Puck Goes Pop

Building the Springfield Gougers with active NHL veterans

Dillon Simpson Building the Springfield Gougers with active NHL veterans
Eight Simpsons have played in the NHL. Defenseman Dillon Simpson is the most recent, and the only one still active in the pros. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Two years later, the missed opportunity by the AHL’s Western Massachusetts franchise still boggles the mind.

In 2016 Springfield was getting a new team for the first time since 1994. That year the departing Falcons had flown in one month before The Simpsons premiered its hockey-centric episode, “Lisa on Ice.”

During the 22-year interim, the series that will break the primetime TV record with its 636th chapter this weekend impacted another minor-league sports entity with another episode. Within two years of “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” which saw the Springfield Isotopes baseball team nearly relocate to Albuquerque, the New Mexico market adopted the fictitious franchise’s nickname when it nabbed the Pacific Coast League’s Cannons from Calgary for real.

The title family even has a permanent presence at Isotopes Park now.

Why, then, didn’t the Springfield Gougers enter the hockey universe when they had the chance?

Perhaps someday another one of America’s 20-odd Springfields will pick up the loose pop-culture puck. Until then, reality’s loss is fantasy’s gain.

To mark the milestone for Fox’s pioneer animated series, we shall assemble our own pro team named after Lisa’s rags-to-riches peewee squad. Let us scout the present-day hockey landscape for names that would be familiar to the unspecified Springfield.

Eligible candidates are NHL veterans who were still active through 2017-18 and share a surname with a recurring Simpsons character. As it happens, a comprehensive sweep-check of the Internet Hockey Database yields just enough skaters and goalies to fill a roster.

Among the skaters, the forward-defenseman ratio is less than perfect. That somewhat fixable drawback aside, we do have a quorum of qualifiers for the 2018 Springfield Gougers.

Here is your rundown of the roster.

Ben Lovejoy Jeff Skinner Building the Springfield Gougers with active NHL veterans

Ben “Reverend” Lovejoy defends against Jeff “Principal” Skinner. (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Forwards
Casey Bailey, Josh Bailey and Justin Bailey
Just call them the Governors Line.

Brent Burns
Though currently a blueliner, Burns happened to be a winger in his major-junior days. Given the inherent shortage of bodies the Gougers have up front, his versatility is “Ehhhxcellennnt.”

Blair Jones, Connor Jones and Ryan Jones
Springfieldites might expect a mean streak from this troika, a la Jimbo.

Shane Prince
As a youth, Prince put the “travel” in travel hockey by commuting to practice for an hour-and-a-half each way. Knocking out his homework on the fly naturally amplified the rigor of the journey. But odds are he would take that arrangement over honor student Martin Prince’s daily endeavor to avoid a beating on the Springfield Elementary school bus.

Jeff Skinner
The 2011 Calder Trophy winner can thank the hockey gods no Chalmerses qualify to coach him. Regardless, by all accounts, we are assured that this man is the real Jeff Skinner, not an impostor.

Brock Nelson*
There is technically no one of the last name Nelson in Fox’s Springfield. There is, however, the character often billed as the Frank Nelson Type. In addition, the moniker has always had a prominent place as a tough guy’s first name in The Simpsons’ circle.

Jerome Samson
Born in 1987, Samson could all but have been Baby Gerald’s twin in real time.

Craig Simpson Dillon Simpson Building the Springfield Gougers with active NHL veterans

Were it to ever happen, Craig Simpson coaching his son in hockey would likely be a better arrangement than Homer Simpson’s stint coaching Bart in football. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Defensemen
John Carlson and Kent Carlson
Is “Carl” picking up the tab at Moe’s after the game? Or will that task go one of the team’s off-ice friends, be it Leonard or Gumble?

Mat Clark
Lewis Clark has mostly been a background character in The Simpsons’ school scenes. Similarly, the eighth-year pro has been an AHL mainstay to date, logging only nine NHL appearances so far. But both Clarks count all the same for the purposes of this roster.

Seth Jones
See the three forward Joneses.

Michal Jordan
Okay, the pronunciations are slightly different. Nonetheless, when anglicized, the one-time Hurricane’s surname matches that of Rachel Jordan, briefly Ned Flanders’ love interest after his wife’s untimely death.

Ben Lovejoy
Speaking of Flanders, the Gougers had best not sign anyone of that name. There is no sense in gambling on Lovejoy’s lasting devotion to his work.

Connor Murphy, Ryan Murphy and Trevor Murphy
Make sure these three guys wear their mouthguards at all times. We would not want them to endure an undue case of bleeding gums.

Casey Nelson
See Brock Nelson.

Dillon Simpson
For the record (as per Hockey DB), 132 Simpsons have played junior, college and/or professional puck. Eight have seen NHL action, while another reached the equivalent in the WHA

But only one has both sported the title family name in The Show and seen formal action at any level in 2017-18.

Goalies
Martin Jones
If the Gougers ever play in an outdoor game, Jones must don a purple toque atop his helmet. The rest of the time, a prominent skull is a must for his mask.

Daniel Taylor
Kent Simpson, a five-year AHL/ECHL journeyman who played one game for the Blackhawks in 2013-14, was inactive this past season. That might be just as well for the Gougers. This Taylor will be in no danger of sabotage while competing for crease time.

Coach
Craig Simpson
With 634 games, Dillon’s dad has seen more NHL action than any other Simpson of all time. At his peak, he led the Stanley Cup champion Oilers with 16 playoff goals in 1989-90, coincidentally Springfield’s rookie season on Fox.

More to the point, Craig logged a little coaching experience on Edmonton’s staff for three seasons in the mid-’00s. He has since worked as a respected CBC color commentator. As a bonus, before any of that, he was the NHL studio analyst for Fox Sports Net in 1997.

Given all this, we can assume the Craig-as-coach/Dillon-as-player arrangement would work better than Homer’s stint as Bart’s peewee football coach.

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Al Daniel

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