Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fun with French

Middle school, early 1990s. That's when I began playing ice hockey and following the NHL. It's also when I began studying French in school. And it wasn't long before the two came together. Here's how:

After months of vocabulary lessons and hockey card collecting, I began to notice that certain French-Canadian hockey players had surnames that actually meant something in the language. Sometimes the name described a trade or skill, other times a geographic location, and still other times an appealing characteristic of some sort.

It shouldn't have surprised me. This kind of thing occurs in most cultures. Think about English-language surnames like Baker (trade), Meadows (geographical), or Young (characteristic). Maybe the adolescent version of me was just excited that he was applying the French language to something he enjoyed outside of the classroom.

In any case, as my knowledge of hockey players grew, so did the name recognition. Now that I've got a blog, (and now that hockey season is here), I thought it would be fun to bring trading cards into the equation. 

So, here's a list of NHL players, past and present, with French-Canadian names that hold meaning. I've included the full name, the English translation, and a trading card to represent each player. It's not an exhaustive list by any means, but it still makes for fun reading. 

Here are the players, in alphabetical order:

(Note that it's been quite a while since I've studied French, so I leaned on Google Translate, which often provides translations that are rather literal and clunky. In those cases, I dug a little deeper in order to come up with something more elegant. If you speak French and you've got an even better suggestion for any of the names, by all means add it in the comment section.)

 Francois Beauchemin
 (beau = beautiful or good; chemin = path or road)

Francois Good Road


 J.P. Bordeleau
(bord de l'eau = edge of the water, or waterside)

J.P. Waterside 

Philippe Boucher
(boucher = butcher)

Philippe Butcher


Rod Brind'Amour
(brin d'amour = sprig of love)

Rod Sprig of Love


Patrice Brisebois
(briser = to break or smash; bois = wood)

Patrice Smash Wood


Martin Brodeur
(brodeur = embroiderer)

Martin Embroiderer

Yvan Cournoyer
(cour = court, yard, or garden; noyer = walnut)

Yvan Walnut Garden


Jason Demers
(de mers = of seas)

Jason of Seas

Eric Desjardins
(des jardins = of the gardens)

Eric of the Gardens


Nicolas Deslauriers
(des lauriers = of the laurels)

Nicolas of the Laurels

Matt Duchene
(du chene = of the oak)

Matt of the Oak


Jean-Pierre Dumont
(du mont = of the mountain)

Jean-Pierre of the Mountain


Andre Dupont
(du pont = from the bridge)

Andre from the Bridge


Simon Gagne
(gagner = to win)

Simon Wins

Randy Ladouceur
(la douceur = the softness, smoothness, sweetness)

Randy the Sweetness


Guy Lafleur
(la fleur = the flower)

Guy the Flower 


Pat LaFontaine
(la fontaine = the fountain)

Pat the Fountain 


Pete Laframboise
(la framboise = the raspberry)

Pete the Raspberry


Guy Lapointe
(la pointe = the point, tip, or spear)

Guy the Spear


Stephan Lebeau
(le beau = the handsome)

Stephan the Handsome


Vincent Lecavalier
(le cavalier = the horseman)

Vincent the Horseman


John Leclair
(le clair = the clear, bright, or fair)

John the Clear


Rich Leduc
(le duc = the duke)

Rich the Duke


Jacques Lemaire
(le maire = the mayor)

Jacques the Mayor 

Mario Lemieux
(le mieux = the best)

Mario the Best

And there's the list. Pretty good name to end on, right?

Can you think of any additional French-Canadian hockey names that I missed? Any French speakers out there with a better translation for some of these names? Let me know in the comment section.

Thank you for reading, as always. (And thank you to Google for a few of these images.)


  1. Great post! Thanks for the French-Canadian lesson.

    1. Thanks Fuji! Pete the Raspberry might be my favorite.

  2. Such a fun post! At one time I was quite fluent in French, but those days are long gone, so I can't improve on anything that's here, although I can agree that Google translate is often rather clunky, and sometimes isn't all that helpful.

    1. Thanks Jon, maybe this will get you back into the language. If you're a hockey fan, keep an eye out for more names!