NHL Dictionary: Team Nicknames (Eastern Conference Edition)
Curious what a Blackhawk is, or why a team in Calgary would be known as the Flames? Too bad, because today’s NHL Dictionary entry only includes explanations of Eastern Conference nicknames!
What we do have is a definition for “Blue Jacket,” a rant about recycling names, the obligatory Leafs/Leaves discussion and 13 more entries of varying educational value. Dig in!
Boston Bruins – It’s a fancy name for bears. They’re the Boston Bears, but snootier. No fascinating back story here.
Buffalo Sabres – Apparently the original owner picked this name purely because he thought it sounded cool and unusual. Pretty much the same reason the team picked up Zenon Konopka.
Carolina Hurricanes – Hurricanes are unpleasant weather events that frequently occur in the southeastern United States. If this team were located in the UK it would be called the Scotland Dreary Rains or the England Dreary Rains or the Wales Drea… well, you get the idea.
Columbus Blue Jackets – In the American Civil War, the army for the Union (aka the North, aka the winners, aka the good guys) wore blue uniforms, and people in Ohio (the state of which Columbus is the capital) both manufactured and wore many of those uniforms. As to why the team is called the Blue Jackets when the Union uniforms are commonly known as blue coats, well, there are some things mortals aren’t meant to understand.
Detroit Red Wings – One of the most successful and proudest franchises in the NHL is actually named after the amateur team one of the Red Wings’ former owners played for. Just imagine what might have been, had James Norris played for the Macon Whoopee rather than the Winged Wheelers…
Florida Panthers – Panthers are fast, dangerous and native to Florida. A good choice but not a fascinating one.
Montreal Canadiens – You might not know it, because they hardly ever mention it at all, but people in Montreal speak French. “Canadiens,” it turns out, is French for “Canadians.” Did we just blow your mind?
New Jersey Devils – The Devils actually aren’t named after the dark lord of the underworld, but rather after a mythological creature that is said to inhabit an area of New Jersey called the Pine Barrens. Since that legend isn’t much known outside New Jersey – and since the team’s logo uses traditional devil horns-and-tail iconography – the team name has a bit of an ‘insiders only’ feel to it, which makes sense for a state and a fan base that take a lot of flak from a lot of outsiders.
New York Islanders – This team plays on Long Island, NY. Try not to over-think it.
New York Rangers – One of the stranger place/nickname combos, the New York Rangers didn’t choose their name so much as had it foisted upon them. While team founder George “Tex” Rickard was busy putting the first Rangers squad together, the local media called the as-yet-unnamed team “Tex’s Rangers,” a reference to the famous Texas Rangers law enforcement agency after which Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers are more directly named. The team that plays in New York, New York has a Texas-based nickname, which probably wouldn’t thrill residents of either state if they stopped to think about it.
Ottawa Senators – Ottawa is the capital of Canada and thus the location of Canada’s Senate. This makes “Senators” a perfectly reasonable choice of name, except for the fact that the NHL had a completely different franchise called the Senators about a century ago. Some people think it’s OK to give a new team the same name as an unrelated old team, but those people are wrong. The new team is the new team and the old team was the old team and making them share a name just makes things like franchise history and statistics really confusing. Is “Senators” really such a magnificent moniker that you couldn’t come up with a single other viable choice? Or were you just lazy and nostalgic and pretty confident that nobody would care enough to call you out on this? Well, you lost that bet, Ottawa. Consider yourself CALLED OUT.
Philadelphia Flyers – Another case of ‘it just sounds cool.’ The fun part of the story is that ownership (including the ever-present Ed Snider) apparently rejected the name “Ramblers” because they “feared that the name Ramblers could conjure old images of the seedy minor-league team.” That’s right, the Flyers didn’t want to carry the baggage of another team’s seediness – not when they had so much of their own seediness to share with the world!
Pittsburgh Penguins – The team’s nickname actually followed that of the arena. Because of its shape, Pittsburgh’s old Civic Arena was commonly referred to as the “Igloo;” when a hockey team came to fill it, “Penguins” made sense. Well, as much sense as a waddling, flightless and extremely non-threatening bird can make as a team mascot.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Southwest Florida fancies itself the Lightning Capital of North America, a title that is apparently as dubious as it is undesirable. But hey, you gotta have something, right?
Toronto Maple Leafs – The maple leaf is a national symbol in Canada and one that appears on its military uniforms, a fact that appealed to former owner Conn Smythe and led him to re-name the Toronto St. Pats when he purchased the team (that’s right, this “Original Six” team was neither the first NHL team in Toronto nor was it always known by its current name). But enough of that – on to the issue you’re really wondering about: Why “Maple Leafs” and not “Maple Leaves”? Ugh, don’t ask. Some people are weirdly smug and defensive about this. Turns out it’s a common noun vs. proper noun thing, and since Maple Leaf is a proper noun in this case, it’s not subject to the same pluralization rule that it would be if the letters weren’t capitalised. Anyway, we hope you’re happy now – you just made us include a freaking grammar lesson in a hockey blog.
Washington Capitals – This team plays in Washington, DC, which is the capital of the United States. What a boring way to end this post. Let’s hope the Western Conference finishes on a stronger note…
Coming soon: The Western Conference! In the meantime, if you have any burning questions about this or any other topic in NHL history, please let us know in the comments section.