Condors and Falcons are flying high in California, and Bombers are taking off in Ohio.
Don’t worry, it’s only hockey, and crazy pro team nicknames abound.
The Killer Bees of Rio Grande Valley, Texas, are so named because actual killer bees have been spotted thereabouts. The mascot of the Central Hockey League team dresses up as a bee and responds to Sir Sting-A-Lot. Ouch!
In Louisiana, crawfish, crayfish or mudbugs abound in the Red River. So, the Central team in Shreveport, where they have an annual spring street festival called Mudbug Madness to celebrate their Cajun heritage, was merely doing its civic duty in choosing its name. This is the only team with a mascot that comes with offspring. Clawed and Lil’ Bugger are crowd pleasers.
The New Mexico Scorpions of Rio Rancho can sting Central opponents although their mascot, Stanley, doesn’t look overly intimidating in his green outfit.
Lots of teams carry names that reflect their environment.
The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, for example, personify the oil industry of Alberta.
In the ECHL, there happen to be a lot of condors around Bakersfield and flocks of falcons near Fresno, so that’s what the teams in those California cities call themselves. Salmon are all around Victoria, so, welcome Salmon Kings. In Dayton, Ohio, they’re the Bombers because the city calls itself the “Birthplace of Aviation” and boasts that powered flight inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright once lived there. The Wheeling Nailers were named after a West Virginia factory that turned out nails.
Some team nicknames require a history lesson to explain.
Take the New York Rangers. The man behind the franchise when the NHL awarded it in 1926 was G. L. Rickard. He was known as Tex, and sportswriters dubbed the team “Tex’s Rangers” because it rhymed with Texas Rangers, established in the 19th century to protect settlers in Texas.
Detroit’s NHL team was called Cougars and Falcons before James Norris purchased it in 1932, and he renamed it by using a variation of the name of a Montreal amateur team for which he’d played, the Winged Wheelers.
Conn Smythe renamed Toronto’s team the Maple Leafs after he purchased the St. Patricks in 1927 because he was proud to have worn the maple leaf on uniform badges and insignias during the First World War. The previous team’s green colours were replaced by blue and white because they were the colours of the University of Toronto teams on which Smythe had played.
The AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals were once sponsored by a company in the Wisconsin city that manufactured refrigerators, and they’ve retained the nickname.
The NHL is close to nature with the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. The ECHL has the Cincinnati Cyclones, Stockton Thunder and Toledo Storm. The Central has the Wichita Thunder.
The NHL went to the birds with the Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, the AHL has Springfield Falcons, the ECHL has Phoenix Roadrunners and the Central has Colorado Eagles.
The Salmon Kings aren’t the only fish in the pro hockey sea. The NHL has San Jose Sharks, the ECHL has South Carolina Stingrays and the Central has Corpus Christi Rayz.
Animals have always been popular.
The Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and the Phoenix Coyotes roam the NHL. The AHL is a veritable zoo with the Albany River Rats, Chicago Wolves, Hartford Wolf Pack, Hershey Bears, Manitoba Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs. Prowling the ECHL are the Augusta Lynx, Long Beach Ice Dogs and Utah Grizzlies, while the Laredo Bucks, Arizona Sundogs, Odessa Jackalopes and Youngstown SteelHounds coexist in the Central.
It’s easy to hang a marketing campaign off an animal theme, and animals make good mascots, but some teams sound as if they are out of place.
Take the Central’s Amarillo Gorillas. Plop a hockey team in Texas ranchland, name it after an African ape and put a guy from Saskatchewan in charge (Darren McLean, GM). Got it?
Well, the Gorillas make it work. They refer to the arena in which they play as The Jungle. Their mascot is Stomp. A human in a fake gorilla head can be scary, but the grey sweat pants kind of give him away.
The Ice Bats belong, in their own weird way, exactly where they are.
An unofficial motto of Austin, Texas, is “Keep Austin Weird” and the Central team there believes in it. The largest urban bat colony in the world – 1.5 million of the creepy critters – emerges from under a bridge there on summer nights, and the hockey team didn’t miss a chance to align itself with the phenomenon. The mascot? Fang.
The oddest nickname in pro hockey might belong to the Fayetteville, N.C., entry in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They call themselves the FireAntz. The logo depicts a menacing red ant brandishing a hockey stick.
There must be some kind of insect problem around Fayetteville, which is best known for being the home of the Fort Bragg military base and of actress Julianne Moore, although FireAntz mascot Anthony the Ant has a fast-growing fan base.