Conor Garland deserves a special nickname. Something other than “circus monkey”. Although as humans we share more than 95% of the same DNA with our chimpy-like brethren, people are generally not excited by being named after other primates. The Vancouver Canucks forward and I had a good chuckle, but I felt it best to take that moniker off the potentials list.
There is background to it. There was this phenomenal US college player, like Garland a Massachusetts native, named Cal Ingraham. Ingraham won a national championship with the Maine Black Bears in 1993 as Paul Kariya’s linemate. Remarkably, if you ask Kariya today, a man with a fifteen-year NHL career and a Hockey Hall of Fame induction, which player he ever played with who had the best hands, he’ll still say Ingraham.
Cal never played beyond double-A hockey. He spent time in the ECHL and then in what we affectionately called the “Western Cocktail Holiday League” (WCHL), where he had three consecutive 50-goal seasons for the Idaho Steelheads. The 5-foot, 5-inch tall phenom, slower than molasses, once tallied a hat trick against the San Diego Gulls in a-minute-and-15-seconds.
Guys would try to murder him. He’d literally duck under checks, roll along the boards, sneak through traffic and roof shots from all angles. He once did a spin-o-rama pass-to-himself off the back of the net as a pursuing defenceman skated right past him and he scored on a wraparound at the World Arena in Colorado Springs.
Bigger and faster, he’s probably a Hockey Hall of Famer himself. But his creator, or let’s blame his parents, didn’t provide those kinds of chromosomes. He made the most of it.
Doing play-by-play in the league at the time, I called him the “Circus Monkey”. He wasn’t that crazy about it but he’d laugh anyway as he defines the word relaxed.
So here’s the similarly affable Garland, who grew up within sixty miles of Ingraham about 25-years later. Not only is he sneaky and can score, he’s also a hell of a lot quicker and faster. Thus the NHL.
He’s also a pest and crafty. So what to call him. He’s deserves something out of the ordinary given his stature and his propensity for being a perpetual catalyst.
His teammates have stuck with standard hockey fare, not creative enough, frankly.
“They just call me Garlie,” Garland said. “In Arizona I was called “G” forever, I came here and one of the athletic trainer’s nickname is “G” so they had to find something else, so, it’s only OEL (his Coyote teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson who arrived to Vancouver Canucks with him) who calls me “G” here, but it’s Garlie or “Gars”.
Players of similar ilk have been referred to as “water bugs” or “fire plugs”, or “energizer bunnies”, but that’s not gonna cut it.
In October, Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers called Garland “an angry elf” during the heat of the action. After the next game Filip Zadina of the Detroit Red Wings called him a midget.
“My mom only calls me “dawg”,” Garland laughed. “That’s it, in her Charlestown accent (adjacent to Boston) she calls me dog. When I’m in trouble it’s Conor. She’s a city girl so she calls me dog.”
That’s charming and delightful, but for our NHL coverage purposes, I feel we need to step it up.
Vancouver Canucks fans are welcome to make suggestions.