It’s just over a week ago that – with all respect – the shit hit the fan in Joplin, MO. The images of the aftermath of the tornado are just devastating, saddening, incredible. There’s nothing funny about that kind of loss, of property and, of course, of life.
So it’s not for the joke that I bring this up. But with all the hockey talk going on nowadays, the impending relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, and the ensuing, eventual discussion of nicknames, I made the connection between these events and something I wrote here almost two years ago now.
In this entry, I wrote of the possibility of the New York Islanders moving off Long Island. I hear there’s progress towards keeping them there, but I’ve heard much the same for many years. Nonetheless, straits seemed more dire back then (things being relative) and I suggested they might move to Kansas City. And if so, I thought they might be called the Kansas City Tornadoes, and I even hoped they might.
It had a ring to it. It connected the city with the region, and also referenced the power and swiftness that the storms have. Now, of course, we see all too well what tornadoes can do. I don’t see the Kansas City Tornadoes happening. There are worse things.
But back now to something light – the nicknames. In two cases off the top of my head, existing franchises have changed names for the sake of their public image.
-In the 1950s, the Cincinnati Reds temporarily changed their name to the Redlegs. Fears of Communism were everywhere, as I’ve heard, and you probably didn’t want to be seen or heard rooting for the Reds. The Red Sox already existed, and the Red Pants would obviously have been too much of a commitment.
-In the 1990s, the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards. I once thought of a team from North Carolina called the Sharpshooters. That was another fake hockey team, and I liked the pun, but looking back on it the big red targets on the front of the jerseys were a little outlandish, farther out on the ledge than even “Bullets.”
And then I remember the Miami Hurricanes. They’ve been so nicknamed for a long time, very much predating Hurricane Andrew. When that storm hit, causing all that damage and a number of deaths as well, it might have been awkward but there were more important things to worry about, and also maybe not so close to home that they’d go and change it. Plus, the team already existed, it’s not like the Panthers were unnamed and Hurricane Andrew had just happened and someone in marketing was glazedly watching TV and flipped on some lingering storm footage and thought, “Wait just a second, here…”
So, I’ll look forward as I always to do to the relocating franchise’s new nickname, if the new Winnipeg team will be the Jets, if they’ll get their history back or if, almost certainly, they’ll be starting fresh. The Thrasher (the Brown Thrasher) is Georgia’s state bird, so if they’re following suit, I could see the Manitoba Great Gray Owls taking the ice just a few months from now.