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The Origin of Team Names

Posted 11:15 AM ET | Comments 6
What made the person or persons who own the Philadelphia and New York franchises to name their teams the Flyers and Rangers respectively? What possesses you to call your team the Lightning or the Canadiens?

Let's start with the some original six teams, some that still might have some meaning.

The Montreal Canadiens: Canadiens represented the nationality of the players on the team. Originally, the team had only French Canadian players. Of course now, they have Finnish, Czech and many other nationalities, but Canadiens is synonymous with hockey.

The Toronto Maple Leafs: When Conn Smythe bought the Toronto St. Patricks, his first act was to rename the team after the Maple Leaf Regiment of the First World War. Originally, the team was known as the Arenas, then renamed St. Patricks, supposedly to attract the Irish. Do ya think it worked laddy? Sorry, lame Irish tie-in.

The Boston Bruins: Businessman Charles Adams wanted his new franchise to have brown and yellow team colors to match his stores as well as a name equated with strength and power. A fan named the team in a contest. I was surprised that a fan named a team with such history. I thought the fan thing was recent.

The Detroit Red Wings: Then team president James Norris named it in honor of a team he had played with - the Montreal Winged Wheelers. The logo was perfect for the Motor City.

The New York Rangers: Madison Square Garden President Tex Rickard's team were unofficially known as Tex's Rangers (a play on Texas Rangers police), but Rangers was the official name. And finally,

The Chicago Blackhawks: Original owner Frederic McLaughlin named the team in honor of the Black Hawk Battalion he served with in WWI. The unit was named after a Chief Black Hawk. The name was merged to Blackhawks several years ago.

Those team names have some meaning to them. You can't tell me that none of the above make no sense, because they all do. In fact, upon my researching the history of team's names, I found that most of them have some meaning to them and aren't just cheap marketing gimmicks. I know, I know, you want more examples.

Okay, how about the Calgary Flames. Given to the team when it was in Atlanta to commemorate the burning of the city in the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, management held a contest/vote, and the fans chose to keep the Flames name, which also relates to Alberta's petroleum industry. What a coincidence hey? Okay, now the Tampa Bay Lightning. Get this, Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the world. Thus, Tampa Bay Lightning just rolls of your tongue. The New York Islanders were named so because they play from Long Island, thus they are islanders. I won't go and give you the meanings of all the team's names, a lot of them are voted on by the fans…teams such as the Penguins, Flyers, and Sharks - all voted by the fans.

The most intriguing team name's origin I came across was the origin of the New Jersey Devils. It comes from a legend: a witch allegedly gave birth to a demon known as "Jersey Devil" in 1735. The Jersey Devil was alleged to be a half-man, half-beast that stalked N.J.'s Pine Barrens or the area surrounding Lake Hopatcong for 250 years, causing fear and terror and basically mutilating his victims in an extreme display of guts and gore. Others say the Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds, jinxed by gypsies. I think a little bit of thought went into that one, how about you?

So while the newer teams in the league are going for a name that the fans want and then designing jerseys for the simple objective of selling them all and making a lot of profit, the original six teams and a handful of others actually have meaning in their names. And did you know that the Montreal Canadiens have the same jersey today that they have had since their inception? Now that's a rich team. So if you ever decide to purchase an NHL franchise, don't let your fans decide what to call your team, do some research, make it some weird-ass stuff symbolized in your name. The fans won't appreciate it at first, but you sure will laugh when no one has a CLUE why you called your team the Purplemonkeydishwashers of Yellowknife. (I picked Yellowknife because; honestly, when are they going to get a NHL franchise?)

Quote of the Week: Then Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Bobby Smith after a Coyote 7-2 loss to Dallas- "Anytime you hold Dallas to one touchdown, it's not all bad."

A Look Back at History: During the 1950-51 season, then NHL President Clarence Campbell fines Maurice "Rocket" Richard $500 for attacking referee Hugh McLean in a New York hotel lobby.
Filed Under:   Flames   Rangers   Flyers   Leafs   Canadiens   Devils   Bruins  
October 22, 2007 11:46 AM ET | Delete
Um, we're from LONG Island, not Rhode Island!
October 22, 2007 12:40 PM ET | Delete
Rhode Island????? Come on, it is Long Island!
October 22, 2007 12:49 PM ET | Delete
Sorry guys, I must have been just typing along and mindlessly put in Rhode Island instead of Long Island - I was watching a lot of Family Guy last night! I have fixed that mistake!
October 22, 2007 3:09 PM ET | Delete
Interesting read sstrang. Preds logo was from fossilized skull of saber-tooth tiger discovered while digging foundation in 1971 for a downtown skyscraper. According to Wikipedia, supposedly only five such saber tooth tiger fossils have ever been found in US.
October 22, 2007 5:11 PM ET | Delete
Interesting column, should have left it as Rhode Island, my favorite island that isn't an island.
November 19, 2007 12:32 PM ET | Delete
Just an interesting side note: A poll of American(US) hockey fans, at least in the east, will generally show that @ 80% of them will tell you the C and H on Montreal's sweater satnd for 'Canadiens' and 'Habs' or 'Habitants', respectively. About 10% will not hazard a guess, and the rest will know. Is this the case in any other part of the US or, God forbid, Canada?
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