The “Original Six” NHL teams — Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers — comprised all the teams in the league from 1942 until 1967. In 1967 the number of teams doubled to 12 — adding the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, California Seals and St. Louis Blues.
Since 1967, the NHL has expanded numerous times, including expanding to 31 teams in 2017 with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights. Starting in 2021/2022 season the Seattle Kraken, the 32nd team will enter the league. Why is team 32 called “the Kraken?” In fact, why do any of the teams have the names that they do? Below are the origins of the team names and my take (sometimes snarky) on the names.
- Anaheim Ducks – The team was originally called “The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” – a direct reference to the 1992 Disney movie The Mighty Ducks. The team was originally owned by Disney and when it sold the team in 2005, the name was shortened to just “Ducks.” I thought the Disney Might Ducks movie was stupid – two hours of my life that I won’t get back. But, the name “Ducks” for a hockey team is sort of funny and I give it a thumbs up.
- Arizona Coyotes – The Coyotes used to be in Winnipeg and called “The Jets.” When they moved to Arizona the team held a naming contest and “Coyotes” won as it’s a common predator found in the state. I think Coyotes is a pretty cool name – thumbs up.
- Boston Bruins – “In 1924 grocery store tycoon Chuck Adams created a hockey team in Beantown, and hired former hockey great Art Ross as his new team’s general manager. First order of business for Art was to give the new team a name. The parameters Adams gave Art for the new team was that the team colors would match his grocery store colors: yellow and brown, and the new moniker represent an animal that was quick, a little wild, and cunning. Ross settled on Bruins for the name which was an old English word for brown bears.” Source. My beloved Blues beat the Bruins in 2019 in the Stanley Cup Finals, which makes me both hate them for being such strong competitors and loving them for losing. Even though I’m far from a Bruins fan, I have to give a thumbs up to the name and the logo – both iconic.
- Buffalo Sabres – Buffalo entered the league in 1970. Given that the city’s name is Buffalo, some sort of variation on a buffalo or bison would make sense. But the owners wanted something more unique and “Sabres, suggested by four people from among 13,000 entries, was the winner; it beat out entries such as the Mugwumps, Buzzing Bees and Flying Zeppelins. The owners chose Sabres because ‘a sabre is renowned as a clean, sharp, decisive and penetrating weapon on offense, as well as a strong parrying weapon on defense.’” Source. If you’re going to have a shitty team you might as well have a cool name. Way to go Buffalo.
- Calgary Flames – “Flames” have nothing to do with Calgary. Instead, the name is a carryover from when the team was in Atlanta from 1970 – 1980. “Atlanta Flames” is a reference to the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War by General Sherman and his troops. Why would you name your city’s team after a horrific ass kicking and devistation? Based on this history, the name “the Flames” may be the worst name in all of sports. And why did Calgary keep the name? Stupid. Two thumbs down. I’d give more thumbs down if I had additional hands.
- Carolina Hurricanes – The Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997 and the owners picked the new name because hurricanes strike the Carolina coast. Sort of bland, but I guess it works.
- Chicago Blackhawks – The original owner of the team was a member of the “Black Hawk Division” of the Army’s 86th Infantry in World War I. He named the team after that military division, which in turn was named for Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk American Indian tribe, who fought the Illinois militia in 1832. The Blackhawks are the Blues’ biggest rivals, so I really dislike this team. The Blues just acquired Brandon Saad, who spent most of his career with Chicago and I’m experiencing cognitive dissonance with him joining the team — I’ve hated him for years because he was such a good player for the Blackhawks, which also makes him a great addition for the blues. As for the name – I can’t really judge it given how much I hate this team.
- Colorado Avalanche – Denver’s hockey team was formerly the Quebec Nordiques and re-named the Avalanche when it relocated in 1995. The name refers to the fact that avalanches commonly occur in the nearby Rocky Mountains. There was criticism of the name because people die in avalanches. A spokesperson for the team responded to the criticism thusly: “This is the NHL, a rough and tough sport, and Avalanche is something that matches the ‘on the edge’ feel they want to create. Hey, Cougars and Bears kill people, too. People shouldn’t get so excited about Avalanche being a disrespectful name or something. It’s just a name.” Source. Personally, I think this name totally works and give it a thumbs up.
- Columbus Blue Jackets – When the Blue Jackets entered the league in 2000-01 the team held a naming contest. Ohio had more of its residents join the Union Army than any other state. The name “Blue Jackets” is a reference to the color of the jackets the Union soldiers wore. I don’t mean to disrespect Civil War soldiers, but I think this name is super duper dumb. “Buckeyes on Ice” would have been better in my opinion.
- Dallas Stars — The Minnesota North Stars was part of the original expansion in 1967. When they moved to Dallas in 1993 the “North” was dropped. Keeping the name “Stars” morphed into sort of a reference to the “Lone Star State.” North Stars was a cool name and I can see why they shortened it to just “Stars” when they relocated. Solid name.
- Detroit Red Wings – Originally called the Detroit Falcons, the team was re-branded in 1932 as the Red Wings after the “Winged Wheelers” which was the Canadian hockey club for which the owner had played. The Red Wings are another team I despise — partially because their dumb fans throw octopus on the ice — so it’s hard to be objective. I guess the name and logo are cool but it hurts me to say that.
- Edmonton Oilers – The name is a reference to all the oil fields near Edmonton. Not very exciting, but it works. And they have a cool logo.
- Florida Panthers – There are panthers in Florida (they are endangered). When Panthers president Bill Torrey revealed the nickname, he told reporters: “A panther, for your information, is the quickest striking of all cats. Hopefully, that’s how we will be on the ice.” Source. I don’t think hockey teams should be in Florida — it just doesn’t feel right to me.
- Los Angeles Kings – The name was the result of a naming contest. I don’t like the Kings and think the name is dumb. Thumbs down.
- Minnesota Wild — Another naming contest. The name is a reference to all the wildlife in Minnesota. The runner up was “Blue Ox”. I think both names are dumb. North Stars was cool — too bad they couldn’t grab that name again.
- Montreal Canadiens – “John Ambrose O’Brien formed this hockey team in 1909, and called it the Club de Hockey Canadien which is where the current incarnation gets the Canadien nickname. Any real hockey fan also knows that the team is affectionately referred to as “The Habs”, or “Les Habs” if you’re a true French Canadian. This is an abbreviation of “Les Habitants”, a name for the early Canadian settlers of New France in the 1600s.” Source. When I was a child, I had a Canadiens jersey for some reason — maybe just because it was so cool. Love the name and logo.
- Nashville Predators -Another naming contest. And this one is a reach. In the early 1970s a Saber Tooth Tiger fossil was found when excavating a building foundation in Nashville. “Predators” won out over the “Fury” and the “Ice Tigers.” I think the name is pretty cool as well as their shortened nickname the “Preds”.
- New Jersey Devils – There used to be a NHL team in Colorado called the “Rockies.” When they moved to New Jersey in 1982 a naming contest was held. The name “Devils” is a reference to the mythical “Jersey Devil” that is half-man and half-beast that roams southern New Jersey. Now, that’s pretty cool to be named after a man/beast mythical creature — thumbs up.
- New York Islanders – The name is meant to connote that the team plays on Long Island and not in NYC. Bland but makes sense.
- New York Rangers – Tex Rickard was the original owner of the team. The media dubbed them the “Rangers” as in “Tex’s Rangers” — a reference to the paramilitary police force in Texas and the name stuck. Cool name — thumbs up.
- Ottawa Senators — Ottawa is Canada’s capital city so “Senators” sort of makes sense. But it’s a boring name. I’d love to see Mitch McConnell play ice hockey. It’s so boring that don’t think I care enough have an opinion on this name.
- Philadelphia Flyers – Another naming contest, but this time the winning suggestion was from the owner’s sister. “Flyers” isn’t a reference to anything — she just thought it went well with Philadelphia. I love this naming story. Just pick something that sounds good — that’s as good a reason as any and “Flyers” does go well with Philadephia. Thumbs up.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – The original arena the team played in had a big white sperical roof and was called the “Big Igloo.” The name Penguins was chosen because of the illiteration and an association between penguins and igloos. Sure. Whatever.
- San Jose Sharks — Like so many teams, a naming contest was held and “Blades” was the winner. But that name was scrapped due to a connotation of gang violence. Sharks was chosen because there are sharks off the California coast. I really dislike this team so I don’t care what they’re called.
- Seattle Kraken – A “kraken” is a mythical sea creature that has been part of sea fokelore for centuries. Some speculate that the kraken legend is based on a real creature – the giant squid. Anywho – Seattle named their new team the Kraken . One of the owners of the team told ESPN: “There are a lot of obvious connections to Seattle—part because of our maritime history, part of because we have so much water around us—but there is longtime folklore in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest of this mystical Kraken creature that lives just below the surface of the sea, which really captivated people for many years. That mystique, that intensity and that power that people have long talked about with the Kraken is what we expect our NHL team to play with.” I guess I like it. It just feels weird to have any new team and name. Anything added in the last 50 years doesn’t sit as well as the original 12-15 team names.
- St Louis Blues – The “Blues” is a reference to the 1914 song “The St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy. I am a huge Blues fan – I “bleed blue.” And the name “Blues” fits well – it rolls off the tongue. We call the team the “blue note.” So, I love it and wouldn’t change it. But, if I really stop and think about it, naming a team after a song is sorta dumb.
- Tampa Bay Lightning – The area around Tampa has more lightning strikes than anyplace in the country — that’s the source of the name. Good name and solid reason for it — thumbs up even though I don’t think there should be hockey teams in “God’s Waiting Room” (which is how I think of Florida).
- Toronto Maple Leafs – This team was formerly called the “Arenas” and then the “St. Patricks.” When Conn Smythe bought the team in 1927 he re-named it the “Maple Leafs” in reference to the “Maple Leaf Regiment” of which he was part of in World War I. It’s an iconic name and logo — awesome.
- Vancouver Canucks – “Johnny Canuck” was a political cartoon character way back in 1869 and later as a comic book hero who fought the Nazis during WWII. The term “Canuck” is loosely slang for being a Canadian — sort of how “Yankee” is slang for being American. Cool name — original and has a solid origin.
- Vegas Golden Knights – When he unveiled the team name, owner Bill Foley had this to say: “We are now the Golden Knights. My whole idea was to create a logo and a name that was powerful, that would epitomize the warrior class. The knights are the epitome of the warrior class, the top of the line in terms of defending the realm, defending the unprotected. This is all part of the culture we want to create with the hockey team. And hockey players are warriors and they’re team players, they’re not individuals, they’re playing together.” Also, Foley attended West Point, whose mascot is the “Black Knights.” He couldn’t use that name, so decided on “Golden Knights.” When I first heard this name I thought it was ridiculous. My opinion of it has moderated over the last few years because it’s such a good team.
- Washington Capitals – The name “Capitals” for a Washington D.C. team is obvious and is the result of a naming contest. Totally boring. Maybe they should have been the “Lobbyists” or the “Red Tapes.” LOL.
- Winnipeg Jets – The original Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona in 1996 and Winnipeg was without a team until the dumbly named Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011 and the team was re-named the Jets. The orginal team was named the Jets possibily because the orginal owner was a fan of the New York Jets football team. I think it’s a super cool name with a good logo. And teams in Canada just seem cooler.
Sometimes lightning does indeed strike twice, even back to back in the rarest of occasions down here in God’s waiting room.
Ha. Yes it does.
Probably just a coincidence that your 5 outright thumbs down names were all for teams that have been in the western conference and at least loose rivals of the Blues at some point. Surely no bias there.
Also agree with fellow commenter re Hartford Whalers – that’s a hall of fame name & logo.
Mighty Ducks, one of the best logos though. Kraken’s branding is great too. Of course, none come near the Whalers.
Thanks for the education on the history of the team names. Without knowing the history of the Calgary Flames prior to this post, I had always assumed it was fitting for the city inside the province creating the most natural gas in Canada. Sometimes a fitting name is nothing more than a fortunate case of circumstance!