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A Hockey Team By Any Other Name

April 12, 2017

It’s time for the NHL postseason, and the lead up to the Stanley Cup finals. And there’s a good chance that whichever team you’re rooting for might have entered into the league with a completely different name.

Phoenix Scorpions
The Winnipeg Jets left its long-time home in the Canadian province of Manitoba for Phoenix in the 1996-97 season. The new owners in Arizona held a contest to name the team, which attracted hundreds of entries. More than 10,000 people voted, and the winner was the Coyotes, after an animal native to the area. The second-highest number of votes went to another fauna-inspired name: the Scorpions.
 
Buffalo Mugwumps
When the Buffalo Sabres began play in 1970, owners Seymour and Northrup Knox knew what they didn’t want to name the team: something “buffalo” related, such as Bison or even Buffalo. They put out a call, and four people out of 13,000 suggestions were for Sabres, a sword that can be both an offensive and defensive weapon (like a hockey team). It’s certainly better than some of the other names under consideration, such as the Flying Zeppelins (Led Zeppelin was very popular in the early ‘70s) and the Mugwumps (the name of an 1880s political faction that helped New York governor Grover Cleveland win the presidential election of 1884.)
 
Rocky Mountain Extreme
When the Quebec Nordqiues moved to Denver in 1995, the team’s new owners wanted a name that was both relevant to the area and also in English. The first choice was Colorado Rockies, which had been the name of an NHL team in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. The hockey team couldn’t use it, however, on account of it being used by the Colorado Rockies of Major League Baseball. And then there was major backlash from locals and the media over the next name owners came up with, the Rocky Mountain Extreme. The team setup a way for fans to vote on a name, and Avalanche beat out choices like Outlaws, Black Bears, and Storm.
 
Some other notes on NHL names:
 

  • The Panther is the state animal of Florida, but it’s an endangered species. The state is home to less than 100 of them. To make people more aware of the plight of panthers, the Miami team’s first owner, Wayne Huiezenga, picked the name Florida Panthers.

 

  • The Montreal Canadiens’ name is self-explanatory: The team is based in Montreal, and so they’re Canadian. (Montreal is in the French-speaking province of Quebec, so the team name is spelled in the French way.) But if the team’s initials are “M.C.,” why is the logo a C with an H in the middle? The C stands for Canadiens, and the H stands for…hockey.

 

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