Best of the Books: Top 10 players with Irish surnames

The Hockey News
(Photo by Bill Smith/NHL)

By John Grigg

The Irish have a long history of producing excellent hockey players west of the Atlantic. Kennedys, Fitz-somethings, O’Reillys, O’Donnells, O’Connells, O’-everythings. We’ve seen many sons of Ireland play in the NHL, a trend continuing today.

In honor of our friends from the Emerald Isle we offer you our top 10 players with Irish names.

10. Tim Connolly
It’d be tough to describe Ó Conghaile as “fierce as a hound” or “valorous,” but that’s what Connolly’s name means, so we’ll go with it. He’s neither retired nor playing, choosing instead to sit at home after collecting $4 million from Toronto to not play for the Maple Leafs last season.

9. Matt Cullen
Ó Cuillin, derived from a “holly tree,” can branch out and play both center and wing.

8. Jamie McGinn
A trade from San Jose to Colorado gave Mag Fhinn a serious boost in production. Do the Avs have yet another burgeoning young gun in their midst?

7. Chris Kelly
Kelly is a decidedly Irish last name – the second-most popular in Ireland according to one website – and means “bright-headed.” No wonder, then, that Ó Ceallaigh has turned into an all-around player.

6. Ryan O’Reilly
Ó Raghallaigh was a revelation in Colorado – second-rounders aren’t supposed to make the NHL in their draft years – and he’s only getting better.

5. Ryan Callahan
Ceallagcháin means “strife” or “contention.” A fitting title for the former Rangers’ bang-and-crash captain.

4. Bobby Ryan
Picked second after Sidney Crosby in 2005, Ryan has a surname meaning “king.” It’s too soon to declare him NHL royalty, but it’s not a stretch to crown him for his consistency: Ó Maoilriain had four consecutive 30-plus goal seasons from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

3. Cam Ward
The name Ward translates to Mac an Bhaird in Gaelic, which means “son of the bard.” While it hasn’t exactly been sweet poetry for the Hurricanes since they won the Cup in 2006 – they’ve made the playoffs just once – there’s no doubt Ward is a top-notch goaltender.

2. Dan Boyle
Boyle may just have the most interesting name on our list. You can call the blueliner “Dan vain pledge,” which is what Ó Baoill means. Ironic in that the Sharks have been making vain pledges to fans about their playoff chances for years…not that it’s any fault of Boyle’s.

1. Patrick Kane
His last name means “battler” and there’s no denying that’s exactly what Ó Catháin is. The undersized star isn’t afraid to use what he has at his disposal – his stick, elbows – to keep defenders at bay. Now if he can just keep his shirt on.

This is an updated chapter from THN’s book, The Hockey News Top 10.