhymes with Alice or Doris) with Mae as a nn.

By Philippa The First (not verified)
February 20, 2010 2:59 PM

AM: Anson Lars LN gets my vote

MA, and others: What about Baz as a nickname for Sebastian? I know one Australian boy (maybe 3 or 4 now) with this name and nickname. Even though to Aussie ears the -az nicknames (Baz, Haz, Gaz, Az) might sound a little dated. I think in a US context they sound cool. The -az nicknames for girls (Caz, Shaz) will need a few years to win me over!

February 20, 2010 3:58 PM

Took a while to catch up, but here goes:

Gmas' names: Aurora Dorothy and Shirley Zita (both went by mns only). I think I'd Dorothy, Aurora, Zita, Shirley.

Gpas' names: Malcolm Frederick and Eugene (no mn). I would use Frederick (nn Freddie), Malcolm, Eugene.

States: I would name a girl Connecticut (nn Connie!) and a son Massachusetts, unless I named them New Jersey and New York! J.K. I'd probably use Virginia or Georgia, maybe Carolina, but I like Caroline better.

We have to write a story taking place in the Middle Ages for my history class and I'm using names like Henry, William, John, etc. but one kid in my class is using Denarius Jackson (probably made up) and another is using Thgink (like Think but with a 'g' stuck in... I just can't figure out how to pronounce that one!)

@ MA: I knew a Sebastian with the nn Sebas (pron. like Sea Bass) which isn't necessarily the best, but that was what our math teacher called him that year and it stuck. We also had two Jeremys in that class: JT and JW (which got shortened to J Dub) and two Daniels: DB and DT. J Dub actually stuck on in later years but as there were six Daniels in the grade (2 with T lns and 2 with near-rhyming K lns it just got confusing)--wow that was off topic... sorry.

By Kristin W. (not verified)
February 20, 2010 6:07 PM

My grandmothers: Charlie Mae, Nettie Aris, Annie Mae. We considered using Charlie (possibly with Charlotte as the longer form) for our daughter, due in June, but I was nervous about its popularity as a boy's name ... and as a dog's name. We know several people with dogs named Charlie!

I adore the name Annie, but it's also my mother-in-law's name, and she has kinda ruined it for me.

I also considered Iris, because I think that's what they were trying to go for with my grandmother Nettie Aris's middle name. I'm in the South, and a lot of the older folks pronounce a long "i" sound like "ah." For example, fahr and tahr for fire and tire.

By Scout3 (not verified)
February 20, 2010 7:55 PM

Siblings overheard today:
Zella (age 9)
Faye (age 5)

February 20, 2010 11:55 PM

I heard an interesting story today on the Canadian Olympic coverage about the naming of the Canadian snowboarder Maelle Ricker. The first time I heard her name I thought it a bit odd because she is from Vancouver and not French. I saw a segment on TV today where the parents told the story of how they had friends who were supposed to name their daughter Maelle but changed their mind after she was born, so when they had their second daughter, they asked their friends if they could use the name Maelle since they thought it was so pretty.

By sarah smile (not verified)
February 21, 2010 2:15 AM

Ok, here is a name challenge for you. Another mega-family has recently announced they are expecting #16. They haven't asked for our help, but I thought it might be fun to see what we could come up with. According to their website, the parameters are:
1) No repeat first initials
2) Nothing overly common
3) No 'traditional biblical' names

So far they have:
Jessica, Chad, Dalton, Austin, Bailey, Gage, Kaylee, Harper, Emma, Rebekah, Trevor, Walker, Morgan, Laura, Sawyer

That leaves us with: F,I,N,O,P,Q,U,V,X,Y,Z


February 21, 2010 5:18 AM

Finola, Fiona, Faye, Iris, Nina, Olive, Payton/Peyton, Vera, Violet

Frank, Quincy, Quinton, Vaughn, Vance, Xavier, Zack, Zeke

Some of these are probably a bit too old-fashioned for them. Definitely a fun challenge though!

February 21, 2010 10:52 AM

A quick question for you all: If we have another boy, would it be weird to use Lincoln in the middle name spot to honor our son Lincoln who was stillborn in 2006? I've thought about doing it for a while, and since DH really likes Graham and I think Graham Lincoln is a nice combo, it could be a possibility. I'm just not so sure. I'd appreciate any thoughts on this. Thanks!

February 21, 2010 1:34 PM

I don't think that would be weird. I wrote a post a bit back that mentioned how "in the olden days" people used to reuse names on kids if one died young.

sarah smile-My suggestions are:

That leaves us with: F,I,N,O,P,Q,U,V,X,Y,Z


February 21, 2010 2:08 PM

@ sarah smile: Wow, that's a bit of a challenge! Let's see, Fiona (I know it's a repeat, but still...), Nora, Oliver, Parker, Violet, Xander, Zachary. I don't know about I, Q, U, or Y. I also think Nicole is a good idea. 16 is a lot of kids though!

February 21, 2010 2:41 PM

I want to change my F name above to Faith. I like it better a as name and also with the other sibling and their style. As an added bonus it doesn't repeat with A Rose.

February 21, 2010 2:46 PM

Wow...16 kids! I can hardly handle the prospect of three! Some of these are probably repeats from above but i would say:

Finn, Ian, Nathan, Oliver, Payton, Quin, Victor, Xander, Zachary.
Fiona, Ivy, Natalie, Olivia, Piper, Quin, Violet, Zara.

I think the ones best suited to their style though would probably be Payton, Quin, Violet and Natalie.

By Emilie (not verified)
February 21, 2010 3:01 PM

I'm really disappointed to see Georgia discussed as a place/state name - is that the first thing people think of when they think of the name Georgia? I mean, it was a name before it was a state, right? Georgia is my top choice if this baby is a girl, but I'm having second thoughts, particularly because my daughter's name is Charlotte, which I guess could also be considered a place name (which I never thought of when I named her). Are people going to think I have a thing for place names? I just think they're both beautiful names. And I don't live in the South either- do they sound really southern? Please talk me down! :-)

February 21, 2010 3:10 PM

i'll be the first to talk you down:
i definitely do NOT think of georgia as primarily a place name. i think the reason it came up so often during that discussion is that many people, if forced to choose a state name, were leaning towards state names that were also actual names (like georgia and virginia) rather than utah or idaho.

i definitely do not think people will think you have a thing for place names (i do not think of charlotte as a place name at ALL). i think charlotte and georgia are a beautiful pair.

February 21, 2010 3:57 PM

@ Emilie: I agree with emilyrae. I don't think of Charlotte as a place name and most people wouldn't think of either Charlotte or Georgia as place names unless I lived in either Charlotte or Georgia (but I assume you don't). I think that they are a lovely pair! I really like the two together.

February 21, 2010 5:46 PM

I think Georgia and Charlotte are both sweet names and I wouldn't think twice about using them. =)

February 21, 2010 6:19 PM

Emilie-I like both Charlotte and Georgia as a sibset and agree with the others. However, I do think that some people will notice the theme. That is not necessarily a bad thing, nor should it bother you a whole lot, but if it does then maybe rethink your options. The other thing to think of is if there are going to be further children added to the mix. You may feel boxed into a theme down the road or you may not-I don't know. Just go into it with your eyes open and know the choice you are making is the best for you and your family.

By Liz & Louka (not verified)
February 21, 2010 6:58 PM

re state names: Here in Australia our states are -

New South Wales
Western Australia
South Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
- all these are totally out

- maybe for a boy

- fine for a girl (named after the queen at the time) but not my style.

February 21, 2010 7:31 PM

Maybe as an homage to Australian Capital Territory you could go with Acton? :)

And as for Charlotte and Georgia--I may be in the minority, but Georgia is definitely a state or a country to me before it's a name.

I don't think Charlotte and Georgia are too matchy though, they're cute in a Southern-belle kind of way to me. Carolina and Georgia or Charlotte and Savannah would be over the top, as is they're a cute semi-related sibset.

February 21, 2010 7:39 PM

I don't think of Charlotte or Georgia primarily as place names, and I live in North Carolina (although not in Charlotte). I would notice that both are place names, but wouldn't really think anything of it, because one is a city and the other a state (and country, for that matter). For what it's worth, there are tons of Charlottes here, and I've never heard anyone say, "Oh, like the city?"

By Emilie (not verified)
February 21, 2010 8:38 PM

Thanks for your comments- they made me feel better. At least I have a favorite girl's name- if it is a boy I'm in real trouble! Absolutely no ideas there (and definitely no "boy" place names for me!).

February 21, 2010 9:23 PM

thanks so much for the feedback everyone! I've actually considered the name Benedict for a while. My only concern with it is that we aren't really a religious family and I feel like many people have a religious connotation with the name. I guess I don't feel the same way about Christopher though...maybe because it's a pretty mainstream name among people who aren't necessarily religious. I do really like Benedict James though and will bring it up to DH. I'm going to keep Christopher, Sebastian and Malcolm (and maybe Benedict!) on our short list until the baby is born and see what happens.

By TamaraR (not verified)
February 21, 2010 9:37 PM

WendyC - I did a doubletake reading about your grandfather, as my great-grandfather also hated having the middle name Valentine and was born on 2/14 in the late 1800s. But I think he went by his first name, George.

Just to continue the holiday tradition by happenstance, he ended up having twins born on Halloween and a daughter whose birthday sometimes coincided with Thanksgiving.
At least he didn't name his kids after those holidays.

By Adele'smommy (not verified)
February 21, 2010 10:54 PM

I think it would be fine to use Lincoln as a mn if you have a little boy.

February 21, 2010 11:11 PM

TamaraR-My gma also shared a bday on occasion with Thanksgiving. It was neat.

Emilie-Yes, Anne with an E's point is well taken. If you do go with Georgia and then have another girl you could continue the theme with Savannah or go totally the opposite way. For boys names here are some thoughts:
Jasper; Benjamin; Adam
Everett; Sawyer; Walker
Andrew; Oliver; Leo
Julian; Brady; Theodore
Samuel; Blake; Elijah/Elias
Tristan; Jerome; Owen

By Emilie (not verified)
February 21, 2010 11:21 PM

Thanks zoerhenne! You've got my taste down for sure. I'd say almost all of those are names I've considered at one time or another. We have a last name that's a bit difficult to deal with (ruling out some names I love), plus a lot of kids in the family that have "taken" some of the names. I may have to give some on your list a little more thought though.

For the record- definitely no more kids after this one. This is my 6th pregnancy (I only have 1 kid so far) - we are feeling quite blessed now but I am done with the drama after this! Maybe this is why I'm feeling so much pressure on the name choice. I consider myself a bit of a name geek, so I'm very surprised at myself that I'm having so much trouble with this!

February 21, 2010 11:26 PM

Turns out my paternal grandmother wasn't Wilhelmina but rather Linilda Lucille her nn was Billie though. Can't say that I'm leaping to use either name. Linilda has never been in the top 1000 so even way back in her day that was an unusual choice. Lucille of course could be changed back to the more traditional Lucy or Lucia to better suit our taste.

February 22, 2010 12:57 AM

Emilie-I'm glad I could help ;) I totally understand about the drama btw. I only have 2 but first one had drama of his own and 2nd time it was me. Two's enough anyway-i only have 2 hands to hold and there are 2 parents so we can split up evenly for some things :)
Best wishes on an uneventful rest of the pregnancy!

another Laura-Linilda is a unique name that I don't think I've ever heard of before. Do you have any other background that you can share about it?

P.S. Laura-The "Ryan's" pulled it off tonight! Maybe this column was good luck for them!

February 22, 2010 12:20 PM

Empathy- I think using Lincoln as a mn would be a lovely idea. In the 'olden days' often subsequent children would be named after earlier ones that didn't survive. Blessings to you this time around!

By Edith Bouvier Beale (not verified)
February 22, 2010 1:56 PM

Empathy: While naming a child after a previously deceased child does have historical precedent, there is also precedent for that tradition causing difficulties. I've read a few biographies of people named after deceased siblings--Vincent van Gogh is the only one who comes to mind at the moment, though, unfortunately--who then felt undue pressure to meet the impossible standard set by their absent namesake. They felt that they could not live up to their angelic late sibling, a comparison made all the more distinct because they had the same name.

Certainly you'd never suggest this to your child--and I don't want to suggest that naming this baby after your other baby would guarantee that--but I just wanted you to know that I'd heard about it happening before. I think Graham Lincoln is a lovely name and I really understand your desire to honor your Lincoln, but kids who have lost siblings--even before they were born--face some unique challenges and this is just something to keep in mind.

February 22, 2010 2:09 PM

New baby alert:
Cohlst0n --I was so intrigued by the fn I forgot the mn! I wasn't able to ask the parents if this was a creative respelling or a variation of a family name or what.

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
February 22, 2010 4:03 PM

I noticed on today's news that "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi named her baby girl Krishna Thea Lakshmi. Being unfamiliar with Indian naming customs, I was taken aback at first; especially after she said it was a family name (how many people can claim a relation to a god? lol). However, I did a quick Google search and verified that it's used as a given name quite frequently.

All that aside, I think the name is very musical sounding.

By Eo (not verified)
February 22, 2010 4:16 PM

I haven't been able to keep up, but I just saw your posting, zoerhenne, and that's so interesting.

Banks has a classmate named "Colst0n", and one of the children's coaches at school is named Colst0n (no relation apparently) as well. I had never seen those names used as first names till we came here.

Your sighting of Cohlst0n with an "h" is an interesting twist on the same theme I imagine. I did ask Colston's grandmother if it was a family name, and she said that no, her daughter just liked it.

I will guess that the appeal lies in the similarity to "Cole", the surname feeling, and the popular hard "C" beginning and the "un" sounding ending...

By Melly C (not verified)
February 22, 2010 5:02 PM

@sarah smile:

Some of these I could see possibly being their taste... some I feel are way out in left field:

Izzie, Ivan

Natasha, Nolan

Odessa, Oliver

Freya, Fraser

Paisley, Porter

Quintana, Quaid

Ursula, Ulysses

Veronica, Vann

Xena, Xavier

Yolanda, Yael

Zoey, Zaiden

By hyz (nli) (not verified)
February 22, 2010 6:52 PM

Ok, here's my shot for the 16th kid

Irelyn, Isabelle/Ian
Natalie/Nathan, Nolan
Paige, Peyton, Piper/Paxton
Valerie, Victoria/Victor
??/Xander, Xavier
Zoe/Zayden, Zachary

February 22, 2010 6:53 PM

@Anne with an E - funny you mention Acton for a variation of a state name for the A.C.T. I live in the A.C.T and we have a suburb named Acton! There are actually a lot of good suburb names here as most suburbs are named after people (a lot of former Prime Ministers and other notable Australians), so lots of good options to choose from.

@Emilie - I think Charlotte and Georgia make a nice sibset and I don't think the 'theme' is all that obvious.

By Rjoy (not verified)
February 22, 2010 10:47 PM

Ryan to me is a white southern california name. Lots of them there where I grew up. A very sporty, skater, surfer name who has to say dude alot.

Namedaftermygrandmother-I knew one Kai..Japanese descent little boy. I also see it more popular along the coast and in hawaii due to it's meaning.

By TM (not verified)
February 22, 2010 11:42 PM

I can't keep up with all of these posts! I've been thinking a lot lately about the name Orry. (As in Orry Maine -- character from the series North and South.) I wanted to pick your brains and see a) if you know anything about the name (like, is it short for something?) and b)do you like it?

I currently have a daughter, Julia. I like Thea, Elizabeth, and Lucia for girls and Everett, Elijah, Emmitt (I don't know why the E's) and now maybe Orry for boys. We're currently trying for #2. Does Orry fit?? I like it better spelled Orrie perhaps. Only Ori is in the Namipedia that I can find.

February 22, 2010 11:53 PM

I guess Orry could be short for Orion, Orwell, Orton or.... Horace???

February 23, 2010 12:03 AM

zoerhenne - So I emailed my dad who emailed his older brother and no one is sure where the name Linilda came from. It was not a name in her family insofar as can be determine. Making a quick run-through of names on her mother's side back to the 17th century there were no "Lindas," "Belindas," "Lynns," or anything of the sort. She went by "Billie" and her sisters by Bobbie and Teddy. They were all born in the first decade of the 20th century.

February 23, 2010 12:37 AM

@ another Laura: That's really interesting about Linilda. It's a mystery name! To me it sounds like a mash-up of Linda and Hilda. Were there any Hildas? I'm not totally sure how it's pronounced, emphasis on the first or second syllable?

February 23, 2010 1:23 AM

TM- Ori is a pretty common hebrew name in Israel. It means something along the lines of my light. I also like Valerie's suggestions of longer names it could be short for, other ideas: Orson, Oren, Orpheus, Orlando, Orville. That's a pretty mixed bunch of names though.

By Alr as guest (not verified)
February 23, 2010 2:12 AM

I was having dinner with the in-laws last night and my father-in-law mentioned one of the employees at his engineering firm. The story started:

"You know Ryan plays hockey, right? Well..."

I DIED laughing because I'd just read this and when I tried to explain why I was laughing I failed. They all stared at me, completely uninterested. The name-obsessed are a rare and misunderstood group at times. ;)

February 23, 2010 3:20 AM

Haven't had much chance to read, much less post, but I thought I would take a crack at the 16th kid list.

To add a bit to what sarah smile posted:
Chad, Dalton, Austin, Gage, Trevor, Walker, Morgan, and Sawyer are all boys.
Jessica, Bailey, Kaylee, Harper, Emma, Rebekah, and Laura are the girls.
Seems like they like surname names, somewhat unisex names for the boys, and more feminine names for the girls (with some exceptions.) Going with those thoughts, I would propose (with many repeats of previous suggestions):

-Felicity; Finley, Fletcher, Foster
-Isabelle; Ian
-Natalie, Noelle, Naomi; Nolan
-Olivia; Orion
-Paige; Peyton, Parker, Pierce
-Quinn; Quinton
-Unity; ???
-Vanessa; Vaughn
-???; Xander
-Yvette; York
-Zoe; Zane

Of all the choices, I think that Noelle and Parker are the best fits with their other names.

February 23, 2010 10:16 AM

Alr-that is hysterical!!!! I was laughing with you when I read the story so I can only imagine the blank looks everyone gave you.

another Laura-Thank you for asking. I guess it is a mystery. I think if I were using it I would respell it: Lynilda (I like Y's in the middle of names).

TM-I put your list through Nymbler to look for any other "or" names. It came up with these:
Ezra (not true /or/ but thouhgt it might work)
August nn Auggie might work also
Ross or maybe Rory??

By Philippa (not verified)
February 23, 2010 10:28 AM

Huh, Linilda reminds me of a lot of the names of Cape Verdean immigrants with whom I used to work. I knew a Nilda, a Kilda, an Anilda, an Anildo (male), and a Hilda. Maybe the name has a Cape Verdean/Portuguese connection?

February 23, 2010 12:56 PM

My grandma Linilda's family had actually been in the U.S. (or Canada) since colonial times. Her ancestory appears to be strictly of English descent. Her father was William Howard Davis and her mother Ida Amanda Chapman. Going back a generation the lastnames are Wire and Hutchinson.

Since her sisters were Teddie and Bobbie (she was the oldest) I'm wondering if her parents "invented" the given name Linilda to get to the nn Billie.

February 23, 2010 3:06 PM

I went to a expecting mothers brunch today and all of the mom's were discussing the names they were considering (many of them were farther along than I am). There were two women set on using Ava, both convinced it is not an extremely popular name (I held my tongue..), which I found kind of funny. Also some other names I heard: Carolina, Riordan, Cosmo, Jackson, Ethan, Linden, Anabel and Kylie. An interesting mix there...

Also, this weekend my sons were watching the film "The Little Rascals" and my older son came up to me and said "I want to name the baby Darla, okay?" I think he has a little crush on the character from the film, and i just couldn't stop laughing!

February 23, 2010 4:15 PM

Cute story Becky, thanks for sharing! I don't think Darla or Darleen is a bad name actually though I do suppose it's a little dated and probably not your style. Right?