Whenever you’ve watched the great sport of Ice Hockey or Hockey (depending on where in the world you are) have you ever found yourself wondering or thinking why a team has gone for a certain name? Is there any reasoning behind it? Or is it just marketing? Are they good names, bad names or just downright terrible names?
I have gone for a few teams around the British leagues and tried to find out where on earth the names have come from. Some are relatively easy to guess, while some are just clever tie-ins.
In the case of Sheffield, the place is nicknamed the ‘Steel City’ and so ‘Steel’ has been inserted into every Sheffield side virtually, whether it be the ‘Steelers’ in the Elite League the ‘Steeldogs’ in the NIHL or the Steelkings in Para Hockey, they have simply just used the prefix term.
Moving over the Pennines from White Rose of Yorkshire to the Red Rose of Lancashire we come to Manchester. The city has long been known from outside of the area to be drenched in ‘Liquid Sunshine’ and so the people responsible for the ‘Storm’ name selected it due to the inclement weather that the City allegedly always has (and at the time of writing this, it is currently raining, so maybe that name is accurate).
On the Storm’s first ever season winning VHS, (yes VHS!) Dave Biggar who was at the time the Director of Marketing at the Nynex Arena Manchester – now Manchester Arena, he spoke on names that were bandied about with the ‘Mighty Dogs, Lightning, Mavericks all being brought up’ but he told the club video “We’ve messed around enough, and keep coming back to the same name, so let’s go with the name Storm, the Storm was born”.
As for the former Superleague champions back in 1999-2000 in the Bracknell Bees, their team name in the ‘BEES’, tied in nicely with a road that joins up with where they play at the John Nike Leisuresport complex now on John Nike Way. That road is just around the corner from the rink and is called ”Beehive Road’. So, the club decided to adopt the hard-working insect name and sees the team playing in Black and Yellow colours to give the impression of them looking like or as close to looking like Bees.
Meanwhile, for their arch-rivals down the road in Basingstoke, they started out life in British Ice Hockey back in 1988 as the ‘Beavers’. The name for the Hampshire club was apparently all down to their first-ever Ice Hockey coordinator in Canadian Don Yewchin.
It was a name that would stick until the 1995 season when the club decided to go down a different route and changed from the ‘Beavers’ to their present name in the ‘Bison’.
The name change was apparently brought about by former Great Britain coach in Peter Woods, as he had formerly coached the Canadian side ‘the University of Manitoba Bisons’. After the name change, it saw a slight alteration coming soon after from the local paper – the Basingstoke Gazette, as they informed the club it was ‘Bison’ not Bisons.
A team with a lot of long-standing history in British Ice hockey is the Nottingham Panthers. Their story is an interesting one for sure. The original Panthers side was founded back in 1946 just after the Second World War, and while there is no definitive explanation on where the Panthers name comes from, the closest theory on the name is that they were named after a squadron of Canadian airmen that were based near to the city during wartime.
After the club disbanded in 1960 following the demise of the British league, it saw no hockey taking place in the ‘Lace City’ for 20 years until the sports return in 1980. It could be said that seeds were sowed for a rivalry with Sheffield before the Steelers were even formed. As the Sheffield Lancers IHC were relocated from the ‘Steel City’ to now the ‘Lace City’ in Nottingham and was helped out by Gary Keward. Keward had helped run the team in Sheffield at the time and wanted to try and bring hockey back to the East Midlands area and so in 1980, the sport returned, as did the Panthers name.
Moving back up North of the Border to Scotland, and the furthest side in the Elite League,
From the city that brought you ‘The Dandy’ and ‘The Beano’, the town had already been privy to a couple of successful Ice Hockey teams down the years too. Back in 1938, Dundee broke onto the Scottish Hockey scene as the ‘Dundee Tigers’ with the side playing in Black and Yellow shirts, before the next team to emerge were the ‘Rockets’ and was more of a successful side in truth.
The Rockets had won silverware between their years of operation in 1963 and 1987, as well as a few league and playoffs titles to their name, and a grand slam success chucked in for good measure too. After the Rockets crashed in 1987, the newly formed Dundee Stars took over as the professional side in the city back in 2001. The Ward family that owns the Stars explained that the name should be put to the vote while they were away visiting family in New York of all places at the time.
They had toyed with the idea of bringing the ‘Rockets’ name back to the city, but whilst also the ‘Cyclones’ was being looked at, in the end, the votes were counted and the name was written in the stars quite literally, as the ‘Dundee Stars’ were born.
Other short stories on names are the Guildford Flames and the Belfast Giants. For Guildford, they approached the Calgary Flames to see if they could use the Flaming logo that Calgary has on their jerseys and managed to get permission to use the copyrighted logo, so they simply swapped the ‘Flaming C’ with a ‘G’ for Guildford.
In the case of the Belfast Giants, they use local mythology in Northern Ireland for their name, as a giant called Finn McCool is the relevance. In mythology, Finn McCool was an Irish giant that battled a Scottish giant called Benandonner and was a much taller opponent than himself. Finn realised he was out of his depth and ran home to avoid fighting this much taller giant and was chased by Gaelic foe.
However, Finn’s wife Fiona, she dressed her husband up like a baby and convinced the Scottish giant that the person he was chasing wasn’t Finn, but his child instead. This led to Benandonner running back home to Scotland and destroying the Giant’s Causeway path so that the ‘supposed’ father of Finn could never make it over the sea. The character appears on the Belfast logo and is even the mascot of the team too.
Special Thanks too: Steve Merry, Anthony Russell, Andrew Birrell, Neil Russell, Patrick Smyth and Guildford Flames IHC plus the ‘Chasing The Puck’ site.