NHL Store Travesties: St. Patrick’s Day Merch

On the one day of the year where everyone in the United States miraculously has some Irish heritage, we bring you one Irish woman’s righteous fury about the St. Patrick’s Day merchandise offered in the NHL store this time of year. 

For the NHL, March Madness is the playoff race getting down to the wire as bubble teams do everything they can to keep in the race. It also means St. Patrick’s Day and, with it, the usual torrent of Irish themed merchandise. The League releases several lines of merch just for St. Patrick’s Day, many teams do special warm-up jerseys or other team-specific stuff, and it is all, to a stitch, terrible.

The first thing about most of this merch is that it’s just boring. Taking generic team merch and colouring it green is the least effort they could have gone to for something admittedly completely unnecessary. If it was left at that, I could probably shrug it off with my customary laugh at North Americans and leave it at that. Boring as hell, but if people want to spend their money on silly things, that’s all on them.

Some of the special designs, though, are completely wrong.

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I’m not picking on the Flyers here: every team has this design available and it’s wrong for all of them.

That is not a shamrock, that is a four-leafed clover. A shamrock is a three-leafed clover, because THE ENTIRE POINT OF A SHAMROCK is that it has three leaves. St. Patrick used a shamrock to demonstrate the Holy Trinity, so unless your Catholicism recognises the Holy Quadrality, stick to three leaves. I blame Lucky Charms for this whole thing. People should also really remember that the phrase “the luck of the Irish” is either a sarcastic joke about our lack of luck, or an insult about us succeeding despite ourselves, so maybe don’t try and invoke it when talking about your hockey team.


“Erin go bragh! Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like a true Carolina Hurricanes fan with this special edition Gaelic hoodie! It features a big and bold design inspired by the country’s long and strong Irish heritage, so wear it with pride when March 17 rolls around, or anytime you want to show some of that Carolina Hurricanes team spirit in style!”

No it doesn’t. It looks like a beer label, and while at least it has the correct number of leaves on the shamrock, a) countries don’t have logos, they have emblems or symbols, and b) the shamrock is not our national symbol, the harp is. Also, how on earth is that a “Gaelic hoodie”?

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Hey, fun fact: In Irish tradition, leprechauns are tiny cobblers who play practical jokes but generally keep themselves to themselves. Modern depictions of them as bruising brawlers are based entirely on super racist 19th Century American stereotypes.

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Just…no. Irish name prefixes are attached because of the family history, not just randomly. You can’t attach them to names that aren’t Irish in origin, because that doesn’t mean anything. This is the same as noticing that lots of Russian names end in -sky and calling him Bergeronsky: it’s gibberish. I have no idea how the league decides which players get this treatment each year (I presume it’s based on jersey sales) but this year, only two of the ones on the NHL’s website are actual Irish names, with O’Tarasenko and O’Voracek being particularly egregious offerings.

It happens every year. Teams just throw a Mc or O on there and leave it at that. I remember last year, people laughing about the Canadiens having a “McGallagher” shirt, but none of them seemed to realise that the main reason that was ridiculous was that Gallagher doesn’t take a Mac as Gaeilge, it takes an O. This year, they clearly talked to someone:

That is the correct translation of Gallagher! They even left out the apostrophe, giving them extra credit in this assignment. That, and they didn’t try and force the names of their entire team into it; as far as I’m aware those are the only two they have. (Price isn’t actually an Irish name, it’s Welsh or French depending, but that is the correct translation of price the word, so partial credit on that one.) B+ work Habs.

But speaking of forcing the entire team’s names into Gaelic…here’s what the Penguins did this year.

Dana Heinze is a great equipment manager and a cool person to follow on twitter, but he lost the run of himself this year. Attempting to actually translate all the names on the team is going too far. Translating most of them incorrectly doubly so. (Apparently a professor was involved in this process. I’d like to know what they’re a professor of so I can properly boggle.)

I looked at the whole list of names and counted one that I actually recognised as a name. A couple were accurately translated words, but weren’t words that are used as surnames in Ireland (or a name that looked familiar, but spelled differently). I can’t really check the translation of all of them, but they seem to be a hodgepodge of taking the parts of the original name and just translating them straight (“Scianfada” does mean longknife) without attention to them as names, hitting on the right name but not understanding Irish naming conventions (O Adaim) or for at least a couple of them, just making the syllables sound more Irish.

I have absolutely no idea where Maolchin came from (maol means bald, first of all) which is probably a good indication of why you shouldn’t try and translate non-English names through a few different steps before putting them on a jersey, and Crosbaigh is also ridiculous. Depending on where his ancestors came from, it’s very possible that Crosby is already an anglicisation of an Irish name (Crossan).

I appreciate that the Penguins were one of the few teams to include orange in their warm-up jerseys (the only other team I saw that did were the Sabres) but even a quick blast through google will tell you that most of those aren’t names (even if they may in some cases be words) so there’s really no excuse for getting it so wrong.

Try harder next year, NHL. Better yet, don’t try at all.


Zoe McNair is an Irish expat living in Canada. She can be found at @zcmcnair, where she talks about hockey, tv, and sneaking pie onto airplanes.

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