Making Negatives Positive: Naming Goalie Sticks

In a couple of professional incarnations, I worked in marketing departments as a writer, including at Starbucks. I had the experience there — sometimes exhilerating, most times frustrating — of working on product names. One of the bits of lingual jui-jitsu that often needed to be performed was making the negative positive. You know, “it’s not a flaw, it’s a feature”. As I shopped for a goalie stick head, I had a moment of empathy for my erstwhile colleagues whose job it is to name goalie sticks and heads.

As a former goalie, it’s a tough admission: there’s something inherently negative about working the cage. The best day of your life is the one where you’ve got nothing against you. From that baseline, every one of your bad moves counts against the team. Meanwhile the little guys with the quick sticks get to add to the score and get the glory.

Attack heads get names like “Showtime”, and “Torque” and “Crossbow”. Then there’s “Revolver”, “Turret”, “Stinger”, “Mojo”, “Outlaw” — man, it’s good aggressive fun to be the guy to scores the goals, and the head names show it. Naming stuff for the offense is like shooting ducks in a barrel (which itself, with some work, might make a good attack head name).

But a goalie doesn’t do stuff as much as he or she stops other folks from doing stuff. See? It has a passive vibe from the get-go. The stick head, instead of being a rapacious predator on the prowl, is kind of a mother figure protecting her young. So the product names have gone the direction of making stuff not happen as sexy as possible: “Eraser”, “Vault”, “Freeze”, “Eclipse”. See how this works? “Void”, “Barricade”, and in goalie gear, “Oblivion”. Then there’s an emphasis on the conflict itself with “Nemesis”. “Guardian” goes for the mother-bear thing. Then there’s an effort at side-stepping the issue, with “Money”. Pretty good work, in my view. There’s only one I don’t understand: “Zoo-Stick”. Is it saying that its shovel shape is great for picking up crap shots?

Because I’m amused at the expense of the product namers, and because I may have too much time on my hands, I’m here and now offering, no strings attached, names for goal sticks and heads yet to come. You’re welcome.

First, here are names based on places where things go to disappear, the idea being that shots will be made to disappear with the product, get it?

• “Phantom Zone” (D.C. Comics tie-in?) or “Dead Zone” (no lawyers needed)
• “Gulag” (maybe a bit dark and too literary…)
• “Shot Motel” (“Shots check in — but they don’t check out”)
• “Tar Pit”
• “Wyoming”
• “MySpace”
• “Sofa Cushions”
• “In Committee”
• “Quicksand”
• “Black Hole of Calcutta” (bit too long, maybe needs a footnote)

Then there are names of obliteration, via cosmic, chemical or mathematical means:
• “Black Hole” (sucks up all light and energy; could also be called the “Clingy Ex”)
• “Antimatter”
• “Null Set”
• “Goose-Egg” (“Zero”?)
• “Anesthesia”

OK, how about names based on mental states, as in how the attackman is going to feel once he’s come up against the product:
• “Exhaustion”
• “L’Oublié” (or if that’s too French, “Forgotten”)
• “Hopeless” or “Disappointment”

Or again, names that add a sense of danger or finality:
• “Guillotine” (other methods of execution?)
• “Rampart”
• “Dead End” (or “Cul-de-sac”)
• “Train Wreck”
• “Chainsaw” (see also: category below)

Finally, here are a set of names implying that the product will make shots go to their final reward. Sexy death and creep show tie-ins abound.
• “Obituary”
• “Coffin”
• “Shroud”
• “Unmarked Grave” (“Roadside Grave”?)
• “John Doe” (“DOA”?)
• “Grizzled Hitchhiker” (absolutely unusable, but my favorite)
• “The Gaits Motel” (don’t get into the shower!)

Now it’s your turn …

Frozen in a freak accident called life, Mark Bocek was only recently thawed. Upon his resuscitation, he discovered that the game of lacrosse had changed in a multitude of ways. Back when men were men and sticks were wood, Bocek was a four-year starter in goal for Bishop Dagwell Hall, now Oregon Episcopal School, in Portland Oregon. Mark came around enough to help coach the 7-8s for North Seattle Lacrosse and to initiate a column called “The Gut Wall” for Emerald Lax. In the big picture, Bocek is a partner at Dreamhand Design Studios, a firm specializing in Web and print design and implementation. While frozen, he served for many years on the faculty of the Art Institute of Seattle, earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College and an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

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