George Carlin, who once delivered a memorable standup rant about what he deemed goofy first names for boys, died too soon to weigh in on the names of sports teams.
Too bad, for there is no shortage of minor professional franchises, including those in the American Hockey League, in dire need of re-branding.
Of the 30 teams in the AHL, the vast majority are in good shape: Their nicknames are sensible, respectable, and do not cross the thick, broad borderline between creative and crazy.
On the other hand, there are five active AHL teams whose nicknames are unconditionally unsuitable for their locations, their sport, or their league.
In order of ascending importance, here are those teams and why they each need a rechristening.
There should be a rule against AHL and NHL affiliates sharing nicknames if they do not cater to the same market.
And seeing as Worcester is three solid time zones away from San Jose, the Sharks thing just doesn’t work.
Worcester residents can speak for themselves, but it seems they had an easier time identifying themselves with their AHL team when they had the IceCats between 1994 and 2005.
Perhaps they could work out a compromise and bring back the old nickname and logo while retaining the parent club’s black-and-teal uniforms.
Or they could adopt a whole new moniker altogether, maybe one that speaks to central Massachusetts or to the city’s heritage a little better.
The situation here is the inverse of the Worcester problem.
Having the same nickname as your affiliate works great if the feeder club and the parent club are close by; just look at the Albany Devils, Providence Bruins, Texas Stars, and such baseball teams as the Pawtucket Red Sox for evidence.
As it happens, the Chicago Blackhawks are the only Original Six team never to have shared a nickname with its AHL affiliate.
And if there was ever a time to change that, this is it.
Rockford has had two different pro hockey teams since 1999, both of whom have had this goofy and gimmicky IceHogs name, which has no place outside of fantasy leagues.
It might have been a great attention-getter at first, but surely the novelty has tapered off by now. So take advantage of the NHL’s renewed relevance in Illinois, come back out as the Rockford Blackhawks, and see what happens.
Here is another team that might as well rename itself after its parent club, in this case the Carolina Hurricanes.
Charlotte already wears the exact same uniform design, and it could even keep the same logo and mascot if it really wanted.
But whether the city’s ECHL predecessor chose the name “Checkers” as in body-checking or in homage to the South’s infatuation with checkered flags, it somehow has a soft ring to it.
You’re not in Double-A anymore, Charlotte hockey. It’s time to grow up and get a better nickname.
How has the AHL lived with itself for a full decade―all in the 21st century, no less―with two teams bearing the same nickname?
The days when professional baseball and football teams shared a common dateline and nickname are long gone. So, too, should be the days when a professional hockey league―especially one that is only a step away from The Show―has two unrelated crews of Admirals.
Since Milwaukee started its team in the late IHL back in 1977, a good 23 years before Norfolk initiated its AHL franchise, the Wisconsin team wins out by way of seniority. (Well, okay, Virginia did have the ECHL’s Hampton Roads Admirals beginning in 1989. But that’s still 12 years after Milwaukee launched its team.)
Simply put, Norfolk’s hockey team is 10 years overdue for a re-branding.
To one who has never been to the War Memorial at Oncenter, it is tough to envision a PA announcer putting genuine enthusiasm into the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen, your Syracuse Crunch!” even though it has probably happened at least 700 times by now.
The newest entry in this time-honored AHL city has answered to the same moniker since its inception in 1994.
But longevity does nothing to remedy a weak nickname.
This franchise can do much better. It’s too bad Hamilton already has the Bulldogs (know what I mean?), but there are an infinite number of other options.
If the team wants to keep its current mascot and logo, which looks like a white ape, then may we suggest the Syracuse Snowmen, as in the abominable snowman?
Or you could go back to most any given name of previous Syracuse hockey teams: Warriors, Eagles, Firebirds, Blazers, Condors, etc.
In any case, you are free to try finding something that demonstrates creativity and originality, but at least abide by the general nicknaming rules.
In other words, name the team after a noun rather than some sort of onomatopoeia.