What’s in a Name?

While the sports media analyzes the hiring of Winnipeg’s new GM, every sports fan hears the news and asks the exact same question, “Can ya just tell us the name of the team already?” Many possibilities have been floated around; a return to the Jets, keeping the AHL’s Manitoba Moose moniker, the white supremacist inspired Winnipeg Whiteout and the generic sounding Winnipeg Falcons (not entirely random- was the name of the team that won the first ever Olympic gold medal in hockey for Canada 90 years ago). Let’s do a quick breakdown of the main candidates that the public know about.

JETS

PROS: The name Jets is one that is synonymous with Winnipeg in the hockey world and captures the rightful return of NHL hockey to the city. While they might own the records and history of the Thrashers, by naming the team the Jets the organization can easily invoke memories of Hull, Hawerchuk, and Selanne amongst their fans. The Cleveland Browns went through the same situation a decade ago and sticking with the original clearly worked (not on the field off course, its still the Browns). Giving the team another name seems like a marketing gimmick rather than a fresh start.

CONS: So changing the name will be a marketing gimmick but can you blame True North for trying to generate revenue to please Gary “If you don’t sell every seat in every game I’m movin’ the team to Mexico City” Bettman? Besides, with the great memories of the Jets comes the horrible pain of remembering the Jets departure. Winnipeg needs a fresh start. Part of the message of Chipman and Thompson is that Winnipeg has been reborn but if they keep the Jets name, the fans will be stuck in the past. Changing the logo and the colours won’t change the thoughts associated with the name. Also, I doubt Bettman would allow Winnipeg to keep the name Jets, a giant reminder everyday that he has no clue about the demographics of hockey.

MOOSE

PROS: It’s a name that is currently associated with not just the city but the province through the AHL team, which was a major factor in proving that Winnipeg could handle another pro hockey team.Another plus is by naming the team Manitoba instead of Winnipeg you incorporate a larger affiliation of people in an already small pool of possible fans. And let’s be honest, alliterative team names sound good.

CONS: I don’t even know where to start with all the flaws in this name. To start, no American team, which can barely tolerate a team from Winnipeg, will want a game featuring Manitoba at their arenas. It just doesn’t pique interest. The Thrashers might have sucked at hockey, but at least fans in San Jose know where Atlanta is. Secondly the name Moose is so stereotypical and gives Winnipeg the image of being a lumber town full of hosers, not a modern urban centre that it wants to present itself as. Alliterative names can be nice, but team names that aren’t plural eat at my insides. If you play for the Heat/Magic/Jazz/Wild, what are you? You’re on a team with a grammatically shitty name that’s what.

WHITEOUT

PROS: A catchy and unique name, that’s for sure. The name carries an association with the old Winnipeg franchise without constantly bringing up the pain of the Jets. It’s also a truly fan-based name as it comes from the Jets playoff games where the whole arena would wear white. The Canada/snow based reference will also be present but is not as in your face as the Moose.

CONS: If Bettman wants hockey to exist in the Southern United States (as well as some other urban centres) a team called the Whiteout cannot exist. Will the team have a Grand Wizard instead of Captain? How will Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien react? There’s just a bevy of racial problems with this name. There is a team already named Avalanche in the league, I think one snow related name is enough. And see above for my opinion on non-plural team names.

FALCONS

PROS: Finally a plural team name! This name has a built-in connection to the city of Winnipeg and Canadian hockey. It is also a name that opposing teams won’t mind putting on their Jumbotrons. Also, it takes some big balls to name a team leaving Atlanta the Falcons; a nice “ya that’s right, we’re stealing your team and the team name most associated with your city” screw you by True North. Could help sell tickets in American arenas, as the fans there will think their hockey team is playing a football team.

CONS: Sorry Winnipeg, but I doubt you have the mosquito-bitten balls to name your team the Falcons. Are there even falcons in Winnipeg? The name might have a connection with hockey and Winnipeg but unfortunately anyone who could have told you that before True North bought the Thrashers is not alive. Winnipeg should not be called the Falcons the same way Vancouver isn’t called the Millionaires (take a moment to Wikipedia that).

To me, it’s pretty clear that the current leading candidates are all choices with major flaws. If I had to pick from one of those four it would be the Falcons, but it’s a letdown to have your hockey team be named after one of the options from the “create your on team” section of NHL 11. The name needs two things: 1) be a plural noun (I’m not letting this go) and 2) a name that has a sincere connection to Winnipeg. The NHL since the expansion era has done well with meshing team names and their cities. The Blue Jackets, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, and Blues are all very unique sports names that are related to their cities. Notice these names are not negative to the city; anything associated with winter (or mosquitoes) would likely bother people in Winnipeg who believe their city is more than just a cold place (that is infested with possibly the most maddening creature ever). The stereotype that Canada is just frozen tundra is simply annoying. I have never been to Winnipeg and have never really considered Winnipeg to be a potential NHL city until two years ago, so I’m probably a poor source of wisdom regarding the topic of a Winnipeg sports name. I just hope its something that brings the city together and is a proper representation of the city to the rest of the league. My favourite suggestions that I’ve seen are Wolverines (or Wolves), Spirit (yes it breaks the plural rule but its indicative of the fans perseverance), Rebels, and of course this.

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