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Forsbacka Karlsson sports most characters on NHL jersey for Bruins

Center gets assist from equipment staff to fit full last name

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Keith Robinson laid out the letters, one by one.

F O R S B A C K A

He left a half-inch space.

K A R L S S O N

The letters spanned 38 inches across the back of the jersey, one destined for Boston Bruins center prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. That meant Robinson, the Bruins equipment manager, had a problem. He had only 20 inches to work with.

"It's twice as long," Robinson said. "It would have wrapped down the back of his arm, around him."

That wouldn't have looked right, especially not for a team with a classic jersey, as the Bruins equipment managers strive to work within the historic confines of the Original Six team's uniform. Here, they'd be making a bit more history with Forsbacka Karlsson, who boasts the most characters ever on an NHL jersey, but it wasn't going to be easy to make it all fit.

So they sucked out all the fat.

The letters. The spaces. Like a college kid trying to make his term paper fit the assignment, the Bruins staff worked and tweaked until they'd condensed the mammoth 18-character, 38-inch name down to 20 inches, leaving just the bare minimum.

Usually, the Bruins letters are each between 1-and-7/8th inch and 2 inches. The spacing is usually a quarter inch. Both had to be changed to accommodate Forsbacka Karlsson.

"We shrunk it down," Robinson said. "His letters are about 7/8th [of an inch], each letter. And we shrunk the spacing down to on average 3/16ths. So they're almost touching."

Robinson worked in conjunction with Rick Cavallaro at Custom Crafted, who has done the stitching on the Bruins jerseys for the past three decades.

"It was a little bit challenging, but we've thrown some challenging situations to [Rick] and he seems to always come through," said Robinson, who has been with the Bruins for 31 years, the past eight as equipment manager.

This all happened a couple of years ago, after Forsbacka Karlsson was selected by the Bruins with the No. 45 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, ahead of his NHL debut on April 8, 2017 -- a one-game cameo in the final month of a season that would end in disappointment. It was a blip then.

But Forsbacka Karlsson has since returned, joining the team as the third-line center on Nov. 10, allowing teammates and fans to get an extended look at the extended lettering, including on Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Bruins equipment staff have gotten some easy ones in recent seasons, with four-letter Tuukka Rask and Torey Krug on the team this season, a pair of four-letter Nashes (Rick and Riley) last season, and one doesn't have to go too far back to remember the halcyon days of Orr (Colton, in 2005-06).

On the other hand, 10-letter guys have come in bunches: Defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg and forward Craig Cunningham among them, who all played together on the 2013-14 Bruins, with a one-game cameo by 11-letter Alexander Khokhlachev. Eleven-letter Urho Vaakanainen made his NHL debut this season, though he's currently injured.

But Forsbacka Karlsson dwarfs them all. 

Technically his name is not the longest in NHL history. But not everyone has chosen to use all their letters.

The longest last name of any skater or goaltender to play at least one game in the NHL was Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman, who played four games for the Atlanta Thrashers between 2007 and 2009, and who has 19 characters. He wore the simpler "Smotherman," which contains a modest 10.

Next up is Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who boasts a whopping 28 letters and hyphens in his full name, making for the longest full name in NHL history. But the forward also went short, with "Leblond" over his five-season, 41-game career from 2008-14 with the New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins.

He was given a name plate with his full name for the first time in 2016, when he was with Syracuse of the American Hockey League, saying that he'd never been given the option to wear his 18-character last name in the NHL.

Next up? Forsbacka Karlsson, who has 17 letters, but 18 characters with the additional space, followed by a trio of 14-character names (Jaret Anderson-Dolan, John Brackenborough, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).

And while a "JFK" jersey might just have broken all the Bruins sales records for jerseys - - and simplified the lives of Robinson and Cavallaro - - nicknames are not allowed on jerseys by the NHL's regulations, which stipulate in Rule 9.2 that "each player shall wear his surname in full."

For his part, Forsbacka Karlsson is always interested to see what happens with his jerseys. He's seen short-term teams, like for camps or charity games, give in to ease with "F. Karlsson," though that has never happened on a team where he has had an extended or full-season stay. He's also seen teams push the letters farther down his arms, as was the case at Boston University.

"I make life harder for most equipment managers that way," he said, smiling. "Sometimes they give me a little hard time, but that's all right."

Forsbacka Karlsson presents many tantalizing skills, a two-way game with offensive upside, smooth skating, and hockey smarts. He's drawn comparisons to four-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, which stands as lofty praise, especially in Boston.

But there's one way that Forsbacka Karlsson has already surpassed the Bruins' No. 1 center, 18 to eight.

Though, in the end, Bergeron could have put up more of a fight.

Bergeron confirmed on Tuesday that his full legal last name is "Bergeron-Cleary," but he dropped the Cleary for simplicity's sake -- and perhaps as a way to get on the good side of the team's equipment managers. Bergeron-Cleary stands at a solid 15 letters, which would put him among the longest in NHL history.

But 18 letters still surpass 15. At least in that one way, the Bruins' current third-line center will always have one up on the first-line star. And, so far, everyone else in NHL history.

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