NHL Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Every Team's Nickname
Blue Jackets? Red Wings? Maple Leafs? Canucks?
To most, these titles seem absurd, but there is some logic behind team nicknames in the NHL.
The National Hockey League includes 30 franchises, six in Canada and 24 in the United States. These clubs have some of the most diverse and original names in the history of professional sports.
While some people could care less where the nicknames originated, other fans are probably very curious about where they came from.
So for those who were wondering and never took the time to research, here is the reasoning behind the madness of NHL nicknames.
Note: If you are also interested in NCAA, NFL, NBA and MLB nicknames, check my profile for the articles.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils were named after the mythical Jersey Devil, a half-man, half-beast creature that is said to inhabit the Pine Barrens in South Jersey.
Legend has it that it attacks animals, mutilates its victims and makes tracks and sounds. Some people claim it has wings and hooves.
New York Islanders
New York's new franchise began play on Long Island in 1972.
Thus the team was dubbed the Islanders.
New York Rangers
The Rangers first owner, George "Tex" Richard, planned to name the team the Giants, until the press nicknamed it "Tex's Rangers," referring to the paramilitary force in Texas during the 1830s.
in 1966, a naming contest was held and "Flyers" was selected.
There is no real meaning behind the name, but it flows with Philadelphia.
Over 700 of 26,000 entries in Pittsburgh's name the team contest chose the Penguins.
The nickname was likely selected because the team would play in the Civic Arena, affectionately known as the "Big Igloo."
But in that case, wouldn't Eskimos fit better?
Frederic McLaughlin, the team's first owner, was the commander of an infantry division in WWII and named his new franchise in its honor.
The division was nicknamed the "Blackhawk Division" after a prominent Native American in the history of Illinois.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The team selected the name after a fan contest because it is patriotic and represents the city's rich Civil War history.
More Ohioans joined the Union Army during the Civil War than enlistments from any other state.
Detroit Red Wings
First known as the Cougars and Falcons, in 1932 new owner James Norris named the team in reference to a team he had been with in Montreal, the "Winged Wheelers."
In 1997, a saber-tooth cat was revealed as the team's logo before a nickname was even decided.
The logo represented a Smilodon (a prehistoric cat) skeleton that was found beneath the city in 1971.
A naming contest narrowed down the possiblities to Ice Tigers, Fury, Attack and Predators.
St. Louis Blues
W.C. Handy's song, "St. Louis Blues," gave birth to the nickname of the city's new franchise.
Mercury and Apollo were two other options because of the space capsules that were built in St. Louis.
The team's first owner, Charles Adams, told his new general manager, Art Ross, to come up with an nickname that represented an untamed animal with speed, cunning and agility.
Bruins is an Old English word for brown bears.
The franchise was first known as the Bisons, a common nickname for Buffalo teams.
The Knoxes, the team's first owners, held a fan contest, seeking a more creative name and selected Sabres.
Their reasoning was that a sabre is a weapon wielded by a leader, strong on both offense and defense.
While the name Canadiens is pretty obvious, the team is sometimes referred to as the Habs.
Habs is short for Les Habitants, a name for the early French settlers who arrived in Canada in the 1600s.
The first Ottawa Senators were founded in 1883 and played until 1934.
An NHL franchise returned to Ottawa in 1992, and since it is the capital city of Canada, Senators remains a fitting nickname.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Conn Smythe purchased the Toronto St. Patricks in 1927, as the team was previously named to attract the Irish population. Clearly, it was time for a new name.
The baseball team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, had just won the International League championship prior to Smythe's decision.
He also fought in the Maple Leaf Regiment during WWI, and there was an earlier hockey team in the city called by the same name.
The Flames originated in Atlanta in 1972.
Their nickname is a reference to General Sherman's march to the sea during the Civil War, in which the city was nearly burned to the ground.
The team kept the name upon their move to Calgary because it was a good fit for an oil town.
The team contemplated a multitude of nicknames before deciding on the Avalanche.
The owners originally planned to name the franchise the Extreme, but the choice was criticized by the public.
Other possibilities included Black Bears, Cougars, Outlaws, Storm, Wranglers, Renegades and Rapids.
Avalanche, in my opinion, was a respectable choice, but Rapids would have been awesome as well.
Edmonton is famous for the oil industry in Canada.
Simple as that.
The Wild have one of the most awesome logos in all of sports, and their nickname is pretty clever as well.
It was chosen in a contest above other entries such as the Blue Ox, Northern Lights, Voyagers, White Bears and Freeze.
Freeze would have been a cool nickname, but it probably wouldn't have held up in a matchup against the Flames.
Canuck is a slang term for a Canadian.
The orca in their logo is a reference to their parent company, Orca Bay.
Georgia's state bird is the brown thrasher.
The name was chosen in a fan contest in 1999.
The Atlanta Flames, now in Calgary, were nearly named the Thrashers back in 1972.
Once the New England Whalers, the franchise moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997.
It was renamed the Hurricanes due to the common coastal storms in the area.
Panther's president, Bill Torrey, chose the name hoping his skaters would perform like quickest striking of all cats.
The Florida panther is an endangered cougar that lives in the forests and swamps of the state.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Thunderstorms are common in the Tampa Bay area.
President Phil Esposito also said that lightning represented the quick action in a hockey game.
When the team was founded in 1974, a naming contest was held to determine its nickname.
Capitals was selected because Washington D.C. is the capital city of the United States.
The Walt Disney Company founded the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993 and named it after their popular hockey movie.
When Disney sold the team in 2005, the name was shortened to the Ducks.
The Minnesota North Stars name was given to them by means of a fan contest. It is derived from a French phrase that means "Star of the North."
Upon the move to Dallas, the "North" part of their name was no longer appropriate and was dropped.
Los Angeles Kings
When the team was founded in 1967, a public naming contest decided its nickname.
In the 1930s there was also a hockey team in Los Angeles called the Monarchs.
When the Winnipeg Jets moved in 1996, the Coyotes beat out the Scorpions in a naming contest.
Coyotes are Arizona's most common predator.
San Jose Sharks
The original winner of San Jose's naming contest was the Blades, but because the name could be associated with weapons and gangs, they went with the runner-up Sharks instead.
It was chosen because sharks are relentless, determined, fearless, swift and agile. There are seven different shark varieties in the Bay Area.
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