HALIFAX — A group supporting a proposed CFL team in Halifax touched off a fiery debate online when it proposed naming the team after one of the country’s greatest maritime disasters.
On Twitter, CFL in Halifax pitched the idea of calling the football team the Halifax Explosions — a reference to the devastating explosion in the Halifax harbour in 1917 that killed about 2,000 people.
A similar name, the Halifax Xplosion, is used by the city’s team in the Maritime Women’s Football League.
CFL in Halifax is a creative group that makes fan art to generate discussion, and clarified Monday afternoon that "We are NOT the same people who are bidding for an official Halifax CFL team. That is a different group of business people."
CFL in Halifax enthusiastically promoted the Explosion moniker, saying that 100 years ago "a force was unleashed that made this city stronger, bigger, and more united than ever before. Now we channel that force onto the football field as we flatten all that stands in our way."
It didn’t take long for people to register their rebukes.
"You want to profit off the deaths of 2,000 people? It’s in really poor taste," said one person, while another tweeted, "I grew up in Dartmouth and this is an absolutely asinine idea."
Others were more creative with their disapproval.
"The Hiroshima Atoms, the Nagasaki Fallout, The California Embers, the Port-au-Prince Quakes," wrote thenormalperson. "I hear the CFL is expanding to the U.S. with the New York 9-11s."
For its part, CFL in Halifax said it was merely trying to promote a forceful name. It included pictures of a helmet with orange and yellow flames and a logo that looked like an explosive cloud with a skull in the centre.
"The Halifax Explosions team concept is the manifestation of our history and our powerful culture," it tweeted. "A sign to ur opponents that danger is on its way. And history will be made."
Halifax was devastated on Dec. 6, 1917, when two ships collided in the city’s harbour and set off an explosion that levelled the city’s north end. It’s estimated that 2,000 people were killed, while another 9,000 were maimed or blinded.
The group has suggested several other names for the proposed team, including the Atlantic Fog, East Coast Kraken, the Halifax Privateers, and the Atlantic Schooners.
The CFL issued a statement Monday saying the league has no affiliation with the CFL in Halifax group: "While we appreciate the excitement and enthusiasm of the fans behind these accounts, even if some of their suggestions are far more appropriate than others, it is premature to discuss a name for a franchise that has not been awarded."
The league confirmed in November it has been in talks with a "professional, enthusiastic and impressive" group of prospective owners rallying for a Halifax franchise.
The owners group, Maritime Football Limited, said in a statement Monday that it loves the enthusiasm of CFL in Halifax, but it is not connected to their group, and name discussions are premature.
"As we have mentioned before, we do like and are considering a name the team contest, however we are not ready to start that process as of yet," said partner Anthony LeBlanc.
"We continue to work diligently and expeditiously with the league, various levels of government and local stakeholders, and expect an update to be delivered in the not too distant future."
There are still questions over whether the East Coast has the fan base to support a Canadian Football League franchise, if the business community would be interested in sponsoring a team and who would foot the bill for a new Halifax stadium.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has said a potential CFL team would be "an exciting opportunity," but that the municipality would not lead the charge, so as to not put taxpayers at risk over the cost of building a stadium.
The CFL awarded a conditional franchise to Halifax in 1982 — it was named the Atlantic Schooners — but financing for a stadium never came about. The league played regular-season games in Moncton, N.B., in 2010, 2011 and ’13.