There's nothing more exciting in sports than a team relocation. We haven't experienced a North American Sports Franchise moving since the Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. And although it was a bummer for Grunge City, it all worked out for the best because now they're an awesome team with a college basketball level of excitement! The NHL last experienced the excitement of a franchise move when the Whalers left Hartford for the less Connectictut-y pastures of Tobacco Alley, where they were dubbed "The Carolina Hurricanes." And won a Stanley Cup. I someday hope to bring the beloved Whale back to Hartford myself, once I've saved up the money. Hockey teams in the South are a little like winning college football programs in the North. It seems a little out-of-place. But a winner is a winner.
Sadly, the city of Atlanta has not taken to their expansion Atlanta Thrashers with the same level of excitement. The Thrashers, a playoff team in 2007, drew a mere 13,469 to its home games this year. Only two teams were lower: the NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes and my beloved New York Islanders. (Would you go to the middle of Long Island to see a hockey game? Maybe if your actual favorite team was in town—or you wanted to do laundry at your mother's house afterwards.) So, it seems the Thrashers will be on the move, back to Winnipeg, which was once the home of the Winnipeg Jets.
There is quite a conversation going on about what the team should be named. The NHL, which owns the former Jets (now the Coyotes), still owns the name "The Jets" and would probably charge for use of it. The AHL team currently playing in Winnipeg and owned by True North Sports is called the Manitoba Moose. Just slips right off the tongue, don't it? Other names have been bandied about, none of which seem to quite fit a NHL team.
Part of the fun of team's abandoning their cities for new cities is the wild speculation that goes on about names and jerseys and such. Which I shall now take part in. I have never been to Winnipeg nor met anyone from Manitoba. And I don't remember ever watching an NHL game set there. But that only makes me All The More Suitable to come up with the perfect nickname and jersey for Winnipeg's new team. I am unbiased. I just like wearing cool Hockey Jerseys and pretending to have a Canadian Accent.
Winnipeg True North: This was my first and probably best idea. It's all down hill from here. The name of the people buying the Thrashers is True North. "True North" shows up in the Canadian National Anthem. Which is a great song, by the way. And everyone in the crowd at Winnipeg could shout "TRUE NORTH!!" when they came to that section of the song, like how people in Baltimore emphasize the O's in "The Star-Spangled Banner." And it just sounds cool. I think the magnetic poles are supposed to reverse in 2012, so I don't know if Canada will technically still be True North or if they'll actually be True South by then, but no one seems to notice that this is happening, so whatever.
Manitoba Echo: They seem to want to include the entire province in the name of the team. And, in general, two-syllable words are best for sports nicknames, so you can do the whole "Let's Go Blank Blank" Thing. And this team is like an Echo of the old Winnipeg Jets. Except hopefully they will win.
Winnipeg Bunnies: Rabbits, in general, are underrepresented in North American sports nicknames. Which is weird, because rabbits are fast. And if they're like Bugs Bunny, they are also smart and funny. I'd choose a nice pink costume for them. Pink is underrepresented in the NHL, too. And if you combine Pink and Black, like the Palermo FC footballers of the Italian League, the results are both striking and bold.
Manitoba Musk Ox: I'm not sure that Musk Oxes actually live in Manitoba, but they are cool-looking rasta oxes. Other possible Mammal names: Winnipeg Wapiti, Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg Wildebeests, Manitoba Narwhal.
The Canadian Unicorns: Like the Golden State Warriors, who play in Oakland, but did not want to bear the name of that city on their jerseys, the Canadian Unicorns could be a team for The Rest of Canada. A team for all the cities without teams in that Hockey-crazed neighbor of ours. Plus, unicorns are so awesome.
Winnipeg Vampires: No other Sports Franchise has cashed in on the Huge Vampire Market. I see huge potential in a team that piggybacked on all this Twilight nonsense. From Vampire t-shirts to fake teeth! Especially if this Winnipeg team was going to be bad: T-shirts and bags-to-be-worn-over-heads that say "Winnipeg Vampires Suck!" Isn't that cute, what I did there? Yeah. Totally.
Manitoba Killer Robots: They don't have to be Killer Robots to be tough. Somehow Robots have been ignored as sports nicknames. And don't you know all the nerds in the world would be buying this jersey? Aw, yeah. Go, nerds.
Manitoba Nia Vardaloses: Did you know that "Big Fat Greek Wedding" lady actress was from Manitoba? She is the only celebrity from there I had ever heard of.
Winnipeg Jets: Like 65% of those polled just want to call them the Jets. C'mon! That's so boring! Get over it! This is a new start! A fresh beginning. Winnipegians, we can do better!
Winnipeg Winners: You are what you say you are. And if they call themselves "The Winners" maybe they shall be Winners. It would be bad if they called themselves "The Winners" and never won. I don't know what would happen then, something weird. My parents used to buy me Sears Brand Winners sneakers and even though they were called Winners, I did not feel like a Winner. So maybe no on Winners.
Winnipeg Who: To many, Winnipeg is just a former Industrial City in Central Canada with no personality. Let's embrace the unknown enigma that is Winnipeg, what do you say? If you were watching hockey with your mom she could say, "Who are the Bruins playing?" And you could say "The Who." And she'd be like "???" Or your buddy could ask you what the score was and you could say "Who 2 Rangers 1." And he'd be like "???" Also, I can see them blasting "Whoooo Are You? Who! Who! Who! Who!" over the loud speakers after goals. Or doing the Mick Jagger "Sympathy for the Devil" "Whooo! Whooo!"
Do the right thing, Winnipeg. Next I'll my Franchise Changing powers on the New Jersey Nets, who will be moving to Brooklyn in 2012. I'm thinking Brooklyn Knights. Or the Fighting Knishes.
Jim Behrle tweets at @behrle for your possible amusement.