Monday, 23 May 2011

The return of the NHL and the name game

It seems that the NHL will be returning to Winnipeg with details announced Tuesday. The euphoria and smugness of the local media can be cut with a knife so it must really be true this time !

It's not an issue that I was ever that hot and bothered about. I figured (like most hockey fans) that the NHL would eventually be back to small market Canadian cities once the southern U.S. experiment imploded. I have to admit some surprise at how long that "new NHL" has been able to drag itself along despite being on life support in some markets.

1976 Winnipeg Jets (Source: U of M Library, Tribune Collection)

A new team is good news for the city but for Bettman's NHL "
move team to Winnipeg" is likely near the bottom of his "favourable resolutions for a failing southern U.S. team" list, just above number 43: Have staff and players of failing franchise assassinated.

Getting a team through 'default' in a league that doesn't really support or recognize the importance of small market Canadian cities is a double-edged sword. Perhaps a Winnipeg move could be the thin edge of the wedge for bringing the NHL back to its senses.

But, hey, that's getting awful close to naysayer talk. I will put my faith with the boosters who know 'Peggers will line up to buy almost 14,000 tickets a game for the foreseeable future. Remember, "We're one of the strongest hockey markets in the world !" Heck, we're even in for a "dramatic increase' in housing sales." How can every single Winnipegger not be stoked with rah-rah like that !

1920 Manitoba Falcons (Source: Archives of Manitoba)

One issue that should be an aside but, no doubt, will end up reaching shit-storm proportions is the name of this new NHL franchise.

The Jets is the frontrunner but ... really ? The Jets franchise left and is still (barely) alive and (un) well in Arizona. This isn't the 'return of the Jets' any more than it is a return of the Winnipeg Vics, Winnipeg Falcons, Winnipeg Maroons etc.

Each of these teams was a great and storied part of Winnipeg's history but surely we can stretch our minds beyond having to recycle the name of one of them for a new pro hockey team ?

Let the shit-storm commence.

1894 Winnipeg Victorias (Source: Library and Archives Canada)
Early Manitoba Hockey Archives of Manitoba
Winnipeg Jets Relics Bryan Scott


James Hope Howard said...

I still maintain that my ideal name for the new team would be the "Winnipeg Winter". It's alliterative, it's intimidating (what visitors aren't afraid of a Winnipeg winter?), it's accurate, it's representative, and it has the best potential for sportswriting headlines. "WINTER SEASON BEGINS" "WINTER FREEZE OUT BLUES 3-0" "WINTER SCORING ICE COLD IN 5-1 LOSS" "WINTER NETMINDER ON ICE" "WINTER BREEZE TO 4-1 WIN" "WINTER FLURRY SINKS OILERS" "LONG WINTER VICTORY IN 3OT" "WINGS THAW WINTER IN 2nd" "WINTER SEASON OVER"

I get why True North would balk at naming their (still, in the name of due diligence, hypothetical) team the "Jets" -- but with that said, as much as I've appreciated our AHL representation over the years, holy crap do I not want our NHL team to be named the "Moose". Oh, man, no.

Of course, it's not up to me, and nobody who actually has any say in this matter is talking publicly yet. Guess we'll wait and see!

Purple Rod said...

From a marketing perspective, it would make absolutely no sense to not name the new NHL team "Jets" unless the NHL either forbids them to, or demands an unreasonable amount of money.

There is still a real emotional connection to the Jets name, and all the new NHL franchise would really have to do is tweak the logo and maybe slightly modify the colours of the jersey.

It would save tons on marketing, and the jerseys would sell like hotcakes.