Friday, 13 January 2012

Etymology of a Nickname

The farming town of Taber, in southern Alberta, is associated with the nickname "Chiefs" for hockey purposes. A variety of teams have borne the moniker in the town's history, from senior to junior to minor hockey, back into the 1920s at least. There is often a temptation, when researching historical hockey results, to think of teams in terms of their modern nicknames, even if such names didn't actually come into use in later years.

An interesting example is the Taber senior hockey team that competed in the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association in the 1910s. This team is often referred to (as much as the team is actually referred to) as the Chiefs. But they were not actually known as the Chiefs at the time. They were the Chefs.

I'm not kidding. Some game reports for the team referred to the club as the Chefs. But there's a good reason for that; the team's main nickname was the Cooks, for the simple reason that almost everyone on the team was named Cook. Albert, Arnold, Ernest, Leo, Lloyd and Wilbur Cook, a collection of brothers and cousins, manned the Taber hockey team from about 1911 to 1913. And a good team they were. Ernest and Albert went on to have brief senior careers in the "big city" (Calgary and Edmonton), Leo played a few unremarkable years in the PCHA and WCHL, and of course Lloyd won the Stanley Cup with Vancouver in 1915 and has a very strong case that he should be in the Hall of Fame.

I believe that someone, when researching this team, saw the reference to "Chefs" and, knowing that Taber later featured teams called "Chiefs", assumed it was a typo and decided the 1910s team should be called the Chiefs as well. That would be a reasonable assumption to make, but the "typo" was persistent, and the team was also called the Cooks. Sometimes you can be too clever, and what's on the page in front of is exactly what it seems. As strange as it sounds to modern ears, this team was the Chefs; Chefs that could skate wrings around many teams.


  1. In fact the Taber Chefs were always the Chefs and not Chiefs. I am from Taber and watched the Chefs play in the 1960's and 70's.

  2. A part of this great story that was missed was that this was back in the day when there were 6 skaters and one goalie on the ice. At one time there were 6 players named Cook and one player named Baker, all on the ice at the same time. 6 cooks and a baker....hence the name, Chefs


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