Thursday, July 23, 2020

Ranking all 59 team names in NHL history, including the Seattle Kraken

So now we know: It’s the Seattle Kraken. After months of rumors, speculation, fakeouts and fan feedback, the NHL’s newest team officially has a name. Let’s welcome them to the league by figuring out where the Seattle Kraken lands in a ranking of NHL team names.

As in, all of them.

Through NHL history, there have been 59 different team names, and we’re ranking all of them. That list includes Seattle and the other 31 current teams, plus several defunct franchises from the league’s earliest days, many more teams that changed names after moving cities and a few that evolved while staying put. (It does not include teams that changed just their city name but not the team name, which we’ll make a note of but won’t count separately.)

Let’s be clear what we’re doing here. This is a ranking of team names, and team names only. We don’t care if the name lends itself to a cool logo. We don’t care if it looked good on a uniform. And we certainly don’t care about all the history and memories that have become attached to it over the years, decades or even a century. Instead, imagine you’re brand new to the sport, or a little kid, or an alien from another planet. Would you think this was a cool name for a hockey team? That’s all we’re worried about.

And to go one step further, we’re just interested in the name itself, without any fancy backstory about how it came to be. If your team is called The Rainbow Unicorns, then that’s how it will be judged, regardless of whether Jedediah “The Rainbow Unicorn” Brickenback was actually the name of some local war hero or the owner’s great grandfather or whatever. You are what your name says you are. (And for the record, Rainbow Unicorns would be a fantastic team name. Top five for sure.)

Tradition would say we go from worst-to-best on this sort of thing, counting our way down to No. 1. But I’m going to flip the script on this one because I know my readers, and you all just want to see which names I’m going to dump on. Also, you’re going to be cranky at me for not picking your favorite team as the very bestest name ever, and I want to get that out of the way early because if that’s the way you feel after this is all over, you’ll hit the “meh” button and then Mirtle drives up to Ottawa and kicks my dog. So we’ll begin at the beginning, starting with the best name ever and working down to the worst.

Is all of this just one guy’s opinion? Yes, of course. Is it some sort of objectively correct ranking that’s exactly right in every single spot from one all the way through to 59? Also yes. Here we go.

1. Quebec Nordiques
This is just a phenomenal team name. They basically named the team the Northmen, which makes sense geographically and sounds intimidating without being too over-the-top. Then they went with the French version, which is a rare case of being true to your roots rather than your marketing department.

But the key here is that you don’t need to know French or to even know what the name means for it to work. It just sounds great. Que-BEC Nor-DIQUES. It sounds like somebody is punching you in the face. Which for a 1970s hockey team is pretty much perfect.

Yeah, I know, you’re already mad at me. Pace yourself, we’ve got 58 more of these to go.

2. Minnesota North Stars
Maybe I’m leaning too heavily on the northern-based names or my nostalgia for the clubs we lost in the ’90s. But “North Stars” is just a fantastic name, and so much better than what the watered-down names we got from the move to Dallas or the resurrected team in Minnesota.

3. San Jose Sharks
This is just an excellent sports name. Even Al Pacino agrees. He claws with his fingernails for that inch! OK, Sharks don’t have fingernails. I didn’t say it was a perfect metaphor. Still, Sharks are cool. Do you know what would have been cooler? North Sharks, but nobody asked me, so here we are.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Simple, intimidating, and brimming with fun possibilities for fans. The Pittsburgh Pirates only lasted five seasons in the NHL’s early days, and they have the misfortune of sharing the name with a baseball team that’s largely become a joke. Still, this is a cool name and we should find a way to bring it back. Somebody get on that. I recommend Yaaaaaar-mo Kekalainen.

5. Quebec Bulldogs
There’s a reason half the high schools and colleges out there seem to go by “Bulldogs,” it’s a great name. And we can’t even complain about the lack of originality, because this team dates back to the 1800s. The WHA stalwart and (kind of) charter member of the fledgling NHL lasted until 1920 before moving to Hamilton. Say this about Quebec, they’re not very good at keeping their teams but they damn sure know how to name them.

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