The discussion about hyphenated names in the Isles-Leafs recap thread made me think a bit, and I've cooked up a small trivia question for all y'all.
The Rangers employ a young forward of some promise named Mats Zuccarello. His full last name is actually Zuccarello-Aasen, but he shortened it for professional purposes. (And his given name is Mats André, giving him the completely wonderful nickname "MAZA." He's like his own COZO.)
As it turns out, Mats' name holds a unique place in National Hockey League history. In an alphabetical list of all skaters in NHL history, he is both second from the top (Aasen) AND second from the bottom (Zuccarello).
So - your challenge is... without looking it up, can you name the two NHL players who come first and last alphabetically, beating out MAZA? Hints below the jump, if you want to peek, along with the correct answer when it happens.
OK - here is hint the first: neither player is currently active.
Hint the second - with three more points, MAZA will pass one of these players in career scoring.
Hint the third - both the other guys debuted in the same season.
Fourth and final hint - these guys broke the top and bottom marks held previously by George Abbott (a one-game emergency goalie for Boston in 1944) and Dainius Zubrus (the still-active forward currently with New Jersey).
UPDATE- PGI was first with the last alphabetical name, Andrei Zyuzin, a defenseman who played 496 career games with six teams, debuting in the 1997-98 season. And, with that plus the third hint, it's simpler to then track down the answer that nobody got.
To be fair, nobody could be expected to have gotten this. Antti Aalto of Anaheim (heh) played 151 career games over four seasons; it's his 28 points that Zuccarello-Aasen is soon to pass, though he's got a little while to catch Zyuzin's 120.
But to be totally and truthfully fair, I screwed this up from the get-go. As it happens, MAZA is not second-to-last alphabetically. In fact, there are two other playersbetween him and Zyuzin. One of them, Mike Zuke, even played more pro games than Zyuzin if you include his WHA experience. He was a pre-Gretzky Edmonton Oiler (and a teammate of Dave Langevin!) for the 1977-78 season, scoring 23 goals and 57 points before moving to the NHL for five years with - the St. Louis Blues. (@ Really, Dom, you couldn't bail me out on this one? @) He was then claimed off waivers by the Hartford Whalers and added three more years, retiring in 1986.*
* That Whalers team was quite interesting, actually. Miracle on Ice hero Mark Johnson had been traded (oddly, to St. Louis) and Marty Howe had retired, but they still had Hall of Famer Ron Francis, a startlingly-young Ray Ferraro, and FOUR future NHL head coaches: Kevin Dineen, Joel Quenneville, Dave Tippett, and Brad Shaw.
But the true second-to-last is the late Rudy Zunich, who like George Abbott was a war-time fill-in. He got two games in 1943 for the Red Wings at age 33, after playing eight seasons in the amateur Michigan-Ontario Hockey League. (I think his team, the Detroit Holzbaugh-Fords, were loosely affiliated with the Wings, but there's scant info on the Web about it.) The MOHL folded after 1941-42, and Zunich spent the next several months in the military before his cup of coffee in the bigs.
It's funny - Zuke was probably the easier guy to catch, but I find I'm more upset about missing Zunich. Eight seasons in the MOHL almost certainly means a day job during the Depression, even if his team was an amateur affiliate. After punching out for the day, he'd have slogged through the Michigan winters to play hockey. It was a successful team that won their league a few times, and also won a US Senior National Championship. Then, at age 37, he put in another year with Detroit's team in the new IHL. I know they didn't have a Masterton Trophy back then, but I think that shows admirable perseverance and dedication to the sport of hockey.