Peculiar Side of Sports: Origins of NHL Nicknames (West)
Welcome back to Peculiar Side of Sports. Earlier we took a look at the Origins of Eastern Conference names. Today we complete the trek and look at the remaining teams in the league. If you are a fan of Sports History, check out the other articles I have written – “Sports History”. Enough small talk – here are the Western Conference nickname origins…
Detroit Red Wings – Detroit has had a team in the NHL since 1926, but the Red Wings came a decade after. The Detroit team was first called the Cougars (after the defunct WCHL team of the same name), and was renamed the Falcons in 1930. It wasn’t until 1933 that the “Red Wings” was coined. The name actually comes from the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association which was nicknamed the “Winged Wheelers”, and owner James Norris, wanted to pay homage the Wheelers as he played for the club. The Winged Wheelers derived their name and logo from the sport the MAAA was originally founded on, cycling.
St. Louis Blues – St. Louis entered the NHL in 1967 with the league’s mass expansion. The Blues were so named after a song by musician WC Handy called, “St. Louis Blues”. There is an obvious tie to popularity of rhythm and blues music in St. Louis, so the name was a natural.
Chicago Blackhawks – Until 1986, the Hawks were known as “Black Hawks”, but the two words were compounded to “Blackhawks”. The team was one of the original six NHL franchises. At that time, the team got its players from two defunct teams; Portland Rosebuds and Regina Capitals. Owner Frederic McLaughlin named the team Black Hawks out of respect for the 333rd Black Hawk Batallion for which he was a member.
Nashville Predators – How about this, Preds fans – you almost were the Nashville Devils, but for a failed attempt to land the New Jersey team. Phew! Anyhow, the name and logo stems from the remains of a smilodon (Sabre-toothed Tiger for those who aren’t into archaeology) that was found in the Nashville area. Interestingly, they had the logo before finding a name. After an exhaustive name-the-team contest, owner Craig Leipold added his own submission, “Predators”, which he immediately declared the winner. Oh, to have millions…
Columbus Blue Jackets – If you held a gun to my head (please, don’t) I would have said something stupid like, “The Blue Jackets were named after some insect”. Truth be told, they were named after a much more historically significant event. The first team from Ohio since the long dead Cleveland Barons, Columbus began play in 2000 under the name Blue Jackets to recognize the familiar blue representative of the North during the American Civil War.
Calgary Flames – The Flames are the third go-around for professional hockey in the Albertan city. The first was the Calgary Tigers in the 1920′s, the WHA’s Cowboys, and finally the current Flames. The current version was originally from Atlanta, which named its franchise the Flames after an American Civil War event where the city of Atlanta was almost burned to the ground – it was in flames.
Vancouver Canucks – Vancouver was awarded a franchise and began play in 1970. Actually, hockey in Vancouver dates back to 1911 when the Patrick brothers owned the Vancouver Millionaires, which competed in the West Coast Hockey League. They even played for the Stanley Cup five times, winning it once in 1915 vs. the Ottawa Senators. I digress. The Vancouver Canucks we know are named after a team of the same name that competed in the WCHL in the 1940′s – check out some of the names who played for them: Bathgate, Bower, Worsley, Esposito (Tony), Stanley. Crazy. The Canucks were named after “Johnny Canuck”, a cartoon character from the 1800′s. He was a Canadian lumberjack.
Edmonton Oilers – The Oilers began in 1972 in the WHA (as Alberta Oilers), before jumping to the NHL in 1979 with that Wayne guy in tow. Simply, the name stems from the junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings, which was often called “the Oilers” for shot. Also, Alberta produces a lot of oil, yet for whatever reason, I still have to give my left arm to fill my tank with gas.
Minnesota Wild – The Wild are the only major professional team in St. Paul – the Vikes, Twinkies and T-Wolves play out of Minneapolis. The Wild began play in 2000 as an expansion franchise, with no ties to former team, North Stars, which bolted South and lost the North. “Wild” won out over other team name possibilities - Blue Ox (what the…?), Freeze, Northern Lights (for whatever reason, a lot of BC natives liked this one), Voyageurs (some confused this with “voyeurs”) and White Bears.
Colorado Avalanche – The Avs’ roots are in Quebec when the Nordiques began play in the WHA in 1972, then moved to the NHL not too long after. Much to the chagrin of the Nordiques’ faithful in Quebec City, the team went straight to the Cup after moving to the Rockies, which by the way is where they get their name from – the snow of the Rockies, obviously.
Los Angeles Kings – The Kings came into being in 1967 with the first big expansion in the NHL (taking the league from 6 to 12 1967). Owner Jack Kent Cooked paid $2million to put a team in LA because he felt there was a large contingent of Canadians and NorthEasterners re-settled in California that would become his base of fans. Cooked also owned the Lakers, which were purple and gold, and so he wanted the Kings to follow suit. He wanted the team associated with royalty, hence the name and logo.
Phoenix Coyotes – The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix (doesn’t that just open a can o’ worms!) in 1996 and have been the Coyotes since. The name was the result of a name-the-team contest, and the logo was made in the Kuchina (Native American) style.
San Jose Sharks – The San Jose Sharks might have been named the San Jose Blades, as the name-the-team contest resulted in the “Blades” as the winner. The owner, the Gund Family, went with the second place entry “Sharks” because Blades had a violent overtone – so, let’s go with Sharks, give it a terrifying array of teeth and make it break a stick in half sending debris everywhere, because that’s pretty tame.
Anaheim Ducks - The Disney Ducks began in 1993, and just as you remember, the team’s original name Mighty Ducks stems from the Disney movie of the same name with Emilio Estevez (where is that guy these days??). Who could forget the “Flying V”?
Dallas Stars – The NHL decided that despite there not being naturally occurring ice for a thousand miles, it would be a good idea to put a team in Dallas to capitalize on the large population (I mean quantity of people, not their girths). The team was originally the Minnesota North Stars, which was relocated to Dallas. For obvious reasons they dropped the “North” from the name.
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