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 23, 2010 5:24 PM

WOW, that just took me forever to catch up on everything. Thanks to all who were answering various questions for me last thread (or was it two threads ago?).

So I've been watching (and loving!) the ice dancing, which I know we discussed the other day and if this weren't a name blog I would LOVE to discuss the russians aboriginal dance.... ANYway. I thought it was neat hearing the name Sinead on one of the skaters a name that before PPP I'd never heard of and would not have been able to pronounce/spell, so that was exciting! I also wanted to note how the winning teams last names just seem to fit them so perfectly. Virtue and Moir just sound sort of romantic as a pairing to me, I dunno, but it just seemed to suit their story so well? Does that make any sense? Just like seeing certain personalities for first names I guess...

Scout3- Loved that story and I would love to know what happens!! I am also curious as to what sport this father plays, but I know you probably can't give it away for their privacy.

grandparents names: Cornelia and Joan, I could do Cornelia Joan, although I like Jane much better. and gpas Kenneth and Millar. Definitely Kenneth:) Interestingly I have first cousins (one on each side named after the gparents whose names I like Cornelia and Kenneth. I'd never noticed that before!

That will have to be it for now since I can't remember what else I wanted to say!

February 23, 2010 5:26 PM

Oh, I know, I was going to say I can't believe how many of you have only met female Ryans, that is so strange to me! I've never met a female Ryan, but have known tons of males. Perhaps not that surprising being from the Northeast though! Just interesting.

By Mirnada (not verified)
February 23, 2010 8:32 PM

I'm sure I'm going to submit this right when this post ends and a new one begins, but oh well...


I have to throw my enthusiastic vote in for Anson Trask. I don't at all think Anson is too out there for a boy. It seems strong and masculine, and I agree that it fits in really well with current name sounds, without being overused itself.

Margaret Anne:

I think Sebastian is a handsome name to go with your daughters' names, and personally I love the nickname Baz. It's very dashing. While I like Christopher on a boy a lot, I agree that it doesn't quite have the romance of the other names you've used, and I wouldn't bank on it not being shortened to Chris when he gets older. There's just that Chris, Matt, Dave trifecta of my youth that I find not so interesting, I guess...but I think those nicknames are seductively safe for teenaged boys.

Doesn't Benedict make anyone else think of Benedict Arnold? That's what comes to mind first for me, and why I imagine the name isn't used too often now.

February 24, 2010 8:43 AM

Mirnada-Since a new thread isn't quite up yet I will respond here. I DO think of Benedict Arnold, but I also think of a kid with whom I went to grade school with this as a LN. I also think of the word benedictine. Unlike something like Oprah, I think this name could overcome its associations and I still LOVE it for Margaret Anne.

February 24, 2010 9:40 AM

Every time I've mentionned the name Benedict my dh has responded with "like Benedict Arnold?" So for some Americans that negative association is pretty strong. And maybe this shows that I taught middle school for too long but I've always worried about the "dict" ending at the end of the name. That's why Bennett appeals to me more. (I've decided against using it as our ln has been used recently as a fn and I know he'd run into confusion regarding which of his names came first).

Oh and while I use to think of Benedict Arnold I now think of the pope and if I heard it used on a baby today I'd think the parents were Catholics.

February 24, 2010 9:46 AM

I named my new (used) car recently (ne to the core!) and thought of Benedict, it just seemed so him, BUT then I thought of Benedict Arnold and I worried that my car might turn traitor on me which is the last thing I need. A little ridiculous maybe but I couldn't help it:). Ended up with Wilberforce Humphries which I love-- can use Wilbur or Humphry:) Anyone get the reference? Hehe.

By Eo (not verified)
February 24, 2010 10:24 AM

Jenny Leigh-- Love it! The only Wilberforce I can think of is William Wilberforce, the beloved Brit whose devout Christian faith led him to lead the anti-slavery movement in Britain in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. He's a wonderful name inspiration, but I can't quite connect him to cars or Humphries?

I'm probably totally missing a contemporary, pop-culture Wilberforce that everyone else knows about...

Wilbur has that "cute-nerd" vibe. My husband rescued a bee once, which had been stunned by the cold, and we named him Wilbur while he recovered enough to fly...

February 24, 2010 10:37 AM

Humphries - home free?

February 24, 2010 11:04 AM

Haha, I love a bee named Wilbur, that's adorable! And William Wilberforce is an interesting story. The name came because I was asking my extended family for old-man names at Thanksgiving for a tan car. Someone suggested Wilbur and someone else suggested Humphry (or should that be Humphrey, I've never really written it but it looks wrong with out the 'e') like a tan camel. My dad said that if you combined those two names to Wilberforce Humphries it was a name that this part of my extended family and I had a special connection to in a silly way. So tada! I do love the "home free" connection too though, I'm coming out with so many new meanings from this! I'll give people a little more time to guess if anyone else wants to and give you the answer later:)

By hyz
February 24, 2010 11:20 AM

With Benedict, I do think of Benedict Arnold first and foremost--it's an attractive sounding name with a lovely meaning, and does have plenty of great namesakes too, I'm sure, but I would never use it.

February 24, 2010 12:39 PM

Well, that might explain why there are more Benedicts in the UK then. I had never heard of Benedict Arnold until I looked him up on Wikipedia.
Shame- I think it's a great name.

Another name I also think of in tandem with Benedict is Dominic, maybe because it's the name of a founder of another monastic order! Dominic is also a much more popular name in the UK. I was looking at a young friend(20 something)'s Facebook Friend list the other day and she had four friends named Dominic. Any ideas why it hasn't taken off in the US?

Come to think of it, it's part of a group of names that I think all have a similar flavor, that have always been more popular in the UK- Nicholas and Oliver being the others (although I know Oliver is on the increase in the US now). They are generally upper-middle-class names- boys who went to private school and are on the artsy side (not jocks).

February 24, 2010 1:08 PM

@Valerie, that's funny about Dominic, because to me it's very different than Nicholas or Oliver. Most of the Dominics I have known have been Hispanic, the few white Dominics I've met have been very Italian. Or I went to hs with a Dominik who was German. But anyway, it doesn't sound upper-middle-class Brit to me at all.

And I do immediately think of Benedict Arnold when I hear Benedict...I think probably most Americans would because he's the big bad guy of elementary school history versions of the Revolutionary War (or the "American War of Independence" for the international posters)! :)

Actually, I know that isn't particularly related to baby names, but I've always found the naming of wars on opposite sides to be intriguing. The "Civil War" v. "The War Between the States" or "The French and Indian War" v. "Seven Years' War". The politics involved in the naming is fascinating to me!

February 24, 2010 1:15 PM

Huh, Valerie that's funny about Dominic, I've never known one, but my impressions of the name are similar to Anne with an E. I don't know why it couldn't take off here, and maybe it will!

Anne with an E- Continuing your OT thought, I was somewhat aware of this, but had never really thought about it and didn't know that others called the Civil War "The War Between the States," how fascinating! I've heard "The War of Northern Aggression" which is fascinating about what it says about so many topics (used by southern states at various times for those who don't know). Have you read certain sources about this? I'd love to get the names if you have them!

February 24, 2010 2:19 PM


i think dominic HAS taken off's currently ranked higher than oliver; it's in the top 100.

and yes, the first thing that comes to mind for me with benedict is benedict arnold. i'm trying to shake this, because other than that it's a nice name, but it's difficult. honestly, i think a lot of americans don't even really know what it is he did exactly, they just know that his name is synonymous with "traitor." i've even heard it used colloquially (i.e. "he's a benedict arnold.").

By Mirnada (not verified)
February 24, 2010 2:47 PM

That's funny, I don't group Dominic with names like Oliver at all, and think of it as more glamorous Continental than bookish, maybe closer to names like Dante or Raphael. That may be because I've probably come across only African American Dominics, and more romantic French names can sometimes be popular in that demographic.

By roundabout (not verified)
February 24, 2010 4:29 PM

Anyone care to weigh in on another naming dilemma? We have one son named Alistair (nicknamed Ally). We are expecting another child, and don't plan to find out the sex in advance. If we have a girl, we plan to use the name Hazel, which was our top pick last time around. The other name we considered for Alistair was Ewan. I still really like this name, but I guess as a naming enthusiast, I am feeling a bit let down about having names already potentially settled this early in my pregnancy!

Can anyone suggest a boy's name that would sound good with Alistair? Ideally it wouldn't have a nickname that ends in an -ee sound (my name, my husband's name, and Ally's name all have it).

February 24, 2010 5:11 PM

Benedict Arnold comes to mind for me as well, but my association isn't so strong that if I met a Benedict I'd immediately associate it with Arnold. I also associate it with Shakespeare and Popes. I've met one Benedict in my life (an adult), whose nn was Ben. His family was pretty upper-crust and i think Benedict was a family name.

roundabout- a few names come to mind for you, how about Phineas/Finn, Graham, Cameron, Gareth, Douglas, Rowan/Ronan, Dermot, or Declan. I really like Hazel and it's gaining popularity in my area. I'm also a big fan of Ewan and love the actor Ewan McGregor so it has a great connotation for me.

February 24, 2010 5:36 PM

@Jenny Leigh--it was actually a couple of teachers when I was growing up in TX that called it "The War Between the States". I always figured it was more of a Confederate name for the war, since I only heard it in TX.

@roundabout--I'm not a big fan of Ewan, I can't get past the "ew". I do love Alistair nn Ally though! I agree with Becky that Phineas or Graham sound good with Alistair, but the nicknames (Phinny? Grahamy?) aren't as cute. I'll try and think of another that's easily nicknameable...

By Bue
February 24, 2010 6:19 PM

Jenny L3igh, isn't Virtue and Moir the most beautiful pairing of names? And I adore the name Tessa Virtue - in fact it's really because of her that I love the name Tessa so much. (I'm a die hard fan of theirs!)

Count me as one who has no idea who Benedict Arnold is! But then again, I'm not American.

February 24, 2010 6:23 PM

heh. benedict arnold is clearly an american thing. it's so funny to me that people wouldn't have heard of him, but then again, if you weren't from america, why would you?

February 24, 2010 6:48 PM

Valerie-I don't consider Dominic in the same group as Oliver either. Nicholas yes because they are both Italian names.

Mirnada-African American really? I don't mean to sound biased or ignorant or anything but it doesn't read African American to me. All I get is Italian sorry.

roundabout-Hazel is a cute choice to go with Alistair but seems up and coming in the hipster groups. I don't care for Ewan but get a Scottish vibe when grouping the two so that may work for you if you like that. If you are going for the British/boookish vibe then I would suggest these:
Phillip (not Phineas because of the cartoon Phineas and Ferb and also "Around the World in 80 days" character Phineas Fogg); Duncan; Douglas (also Scottish vibe though); Rowan; Leander; Liam (from William if you like); Ian (again Scottish); Trevor; Pierce; Gregory; Owen
Actually most of these have a Scottish vibe for me so maybe take a look at Laura's book/websites and look through that category.

February 24, 2010 7:19 PM

Re. Benedict: All I hear is Arnold, then Benedictine (but only because I saw something on him on the History Channel, we're only up to Pope Gregory VII in History). Not a positive association, but one that could probably be overcome.

Re. Dominic: To me it's Italian and only like Nicholas in that they can both have the nn Nick(y). Oliver isn't at all like those though!

By Qwen
February 24, 2010 11:51 PM

Unfortunately, Benedict to me is much like Judas, being synonymous with 'traitor' but as we discussed a few post back, Judas has potential to break out soon - maybe Benedict does too. Which would be great since it's a beautuful name.

Did you guys see this article today?

I thought it was 'interesting' in a 'wow look at all those statistics that don't relate to the end conclusion at all...' For those of you who are on phones or can't get to the link, the article asserts that 'unusual' baby names are on the rise in the US (and uses SSA data to back it up) and then asserts that this trend may lead to an increase narcissism in children.

By Qwen
February 24, 2010 11:59 PM

Also - I noticed an interesting sibset on my babycenter birth board this week: Aiden, Avery (g) and (baby on the way) Aowyn.

February 25, 2010 12:17 AM

re: Dominic: it strikes me as an African American name too, though i can't really say why. i can't think of any real life Dominics... Maybe it's a regional thing though? i'm out west, somewhere that distinctions between ethnic whites are not really made. are distinctions between different white ethnic groups made more on the east coast of the US?

February 25, 2010 1:01 AM

re: dominic
it doesn't strike me as being african american or any particular race and i don't think of it as italian doesn't sound italian to me. my view pretty much aligns with laura's in bnw2: "dominic has always had a romantic, mysterious image in the, dominic is as cool and sophisticated as ever, but no longer so exotic. it's one of the new elegant standards." suggested brothers include xavier, sebastian, and julian. i just see it as smooth and elegant, but strong.

i can see it going with oliver, though it's not a perfect match for me.

February 25, 2010 1:03 AM


"i'm out west, somewhere that distinctions between ethnic whites are not really made. are distinctions between different white ethnic groups made more on the east coast of the US?"

can you clarify? i'm not sure i understand your question.

By knp
February 25, 2010 8:20 AM

emilyrae: I think what robynt was trying to say was that (in the west/midwest) where she is from (I'm midwest), of the white ethnic group, italian and czech and irish and swedish etc. heritage is so mixed and varied that there is little to no discernible distinction between them. So, if there is a perceived difference in culture/naming, it is usually due to ethinicity (black, asian, hispanic).
She was asking if the naming and cultures between heritages of ethnic whites are distinct-- and I think it may be true in some cases, like the irish in Boston??

does that clarify (and robynt, am I reading you right?)

But when I saw that Dominic was italian (on earlier post), I read that as meaning it was of italian/latin origin, not meaning as used by the italian people

February 25, 2010 9:15 AM

knp and emilyrae-That was what I was thinking RobynT meant also. I figured she was asking if there was a bigger distinction behind the names that Italians, Irish, Slavic people would use in the eastern part of the country rather than the western or midwest. I think there is. I grew up in CT and now live in PA. It seems in areas of those states there are just pockets of Irish, Italian, and other heritages where people still hold to traditional customs and use names common to their heritage. So an Aidan, Brian or Connor WOULD be Irish (and so on with other nationalities) not so named just because the name sounded nice. My cousin named her kids Italian names Sophia, Nicholas, Isabella. I think Dominic also goes with Anthony, Marcus, or Frank.

By Eo (not verified)
February 25, 2010 9:35 AM

emilyrae, to your earlier point about Dominic having gained popularity here in the U.S., I too have noticed that among "stylish" parents, Dominic has been increasingly well-liked. Namers who are drawn to multi-syllabic classics like Alexander, Julian etc. often favor it.

Rosenkrantz and Satran note that until the twentieth century, it was used almost exclusively by Roman Catholic parents, but recently others have been attracted to this gorgeous name. I'm one Protestant who adores so many of the old saints' names and loves to see them get wider use here.

As usual, Valerie is right on the money about British name fashion-- Dominic has ridden high there for years as a very stylish name. I have another book by Satran and Rosenkrantz called "Beyond Charles and Diana-- An Anglophile's Guide to Baby Naming", which came out in '92.

Even back then, they were classifying Dominic with Benedict, Frederick, Alasdair, Tobias, Clementine, Eleanor, Josephine, Felicity, and other staples of the London Times birth announcements...

I even like the female variant Domini/Dominey-- and seem to remember there is an English actress by that name?

My Canadian/American loyalties don't allow me to consider "Benedict" also because of Benedict Arnold-- history has too clearly put the traitor brand on him! The variant that Shakespeare used, "Benedick", is very nice, but I suppose it would be constantly mis-heard and misspelled...

February 25, 2010 10:25 AM

ah, knp and zoerhenne, thanks. well, where i am (the midwest), i would say not so much. all the white ethnicities are pretty much blended together.

By roundabout (not verified)
February 25, 2010 10:27 AM

Thanks for the responses for pairings with Alistair.

I agree that Hazel seems to be an up-and-comer in certain circles, but it doesn't seem to have become very popular here and I can't see it becoming as trendy as say, Olivia, so I'm comfortable with it.

Having a Scottish vibe for the two boys' names is totally fine (we have ties to Scotland and I love Scottish names). Duncan and Ian are both very nice. I also like Callum and Malcolm, but unfortunately they don't sound very good with my husband's last name.

Owen, Graham and Liam are appealing to me, but seem quite popular in our area.

Re: Dominic - I find the full name very handsome, but really don't care for the nickname "Dom." It just sounds flat and loutish to me.

By Mirnada (not verified)
February 25, 2010 10:59 AM

Stumbled upon a new (to me) English novel published in 1901 by Frances Hodgson Burnett. There's an interesting sibset in there:

Lady Agatha Slade and her sisters Alix, Millicent, Hilda, and Eve.

The heroine is named Emily Fox-Seton. Another young woman is named Cora Brooke.

They just seemed like fun names, so I thought I'd share.

February 25, 2010 11:19 AM

all the dominics i know go by the full dominic (i've never met a "dom")...i actually think it goes really well with alistair. i think "nick" or "nicky" is a pretty good nickname, if you must have one.

also "mick" or "micky" work as a nickname, i think.

February 25, 2010 11:27 AM

Eo-That was an interesting post. I haven't read those books but agree that Dominic goes well with all the names you posted. In fact seeing it with Benedict and the other "London staples" it doesn't seem so "Italian".

Roundabout- I like the name and also think the nn of Nick would work for you. However, in the grade school years it might become Nicky and if I remember right you were looking for a non "ey" sounding nn. I also like Tobias but that shortens to Toby.

February 25, 2010 11:29 AM

Regarding Dominic. I'm in the midwest and a friend of mine has a little boy named Dominic and she has complained to me that people are frequently puzzled by her choice of the name and ask her if she's Italian - she's not.

February 25, 2010 11:42 AM

another laura,
so intersting! that's...really odd to me, as i see nothing strange in the choice of dominic at all and would not remotely expect the parents to be italian. but apparently some people do. and i'm confused as to why people think of it as italian. i mean i am not at ALL an expert in this, doesn't sound like an italian name to me. it's not in laura's list of italian names either (though i understand this list is, of course, not comprehensive).

February 25, 2010 11:59 AM

Re: Dominic, as I mentioned before it does seem very Italian to me, and I did mean ethnically Italian, not etymologically.

I do know a Dominic who goes by Dom, and I know 2 who have brothers/cousins named to me it has that sort of Italian association, Vinny and Dom, or Vinny and Nick.

February 25, 2010 12:00 PM

Oh, and as to differentiations of ethnicity among white people in the US, I do think that first and foremost here in the SW, you're "white" or "not"--but most people I know still differentiate between Irish or Italian or German or whatever. I don't think there are any Little Italy type neighborhoods out here, but there are still clear ethnic associations with naming decisions.

February 25, 2010 12:11 PM

Re: Dominic, I also don't really associate it with a particular culture or ethnicity. I've met one before, he's a sibling of my son's classmate Stella. It seems kind of trendy but classic.

Here's a little name challenge for the NEs out there. I went to my good friend's baby shower today and she is not sharing her baby's name until he is born. This is her first child, a boy, and the family does not really associate with a particular religion/culture/country. Their last name is Jewish but they are not religious. She hadn't given out any info on the name until today at her shower, when someone gave her a stuffed giraffe and she said "that's so funny, the baby's name starts with the same sound that giraffe begins with". They are a very artsy family so I feel like the name will be eclectic. I thought it might be Gerard, but I'm not so sure. Anyone else want to guess?

February 25, 2010 1:08 PM

Gironimo? :)

Thanks, everyone, for all the feedback on Dominic- it's fascinating to get your takes on it. And I appreciate the compliment, Eo, especially coming from you!

Now, on to the next thread...

February 25, 2010 5:48 PM

knp and zoerhenne have explained what i meant about white ethnics on east and west coast of us well. (and better than i could)

mirnada: i love alix with an i! i love it with an e too but that seems more mundane.

March 1, 2010 5:52 PM

@Jenny L3igh,

When I first saw the name of your car, I thought of the british television show "Are you Being Served" - one of the characters, played by John Inman, was named Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries. Was that the silly family connection? Because if it is, it's a perfect for a sassy little car.

And if we're still on the grandparents names, my mother's parents were Lea Celeste and George Charles, and fathers parents were Rita and Joseph, no mn's. I love the name Celeste, and seems to be off the radar at the moment, and I'm hoping it stays that way :). When I was born, my parents were told they were having a boy so they planned on naming me Charles Joseph, but were really surprised when I turned out to be a girl, so they named me after the delivery nurse and my grandmother.

By Im just saying (not verified)
March 7, 2010 10:12 AM

I wonder if the popularity of "Ryan" relates to the Tom Clancy novels' hero Jack Ryan. Jack Ryan was quite the dashing, go-to guy. He didn't play hockey but presumably would have been good at it if he had. But don't they read Tom Clancy novels in the south?