The St. Louis Rams, who used to be the Los Angeles Rams, are moving back to the City of Angels next season. It's still unclear, meanwhile, if the San Diego Chargers, who started out as the Los Angeles Chargers, will follow. If they don't, it's possible the Oakland Raiders, who boomeranged back to the Bay Area after spending 13 seasons in Los Angeles themselves, could wind up back in Southern California, sharing a stadium with the Los Angeles Rams 2.0.
You'd be forgiven for being confused. But while all relocations aren't as complex and interconnected, sports teams have been changing cities for more than a century, sometimes flopping in their new city, sometimes thriving, and sometimes moving again in search of yet another town in which to settle. (In this case, "settle" is usually code for "move into a shiny new stadium, preferably one paid for with public funds.")
Since 1966, there have been 33 franchise relocations, including two by teams that wound up back in the city they came from. In all, five franchises have moved more than once in the past 50 years.
Some relocations still sting
Brooklynites of a certain age still wax poetic about Jackie, Pee Wee and the rest of Dem Bums, and when Hartford's XL Center tried to remove some old Whalers banners during a renovation more than a decade after the team skipped town, no less than the governor of Connecticut asked that they be rehung. Indeed, when a city is passionate about a team, the die-hards never truly forget it.
Perhaps even more painful for fans is when a team leaves and quickly finds success in its new location. The Quebec Nordiques, for instance, brought along young stars like Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg when they moved to Colorado in 1995, and the rechristened Colorado Avalanche won a Stanley Cup in their first season in Denver. Or consider Major League Baseball's Athletics, who since 1901 have moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City, then to Oakland. The A's never even reached the World Series during their 13 years in Kansas City, but they went on to win titles in their fifth, sixth and seventh seasons in the Bay Area.
St. Louis is now the relocation leader
More than a dozen cities -- from New York to Seattle -- have had multiple sports franchises leave town at some point. But none have had to endure more than St. Louis, which learned this week that the Rams were officially leaving. The city has seen four franchises relocate, dating back to the American League's Browns in 1954. (It nearly saw a fifth skip town when the Blues almost left for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1983.)
All four of the teams that have left St. Louis, by the way, had moved there from some other city. Turnabout, in the cruel world of franchise relocation, is fair game.
Some moves take better than others
Teams that change cities hope to find stability in their new location, and sometimes they find it in a big way. In 1933, after four years in the fledgling NFL, the Spartans of Portsmouth, Ohio, relocated to Detroit. More than 80 years later, the Lions, as they became known, are still around.
Other times, new scenery isn't enough to save a franchise. The California Golden Seals, one of six teams that joined the NHL during its 1967 expansion, became the first NHL club in more than 40 years to relocate when it went to Cleveland in 1976 and became the Barons. It wasn't a smooth move, however, and after just two seasons, the team ceased operations, merging with the also-struggling Minnesota North Stars to prevent two teams from folding at once.
The start of this century hasn't been too active
Nine teams in the big four professional sports leagues relocated during the 1970s, seven moved during the '80s, and eight changed cities during the '90s. But from 2000-09, four teams moved. And since 2010, just two have moved, including the Rams but not including either of the NFL teams that may follow. None of this, of course, is any consolation to SuperSonics fans who only got to watch Kevin Durant for one season in Seattle, or Expos fans who must now to go to Canadiens games to see their beloved Youppi.
Here are the active teams who have yet to win a title after relocating
Oakland Raiders (though they won in Oakland before leaving for Los Angeles)
Sacramento Kings (also never won as the Kansas City Kings, 1972-1985)
Los Angeles Clippers (also never won as the the San Diego Clippers, 1978-1984)
New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder
And here are the fastest teams to win a title after relocating.
|Team||Title year||Year in new city||Former city|
|Oakland A's||1972||Fifth||Kansas City|
|St. Louis Rams||1999||Fifth||L.A.|