On Tuesday night, a new NHL team sprung into existence when the Las Vegas franchise announced its name, colors and logos:
Any time we get a new team -- or a new team name; same thing! -- it tells us a little bit about our culture at that particularly moment in time. Why do we choose certain names and colors and personalities for our teams? What are we trying to invoke with our team monikers? Do all of these team names hold up long term?
Thus, with our first new franchise since 2004 joining our little club of major North American sports professional teams (sorry MLS and WNBA, not yet), let's take a look at some of the most recent expansion teams, their names and how they sound today.
A note, by the way: We are talking strictly expansion teams here. You don't get to move a franchise, then change another franchise's name, and then go back and call the original team an "expansion" team. This would seem obvious, right? You totally can't do this. Well, this has actually happened twice in the past 20 years. We begin with the first time, as we look back at the past two-plus decades of expansion history (in reverse chronological order).
Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Other name options at the time: Flight
After the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans -- and before they spent a couple of years in Oklahoma City after Katrina playing as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (or, as I preferred to call them, NOOCH) -- David Stern gave Charlotte another team. The color scheme is pretty wild here, but the name is even worse: Bobcats aren't even that big or fast, compared to other cats. There has been much speculation that then-owner Robert Johnson wanted Bobcats, after a fan poll had come up with "Flight," simply because it had "Bob" in the word. That's hilarious.
Technically speaking -- and here's what I was talking about earlier -- this isn't considered an "expansion team." They're actually considered the New Orleans Pelicans. I know that makes no sense, but bear with me, because I'm going to try to explain the NBA's insane retconning timeline on this.
• 2002: Charlotte Hornets move to New Orleans.
• 2004: Charlotte Bobcats are expansion franchise.
• 2013: New Orleans Hornets change their name to New Orleans Pelicans.
• 2014: Charlotte Bobcats change their name to Charlotte Hornets.
Because of this, the league has decided -- incorrectly! This is not how timelines work! -- that the current Charlotte Hornets are the same version of the original Charlotte Hornets; they just took two years off. Thus, all team records count for that Charlotte Hornets team. So how do they deal with the Pelicans problem? NBA records make it look like the current Pelicans were in fact an expansion team even though this is demonstratively not true. We are not playing their game. The Pelicans are no expansion team; the Bobcats are. And the name was obviously so terrible that they changed it within 12 years, which led to all this confusion. Important to get the name right out of the gate, people.
Team: Houston Texans
Other name options at the time: Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Wildcatters
The name "Texans" was selected by a committee, and you can totally tell: There are millions of nouns on this planet, but this group of brand managers literally landed on the state they were currently in. Imagine if more teams did this! The Las Vegas Nevadans. The Minnesota Minnesotans. The Toronto Ontarios. Owner Bob McNair, when announcing the name and logo, said they "embody the pride, strength, independence and achievement that make the people of Houston and our area special." I'm not sure how a city showing fealty to the state it resides in shows "independence," but I'm no brand marketer.
The logo is strange too, like it's trying to exemplify "Texas" without, you know, just putting the state itself on the helmet. Also: Why does the poor bull only have one eye? Can he see out of that thing? At least they gave Toro the mascot two eyes. Almost 15 years later, "Houston Texans" remains a dull, empty moniker, the result of a team of people being unable to come up with anything better. It's a shame: "Wildcatters" would have been a blast.
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Other name options at the time: Justice
Yikes, that logo, right? It looks like a Christmas sweater your grandmother would wear: I think it blinks. The new logo is much better.
It was important for Columbus to have some sort of patriotic name, and while Justice would have been fun -- penalties would all be announced "Justice Is Served!" -- the Blue Jackets had to suffice. The name Blue Jackets was derived from the Civil War, but in a bank-shot sort of way. To follow the team's official logic, "Ohio contributed more of its population to the Union Army than any other state, while many of the Blue Coats worn by the Union soldiers were manufactured in Columbus." It might seem strange to name a team after a garment district -- we are proud of our ability to clothe people! -- but it turns out that "Buckeyes" was taken.
Team: Minnesota Wild
Other name options at the time: Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears
It was a national emergency that Minnesota didn't have a professional hockey team, and when their attempts to grab Winnipeg didn't work (they went to Phoenix instead), the NHL just gave them a team. The logo is fine -- even if it looks like a "modern" version of a painting you'd see in a Ducks Unlimited catalog -- but it's difficult to argue that "Wild" is a better name than any of the five they didn't choose. The Minnesota Blue Ox would have been a blast. The Wild was the most inoffensive, sensible option, which is why it doesn't stand out in the slightest today. That could be a point in its favor, actually.
Team: Atlanta Thrashers
Other name options at the time: Flames
The Thrashers never really got their ownership or fan base issues figured out, and their decade in Atlanta consisted of more relocation rumors (Kansas City! Quebec! Hamilton!) than playoff appearances. In 2011, the NHL put them out of their misery and moved them to Winnipeg, giving them the Jets name again. It is certainly for the best. The logo is basically a poor bird tossed into a centrifuge. Please stop spinning the poor bird!
Team: Cleveland Browns
Other options: None
The NFL tried the same trick as the NBA did with the Hornets/Pelicans/Bobcats imbroglio. But sorry, you're not fooling me: These Cleveland Browns have nothing to do with the Bernie Kosar Cleveland Browns. Art Modell really did that horrible thing he did. You can't erase it from history. This is an expansion team. And a really bad one.
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Other name options at the time: Rattlers
The Diamondback will always be a brand name of a bicycle to a lot of us, but Jerry Colangelo insisted it was a snake, so thus it is. The logo is so much better now: That original logo feels like a something you'd see on the tag as a manufacturer of parachute pants.
Team: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Other name options at the time: Aces, Bandits, Cannons, Dukes, Nine, Stripes
Tampa Bay essentially got a team because it had a stadium waiting to be filled, once the Giants and White Sox came this close to heading their way before bailing at the last minute. (Good move, both of them.) They don't seem to have thought through the logo that much: That looks like an off-brand bargain-bin baseball card company. They got rid of the "Devil" from the name in 2008, though I really wish they would have gone with "Nine."
Team: Nashville Predators
Other name options at the time: Ice Tigers, Fury, Attack
"Ice Tigers" sounds like the name of Will Ferrell's ice duet team in "Blades of Glory." That first logo is far scarier than today's version: That old one looks like Terminator Tiger. The logo was picked because, in 1971, excavators found a sabre-tooth tiger skeleton in downtown Nashville. It would have been cooler had they found a mastodon.
Team: Vancouver Grizzlies
Other name options at the time: Mounties
The year of living Canadian for the NBA ended up with only one True North team, but Vancouver sure was a fun place for visiting reporters to visit a few times a year. Amusingly, the team was supposed to be called the Vancouver Mounties, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police objected. (Until I looked this up, I had no idea "Mountie" came from "Mounted.") It's a shame: The Memphis Mounties would have been awesome.
Team: Toronto Raptors
Other name options at the time: Huskies, Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, Terriers
The most notorious search for a name in recent sports history -- it basically was conducted in public for more than a year -- ended with the most notorious name in recent sports history. This is the ultimate in short-term thinking: Name a sports team meant to play for decades after a popular character in a currently high-grossing film. (At least they weren't the Toronto Barneys.) The Raptors, even with more recent successful "Jurassic Park" films, still feel like a '90s relic, and the quicker they realize they should go to the Huskies like they should have in the first place -- they had trouble figuring out how to make the logo different from the Timberwolves logo -- the better. It's still absurd there's a major sports team named after something from a 25-year-old Steven Spielberg movie.