Anyone who’s ever brought a baby into this world or a gerbil home from the mall knows well the painstaking process of choosing the right name.
With the NHL’s new Las Vegas team set to unveil its moniker on Tuesday evening, we look back at the NHL’s 13 most recent additions — expansion and relocated franchises from 1990 onward — to see how those clubs arrived at their nicknames.
Plus, we remember some of the runners-up that came oh so close to seeing the light of day.
Anaheim Ducks (1993)
Emilio Estevez—the brother who kept his cool—starred in the 1992 Disney vehicle The Mighty Ducks. Christened The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the Disney-owned hockey club was marketed to capitalize on the blockbuster success of the film.
Did you know? The expansion fee for the Ducks was $50 million, and the box office rake of the film was $50 million.
When Disney sold the team in 2005, the name was simplified to Anaheim Ducks and the goofy cartoon logo was soon ditched.
Arizona Coyotes (1996)
Coyotes was the champion in a name-the-team contest after Shane Doan and the Winnipeg Jets relocated to the desert for good.
More than 10,000 entries were submitted. Scorpions finished second. Mustangs, Outlaws, Wranglers and Freeze were also in the running.
(This feels like a good time to tell you that I once nailed a beautiful eight-iron and dropped my golf ball within four feet for the hole. A coyote hobbled out of the bushes, gobbled up the ball like a robin’s egg, then retreated back to the forest. This happened in Ontario, but legend has it there are a lot of golf courses in Phoenix.)
Atlanta Thrashers (1999)
Thrashers was actually the runner-up to Flames in a name-that-team fan vote. (The NHL’s original Atlanta Flames had moved to Calgary in 1980.)
Club owner Ted Turner instead went with the fans’ second choice and dubbed his expansion club after Georgia’s state bird, the brown thrasher.
Fun fact: the first encampment (circa 1839) of the area that would grow into Atlanta was called Thrasherville. The Thrashers would relocate to Winnipeg in 2011; that city would rename the club after its original NHL franchise, the Jets.
Carolina Hurricanes (1997)
Peter Karmanos, owner of the United States’ smallest-market team, picked up and moved the Hartford Whalers to Raleigh in 1997 under short notice. As a result of the tight timeline, Karmanos named the relocated club instead of holding a contest. The team derived its name from the storm system that frequently hit the area.
The Whalers’ colours of blue, green and silver were replaced by a black-and-red scheme that matched the North Carolina State University Wolfpack. The Hurricanes and Wolfpack shared the city’s creatively-named Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Colorado Avalanche (1995)
Denver’s previous NHL team, the Colorado Rockies, bolted to become the New Jersey Devils in 1982.
By the time the Quebec Nordiques got around to replacing them, the city’s new Major League Baseball franchise had already played finders-keepers with that nickname. Within shouting distance from some of the country’s best (and deadliest) ski-able terrain, Avalanche won out over Extreme, Outlaws, Storm, Wranglers, Renegades, Rapids, and Cougars.
New owner COMSAT Entertainment group initially filed to copyright the moniker Black Bears, presumably to ease Ray Bourque’s transition from the Bruins.
Columbus Blue Jackets (2000)
More than 14,000 entries were received for Columbus’s name-our-expansion-team contest. The NHL helped Columbus narrow the list to 10 candidates.
The NHL and team owner John H. McConnell then whittled it down to two finalists: Blue Jackets and Justice.
The former was selected to celebrate the state’s rich Civil War history.
Ohio contributed more residents to the Union Army than any other state, including William Tecumseh Sherman (who led the burning of Atlanta), Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, and George Custer.
Dallas Stars (1993)
When the Minnesota North Stars relocated south to Texas in 1993, it made a ton of sense to drop “North” from the club’s name.
Also handy: Texas is the Lone Star state, and Cowboys fans are used to buying merchandise that prominently features a giant star.
Fun fact: In Minnesota’s final two seasons, the team redesigned its logo and omitted “North,” foreshadowing the migration.
Florida Panthers (1993)
Franchise owner and Blockbuster Video magnate Wayne Huizenaga selected “Panthers” in effort to draw awareness for the state’s native wildcat and official animal.
The panther was endangered at the time. Still is.
In 2013, it was reported that there were only 160 of this cougar subspecies in the wild, living mostly in the swamps and forests of southern Florida.
Minnesota Wild (2000)
Replacing the much-lamented North Stars in Minnesota, the nickname Wild was picked as a tribute to the state’s rampant wildlife and the locals’ outdoorsy reputation.
Wild won out from a group of six finalists, trumping the Blue Ox, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Freeze.
The new moniker was introduced to fans with Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild blaring through Aldrich Arena’s speaker system.
Nashville Predators (1998)
A nine-inch fang belonging to a saber-toothed tiger was uncovered during the construction of a Nashville office building. In a bizarre sequence of events, owner Craig Leipold unveiled the team’s saber-toothed logo prior to determining a moniker.
The franchise held a fan vote to determine the name. Three choices were culled from a wide net of 75 options: Ice Tigers, Fury and Attack.
Leipold then added his own choice, Predators, to the mix.
Once the contest closed, Predators ended up being the winner. Hmmm….
Ottawa Senators (1992)
Awarded an expansion franchise in 1991, the new ownership group, led by real estate developer Bruce Firestone, reached back to reclaim Ottawa’s successful past.
Founded in 1883, the original Senators raised 11 Stanley Cups before an ill-fated move to St. Louis in 1934.
An easy and popular (if uninspired) name reboot that would be replicated in Manitoba when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg.
San Jose Sharks (1991)
The Sharks should’ve been named the Blades. That was the first-place finisher in a mail-in fan vote that saw more than 5,000 potential nicknames. (Some samples: Rubber Puckies, Screaming Squids, Salty Dogs, Fog, Icebreakers, Redwoods.)
Owners Gordon and George Gund were concerned over the violent gang imagery “Blades” might evoke and thus shiv’d the rightful winner in the lunch hall.
Sharks, the runner-up, makes sense. Seven varieties of the lean, mean fish make their home in the Pacific Ocean’s “Red Triangle,” adjacent to the Bay Area. Two of those species wear unruly beards.
Tampa Bay Lightning (1992)
Tampa Bay is considered the “Lightning Capital of North America.” Florida averages 10 deaths and 30 injuries from lightning strikes annually; several of these occur in or around Tampa.
University of Florida lightning expert Martin A. Uman calculated that the average Tampa resident is within a half-mile of 10 to 15 lightning strikes every year.
A doozy of a thunderstorm in 1990 inspired franchise president Phil Esposito to go with the nickname for his hockey team.
Fun fact: NASA recently proclaimed Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo the “Lightning Capital of the World,” as it receives an average rate of 233 flashes per square kilometre per year. Lake Maracaibo dethroned Africa’s Congo Basin for the title.
Reports that Gary Bettman is considering expanding his Sun Belt to Venezuela remain unconfirmed.