“Mickey! Mick…” Coach Kanaly sternly said while skating around in our first ever practice together back in 2006.
He looked right at me as I just stared at him with my mouth open in confusion, and before I could ask him if “Mickey” was in reference to me he energetically continued draw out an offensive zone breakout.
It was as if he didn’t understand how to correctly pronounce my last name, so he quickly just came up with that substitution for it. I was a new player to the team, and really didn’t know anyone at all. From that moment on almost all they guys just assumed “Mickey” was my actual name.
Coach Kanaly and Derek had officially given me my new nickname and identity.
From that day moving forward the name Mickey stuck to me for good, and quite frankly I absolutely loved it. I embraced it.
Every athlete knows from playing on teams that most guys, especially hockey players, are typically given nicknames. It could be because there a few players on a team with the same name, someone portrays certain physical characteristics, like calling someone “Turtle;” or, simply because it’s easier to shorten someone’s last name like Phillips to “Philly.”
Hockey is such a fast paced game, and communication with teammates on the ice is one of the “little things” that are so key to having success, as our coaches always preached to us.
Athletes could also relate to the fact that sometimes you could go years without actually knowing someone’s real name, because we’re so used to calling each other by nickname. I actually had that happen to me with an old teammate of mine.
Even after being teammates for a year my teammate Jared Zavatsky and I were sitting in the locker room before practice, and he goes, “Wait, Mick…what is… your real name? Like, someone else asked me what it was the other day, and I just thought it was Mickey…and they told me it wasn’t…”
I told him what it was, and we both just laughed our asses off. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually know what his name was either because I just always addressed him by his last name.
As my hockey days continued I went on to play for two different teams after the Blackhawks, the Philadelphia Revolution and Monmouth University. For both teams I introduced myself as “Kyle McKenna,” but told everyone to just call me Mickey.
My new teammates always responded with, “Why Mickey? Where did that come from?”
My response back was always the same as well.
With a quick laugh and an elated smirk on my face I would look down real fast with an expression on my face portraying reflection; where a million memories would soar through my head in the span of two seconds.
I would say, “My old coaches just gave it to me, I guess it was a shorten version of my last name, and I don’t know – I like it and it just stuck with me.”
Whenever I would hang out with my teammates outside of hockey and meet their friends most of them would normally introduce me as Mickey, and if they introduced me as Kyle for some reason I would just say, “They all call me Mickey, so you can just call me that if you’d like.”
I’m glad the nickname stuck with me. Regardless of what’s happened in the past the name would still always have a big place in my heart because of my former Coaches and teammates who originally addressed me as Mickey.
One memory I can recall is when Coach Derek texted me before a game one day, and addressed me as “Kyle.”
I quickly texted him back saying something along the lines of, “Dude, are you feeling OK? In the four years of playing for you – you’ve never called me by my actual name.”
After the name had originally latched onto me I wanted all my hockey guys to refer to me as Mickey. It’s what I had grown accustom too, and them calling me “Kyle” just sounded weird to me.
Chances are if you’ve met me and know me as “Mickey,” in some way we have a mutual friend who I used to play hockey with.
As I get older I certainly appreciate the little things about the nickname and the memories that come to mind of being with all my former hockey brothers.
The little things, like remembering which guys originally gave me the nickname.
The little things, like being able to explain why I stuck with the name years later down the road from today – I’ll appreciate.
“Mickey,” is a reminder and a short story from my past…
My grassroots for welcoming “the little things.”