August 24, 2013

Ranking NHL team names, from first to worst

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

Grantland ran a piece this week ranking the 30 NBA teams from worst nicknames to the best. While I didn’t agree with some of the choices (the Jazz might be the worst nickname in sports, not No. 6!), I did thoroughly enjoy the idea behind. So I thought why not rank the teams of the NHL?

After all, the worst-case scenario is Toronto fans getting upset because their team isn’t No. 1. But losing is something they should be familiar with.

The way that I’m judging these is through a couple of categories: Relevance to community, creativity and overall feel.

1. Montreal Canadiens

It’s a classic and it works with its region. There’s even the ‘e’ instead of ‘a’ to make it the French spelling, which I’m sure really confuses the majority of American fans. And you can’t argue that their secondary nickname, the Habs, is even any worse. It’s also fitting that the team with the most Stanley Cups has the best nickname in ice hockey.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Here’s a team name that works perfectly for its region. It’s original, it has history and helps define the team. What more could you want from your franchise’s name?

3. Detroit Red Wings

What exactly a Red Wing is, I’m not sure, but it’s almost as solid of a name as they come. There’s lots of history, being an Original Six team and it comes with one of the sport’s best and iconic logos.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

By far it’s the best of the recent expansion teams. While many think the Blue Jackets are named for some kind of bug because of their logo, it’s actually a reference to Ohio’s Civil War history. And really, if it was for a bug, this name would rank a lot lower.

5. Buffalo Sabres

The best part about the Sabres is that the team’s logo uses the city’s name more than its nickname in the design. And with the Sabres, you get a nice secondary nickname with the Blades.

6. Boston Bruins

Oddly enough, the only Original Six squad that went with an alliterative name. If it weren’t for the team’s third jersey, many might not even know that a Bruin is a bear, which is kind of a cool twist.

7. New York Rangers

It’s a good, solid name that has seen many imitators. But you can’t knock points of them for being the first to the party.

8. Chicago Blackhawks

Sure, it is a bit derogatory towards Native Americans, but it is not nearly as offensive as the Washington Redskins. Plus, you can shorten it to Hawks or even rebrand as an animal and it could work out just fine.

9. Vancouver Canucks

As I’m sure you all know, Canuck is just another term for Canadian. The thing is, Canuck actually has roots as a slightly derogatory name, which means doesn’t make too much sense to name your team after it. Also, along with the Canadiens, the NHL essentially has two teams named for our citizens.

10. Dallas Stars

The Stars really lucked out. After moving from Minnesota, the team dropped the “North” from its name and become the Stars, which fits in perfectly with the one of most popular teams in sports, the Dallas Cowboys. You have to wonder what would have happened had it been the Jets to move to Big D.

11. St. Louis Blues

Named after a famous blues song – well, duh – the Blues’ name is a classic. It fits well with the region and it lends itself to a nice logo design.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs

The worst of the Original Six clubs because of one critical flaw: Leafs is not the proper plural of Leaf. The team should be called the Maple Leaves. I’m sure it would save elementary school teachers some hassle.

13. Los Angeles Kings

I like the name Kings, I really do. But there’s not a lot of originality here. Now, if the team were The Kings of Los Angeles, that’s a top-five name.

14. Washington Capitals

You can shorten it to Caps and it fits its hometown perfectly. Also lends itself to potentially great uniform and logo designs, not that they’ve capitalized on that – get it?

15. Ottawa Senators

Taking cues from their American brethren, the Washington Capitals, the Senators smartly took a political theme. It also lends itself to the ancient Roman times, as their logo alludes.

16. Calgary Flames

I’m always a fan when a team moves and is able to keep the same name. The old Atlanta Flames were named for the burning of city during the civil war, which would have made this team a title contender had it stuck around.

17. Carolina Hurricanes

I’m usually not a fan of weather-related names, but this one is decent. It works with the region, it can be shortened to ’Canes and it lends to an easy logo.

18. New Jersey Devils

If all the team’s nicknames fought, the Devils would be the victor, right? Loses points for a religious affiliation though.

19. Winnipeg Jets

I love the idea that when the team moved back to Manitoba, it picked the former franchise’s name. That doesn’t mean that it’s a great name, but Winnipeg could have done a lot worse.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

The alliteration is nice, as is the black and gold colour scheme that goes with the city. But is there anybody out there that is a afraid of a Penguin? ‘Fierce’ isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind.

21. Philadelphia Flyers

What is a Flyer? I’m all for the nice alliteration, but doesn’t a team have to be named after, you know, something? It’s probably not a good idea to call your team something that’s also thrown on your doorstep every week. The only other good points are for the history the team has with the name.

22. New York Islanders

You have to wonder if they’ll keep this name after the move to Brooklyn, which I highly doubt. Let’s just hope that they don’t muck up the naming decision like so many other recently branded teams.

23. Florida Panthers

Thoroughly unoriginal. They did beat the NFL’s Carolina Panthers to it, but Florida was beaten to it by thousands of high schools and colleges. And really, I had no idea that there were even Panthers in Florida – I thought it was more so Cougar territory.

24. Arizona Coyotes

So the team is basically named after a mangy desert dog. No wonder nobody in Arizona is fired up for this team. An ironic note, the Coyote is known to live about 10 years in the wild, meaning these dogs are well past their expiration date.

25. San Jose Sharks

Is there even sharks in the bay area where San Jose is located? I had honestly thought the city was land-locked, which obviously would have had it ranked worse.

26. Nashville Predators

Could you get any more general than the Predators? Could the owners really not think up a predatory animal? And what is that animal on their logo? Why not just name the team after whatever that is?

27. Tampa Bay Lightning

I hate teams that don’t end in an ‘s’. At least the Lightning can go by the Bolts. You know, if people in Tampa cared enough to.

28. Colorado Avalanche

It’s a decent regional name, but is penalized for not ending in an ‘s’. At least they are more commonly referred to as the Avs these days, which is a welcome move.

29. Anaheim Ducks

Started off being named the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and it has only become marginally better since. And that’s saying something when your team was named after a kids movies.

30. Minnesota Wild

The absolute worst name in the NHL and perhaps in all sports. It doesn’t end in ‘s’ and you can’t say that you are “a Wild.” Even worse, it’s barely a noun. This one desperately needs a do-over.

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