(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) One might expect that the Rockford IceHogs, the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, would have benefitted from the success of the big club over the past several seasons, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Prior to the 2014-15 season, the IceHogs went four campaigns without a post-season appearance and had gone six seasons without a win in the playoffs. Even though the IceHogs flamed out in the second round of the post-season, losing in five games to the Grand Rapids Griffins, it’s hard not to consider the 2014-15 season one of the most successful in the franchise’s short time in Rockford. The IceHogs, led by
Garret Ross and, for a short while,
Teuvo Teravainen, posted Rockford’s best ever winning percentage, highest point total and one of the stingiest defenses in the entire AHL, surrendering just 180 goals against in 76 games. A big part of the success came from a few fresh faces, but two of the three key additions won’t be back in Rockford next season. Goaltender
Scott Darling made the most of his opportunities in the IceHogs net and an injury to Blackhawks netminder
Corey Crawford early in the year gave Darling his shot at the NHL, one which he took and turned into a full-time backup gig. Tervainen spent only 39 games in the AHL before making the jump to the Blackhawks roster, and after the youngster’s post-season play, it’s unlikely he’s ever heading back to the IceHogs. And in the trade that sent
Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders, the Blackhawks (and, in turn, the IceHogs) received
Ville Pokka, who was a standout on the blueline for Rockford and scored eight goals and 30 points in 68 games. The IceHogs know how quickly success can disappear — three straight post-season appearances became four playoff-less seasons over the course of one summer — and it will be up to the IceHogs’ trio of McNeill, Ross and Pokka to keep Rockford in a playoff position this season.
Team History: It would be easy to assume that in a league that will be celebrating its 80th season in 2015-16, the IceHogs franchise would be in its relative infancy. That’s not the case, however, as the Rockford franchise, which dates back to 1995-96, has spent more time in the AHL ranks than nearly half the league. The franchise began in Maryland and the Baltimore Bandits, but their stay in Baltimore was short lived. An affiliate of the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the Bandits spent two years as the Ducks’ affiliate in Maryland. Because of financial trouble, the team was uprooted and moved to Ohio where they became the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks. The stay in Cincinnati started well, but a few turbulent years led to the team’s demise. For two seasons, the Mighty Ducks were the sole affiliate of the NHL club of the same name, but in 1999 the Detroit Red Wings, needing a minor league affiliate, came on board. The agreement with Detroit lasted three seasons at which point the Red Wings moved their affiliation to Grand Rapids. With Detroit gone, Anaheim re-upped with Cincinnati for three additional years, but following the 2005-06 season, the Ducks left their agreement with the Ohio-based club and signed an affiliation agreement with the Portland Pirates. With no affiliate option, the club voluntarily suspended operations and in 2006-07, with the chance to re-enter the AHL, the franchise failed to sell 2,000 season tickets, effectively ending Cincinnati’s hope at becoming an AHL team once again. It wasn’t until March 2007 when the franchise was purchased by the City of Rockford and moved to Illinois where they became the IceHogs and began the 2007-08 season as the Chicago Blackhawks’ top affiliate. The franchise has never won a Calder Cup, nor have they advanced to a conference final. The all-time leading scorer is
Bob Wren, who notched 113 goals, 186 assists and 299 points in 277 games with the Mighty Ducks.
Logo History: From Bandits to Mighty Ducks to IceHogs, the club has always been represented by an animal of some sort. When beginning in Baltimore, the club’s logo was a snarling raccoon, but the mascot and logo were short lived and changed immediately upon the team’s move to Cincinnati. As the Mighty Ducks, the team didn’t simply take on the Disney Ducks logo, though. The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks crest was a tough-guy duck, which looked a bit like a cross between the Mighty Ducks cartoon and Darkwing Duck.
It was a simple enough design, but the difference was enough that the crest stood apart from the logo the NHL’s Mighty Ducks were using at that time. For the entire duration of the franchise’s eight-year stay in Cincinnati, the logo remained unchanged.
Current Logo: There’s no clever meaning behind the IceHogs name and the logo is exactly as the name suggests: a hockey playing pig. There’s nothing about the logo that makes it altogether the worst in the league, but there’s nothing that makes it stand out from the pack, either. If the name left fewer questions — like, say, what in the world is an Ice Hog? — the logo would benefit greatly. Even if the club had borrowed from the NHL’s Blackhawks or used the shorter ‘Hawks’ name, the designers would have had more to work with and Rockford’s logo would probably stand out much more. But the name itself dates back to Rockford’s UHL days, when the IceHogs moniker beat out the likes of Rhinos, Roughnecks, Ice Rangers and Rockets in a naming contest. Shockingly, the Rockford IceHogs aren’t the only professional hockey team to use the mascot. The Carolina Hurricanes mascot, Stormy, is an ice hog.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)