Players from Eveleth’s 1945 state title team were so smitten with the shiny, metal hockey player perched atop their championship trophy they gave him a nickname.

“Bozo.”

Wally Grant and Clem Cossalter took turns polishing Bozo as they rode the Great Northern train on their journey home. 

Grant and Cossalter had nicknames, too. As reported by the Pioneer Press’ Bob Sansevere in 2001, Grant was called “Cedar Legs” because of the way his legs bowed. Celley was nicknamed “Lunch” because his mom packed him an after-school meal every day. Clem Cossalter, another member of that champion Eveleth squad, earned the nickname “Iron Guts” because he once boasted he could drink a case of beer. Two bottles later he threw up on a car fender.

“Marty,” “Fuzz,” and “Gubby” also played for those vintage Golden Bears, pioneers who set the table for 75 years of wonderful action on the ice and colorfulness off it.

Greenway kept the nickname tradition alive in the late 1960s, when most every player on the Raiders had a moniker. High-scoring forward Mike Antonovich, who refused to wash his favorite T-shirt when the team was on a winning streak, was nicknamed “Stinky.” Longtime state hockey scribe John Gilbert once attempted to document all of the Raiders’ nicknames, but his article omitted Mike “Gordy” Holland, “because I been called Gordy for so long everyone just thought that was my real name.”

The nicknames have endured. When current Greenway coach Grant Clafton stops in Coleraine or Taconite or any of the other half-dozen or so towns that feed the students into the school district, he strikes up conversations with oldtimers who go by the names of “Rat”, “Fleabag”, “Cotton” and “Bugsy.” 

“I don’t even know their real names,” Clafton said.

In this year’s small-school field alone there are an abundance of unique nicknames, starting with Mahtomedi’s Wyatt “Blackbeard the Pirate” Begley and Connor “G Man” Stoker. A varsity regular for three seasons, Stoker is a stay-at-home defenseman who scored the first and only goal of his career early this season, much to the delight of his teammates who affixed the G (as in goal) Man moniker to him.

Nicknames are abundant in New Ulm, where defenseman Shane Esser is called “Jimmy” and his twin brother Ryan, a forward, “John” by coach Ryan Neuman. Shane Esser, in fact, has multiple nicknames. 

“We started calling him ‘Gritty’ after the Flyers’ mascot,” said Neuman, a Philadelphia native, about the NHL team’s shaggy haired, wild-eyed mascot. 

New Ulm coaches have even gone so far as to put place a small picture of the Flyers' Gritty next to Esser’s name on their lineup sheet (pictured above), a spot usually reserved for the college logos of committed players. 

A quick rundown of other noteworthy nicknames (or not) after surveying coaches in the Cass 1A field:

Minnesota River
“The guys call Tyson Soweder “Stinker” for some reason,” coach Shea Roehrkasse said.

Delano
Chase Halonen, one of the team’s fastest players, is nicknamed Chubs. Luke Truax is “Tricksy.” 

“Sometimes, as the head coach, you don’t know all the nicknames,” Tigers’ coach Gerrit van Bergen said. “That’s probably a good thing.”

North Branch
“I don’t know if they ever say what their nicknames are,” Vikings coach Matt Cottingham said. “Probably because they are inappropriate.”

St. Cloud Cathedral
“They call Ethan Cumming shorty because he used to be the shortest guy on the team before he hit his growth spurt,” Crusaders coach Derrick Brown said about the 5-foot-8 forward. “Now it doesn’t really fit anymore.”

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