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Pens' St. Patrick's Day Jerseys Feature Gaelic Translations of Player Names

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Mighty in battle.

That’s what Evgeni Malkin’s last name means when translated into the traditional Irish Gaelic language.

Pretty awesome, right?

What’s even cooler is that on Saturday during warm-ups, Malkin and the rest of his Penguins teammates wore special green jerseys that had their names written in Gaelic calligraphy on the backs.

Click here to see each Penguins player's name translated!

The Pens do special warm-up jerseys every season for certain occasions – including purple and pink ones for Hockey Fights Cancer and camouflage ones for Military Appreciation Night – that they later auction off for charity.

And each year, head equipment manager Dana Heinze works with John Young of Pro Knitwear, the company that crafts all of their jerseys and stitches on the logos, letters and numbers, to come up with different designs.

“We don’t want to continually do the same thing, because it then becomes stale,” Heinze said. “It’s sort of become a little thing with John Young at Pro Knitwear and myself to come up with cool ideas to outdo ourselves each year. Trying to stay ahead of everybody is tough, because there’s a lot of cool stuff out there and we don’t like to copy. But we want to try and keep pushing the bar in a professional way as best we can.”

The St. Patrick’s Day design is particularly special for Young, as he grew up in Ireland. He moved to the States when he was 18 years old looking for work – which he found when Pro Knitwear CEO Tim Feeney hired him on. He’s been there ever since.

“Being an Irish company and myself being from Ireland, I take personal pleasure in this one,” Young said.

Starting last year, Heinze and Young began incorporating the color orange along with the Irish and American flags to make sure they represented everyone, not just a certain region.

“John is an Irishman, so when it comes time to do the St. Patrick’s Day jerseys, he gets excited,” Heinze said. “He has brought a lot to the table. He’ll come and he’ll bring a couple of different samples that we’ll talk about and we’ll lay them out, look at them, and say this works, this doesn’t work.

“When we thought the ones last year were really cool, we had to figure out how we were going to outdo ourselves. That’s when the thought of doing the players’ names in Gaelic came about.”

So Young got in contact with John Webber, a semi-retired professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has been studying names, their origins and meanings for the last 32 years and specializes in Ireland and the Celtic nation. Webber has written over 400,000 names in 21 different languages over his long and distinguished career, but had never worked with a professional sports team before this.

Not only did Webber translate each name into Gaelic calligraphy for the nameplates – he also translated the meaning of each player’s first and last name. It was a process he thoroughly enjoyed, though he did have to pull out his reference books from time to time.

“The diversity of names concentrated in this one particular area – it’s really something,” he said. “Right away I knew most of them, but I did have to refer to some of them.

“Hornqvist (was the most difficult), because it means land that’s out there in the water that has a horn shape. So it translates to ‘dwells on a horn-curved tract of land.’ It’s also called a ross. People named Ross, their name means the same thing.”

While some of the Gaelic translations look similar to their English counterparts, others aren’t even close. For example, while Craig Adams is “O’ Adaim,” Hornqvist’s is written out as “Corncuar.”

“When you see their names sometimes it doesn’t translate out exactly,” Heinze said. “It is so cool to see what everyone’s first and last names are. We were a little concerned to see how the names translated out, but I think they came out awesome. It’s a bit of a shock when you see these players and you see Spaling or Crosby or Malkin or Hornqvist and their names are a little different, but we’re just trying to be different. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, celebrating that, so why not go with the Gaelic names.”

Thankfully, the numbers make it easy to figure out who’s who – but just in case, the traditional set tag on the inside of the sweater has the player’s full name written out in English.

Speaking of the numbers, there’s more to those than meets the eye as they feature an Irish trinity, which symbolizes the eternal circle of life.

“If you look at Crosby’s jersey, you’ll see that at the top of his seven, the triangles are all intertwined,” Young said. “We just sort of put them in ourselves. We just made them up as we went along to give it that look.”

All in all, the jerseys took over an hour EACH to get all of the stitching and detailing done.

“I think the uniqueness of this jersey this year was just so neat,” Heinze said. “The numbers are sublimated with the Irish trinities … it’s amazing. These are really special and I think the people that are going to purchase them are going to get really a one-of-a-kind special jersey from the Penguins.”

Now, as Heinze began, “The question is…”

Young finished his sentence for him. “How do we top it?”

They both laughed. “We’ll worry about that in 365 days,” Young joked.

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