Beware of the fan poll: How each NHL team received its name


redwingslogo.gifI’m a sucker for origin stories. While it’s fairly certain that the world doesn’t need to know why Batman fights crime anymore, I find that one of the most interesting questions to ask is “How did we get here?” So it’s no surprise that I was delighted to read this story from the Palm Beach Post that covers how each team in the NHL stumbled upon their names.

(There seems to be two central themes to the team naming process: 1) it’s dangerous to allow quirky owners to create team names, even if it occasionally results in something iconic and 2) giving fans the right to name the team can result in some wacky mascots.)

Anyway, here are a few of the most interesting entries, with a sporadic comment or two inserted here and there.

Buffalo Sabres

The team was founded in 1970. Owners had an interest in polo and were fascinated with cavalry, knight and chivalry themes.

See: theme No. 1 above. For some reason that reasoning made me giggle.

Detroit Red Wings

Founded in 1926 as the Detroit Cougars, the team was renamed Falcons in 1930. In 1932, the new owner, who had once played for Winged Wheelers of Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, renamed team “Red Wings” and adopted winged wheel logo.

I’m still not sure that actually makes sense, but a strange preference by an owner (again, see theme No. 1) resulted in one of the greatest logos in all of team sports.

Minnesota Wild

The North Stars, who were founded in 1967, moved to Dallas in 1993. When a new franchise awarded to Minnesota in 1997, “Wild” was picked in a name-the-team contest. The team said the name honored Minnesota’s rugged natural wilderness. Other finalists: Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears.

Does anyone else find it astonishing that the Wild was actually the best choice of the finalists, at least if you consider the fact that the Northern Lights would be too close to the North Stars? It doesn’t change the fact that the Wild is an inexplicable attack on grammar and good mascot sense, though.

Montreal Canadiens

When the National Hockey Association was founded in 1909, Montreal already had a team comprised of English-speaking players called the Montreal Wanderers. A group then founded a team of French-speaking players and called it “Les Canadiens,” French for Canadian. The NHA became NHL in 1917. “CH” on front of Canadiens uniform is French for “Club de Hockey Canadien.” In 1920s, New York Rangers owner Tex Rickard had picked up on a rumor that the “H” was for “habitants,” a French slang term for a Quebec farmer. The nickname stuck and was later shortened to “Habs.”

It never hurts to include an explanation of why people call the Canadiens the “Habs.”

New Jersey Devils

When the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey in 1982, newspapers held a naming contest that led to Devils. The legend of “New Jersey Devil” dates back 250 years. It says a woman in southern New Jersey who dabbled in witchcraft gave birth to a 13th child, a demonic creature that was part man, bat, snake and kangaroo. Creature supposedly continues to torment region.

Apparently the New Jersey Devil creates smog, nasally accents and cranky citizens. Still, I might pay money to see a creature that is “part man, bat, snake and kangaroo.”

Tampa Bay Lightning

Shortly before the franchise was awarded in 1990, team management was meeting during a thunderstorm and saw bolt of lightning, inspiring name.

That’s a pretty neat little story, right there.

So those were my favorite of the bunch, but if you want to learn more about why your favorite, most hated or any other NHL team got its name click here. It’s fascinating stuff.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.