Moniker Rankings: NHL

Sport Change was going to wait until the NHL season kicked off to rank monikers in the league, but now that it looks like there probably won’t be a season at all–we’re just going to knock it out of the way.

NHL: Nicknames Hellaciously Lacking


If you’ve been following Sport Change posts, you’ll know that the nicknames of the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball have recently been ranked.  For the Sport Change explanation of what makes a good or bad moniker, click here.  For the purposes of ranking NHL nicknames, here are those criteria:

Factors that make a good moniker: history, generality, regional relevance, alliteration, and intimidation.

Factors that make a bad moniker: overspecification, overdependence on alliteration, blandness, and the dreaded non-singularable/non-pluralable epidemic.

NHL monikers a bit of a mixed bag, somewhat comparable to the NBA.  History is interesting.  There are the original six teams and another batch added in the late sixties.  Beyond that, most nicknames have came to be in recent decades due to relocation and expansion.  Let’s dig right from the top:


This is a nickname that works on a few different levels, but the Penguins aren’t number one.

Four out Front

1. Kings.  I once read that the original owner of the Kings chose the name due to the hard ‘K’ sound. Nice.  It also doesn’t hurt to have an authoritative and immediately respectable moniker.

2. Flyers.  It’s a little vague, sure, but this name flies by on alliteration and historic consistency of the brand.

3. Penguins.  This name is more minor league than pro, and it certainly isn’t an intimidating nickname, so why so high?  Alliteration and brand consistency are nice, but I’m won over by the hilarious appropriateness of an ice-dwelling bird as a hockey moniker.

4. Blues.  The music genre connotation is corny, but Blues is just a great nickname.  Big fan of color-based nicknames for pro sports teams.

If they dropped the music note and just went solid blue, this would be one of the best nicknames ever.


Five to Follow

5. Devils.  It’s general, universal, and certainly intimidating.  Perhaps regionally relevant, as well.

6. Sharks.  I’m glad that Sharks is used somewhere in pro sports, and it works in hockey.  The alliteration is there and San Jose is close enough to the ocean to at least seem regionally relevant.

7. Panthers.  This is the third best cat moniker, after Lions and Tigers.  The Florida Panther is an actually specie, so it’s kind of a Baltimore Oriole situation.  With a little more teeth.

8. Oilers.  Just a simple blue-collar occupation nickname that says something about it’s region.

9. Stars.  Though a bit bland, this nickname makes a good deal of sense for a pro sports team and seems to fit Dallas well.

A moniker that walks the fine line between respectably general and simply bland.


The Original Six (the true historic skaters)

10. Canadiens.  There’s something badass about a hockey team called the Canadiens.  Especially when the team is the most historically successful club in the league.

11. Red Wings.  This moniker works on two levels.  The Red works nicely to match a color to a team, and the Wings is a good reference to the hockey position.

12. Blackhawks.  For the record, I don’t find this nickname particularly offensive.  The reference to a great Native American leader seems like a way to honor that figure.  It’s regionally relevant and immediately respectable.

Game on!

13. Bruins.  The alliteration and brand consistency are nice, but I just don’t like the overuse of ‘Bruins’ as a sports moniker.  Why not Boston Bears?

14. Maple Leafs.  This nickname is certainly historic and lovable, but not exactly the most intimidating in the league.

15. Rangers.  It just doesn’t fit in New York that well.  Rangers is not some vague term, it’s a specific occupation that fits the Wild West better than Madison Square Garden.


The Nationalists

16. Canucks.  This name has a tough sound to it and has subtle enough humor to pass the “inappropriate cleverness” test.

17. Capitals.  Not bad.  Just bland.  It works.  Similar to the Nationals.

18. Senators.  The Canadian version of the Caps, but more specific and less tough-sounding.

Senators: a nickname that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents.


The Questionable Critters, Part I

19. Predators.  The NHL is the only pro league where this name wouldn’t be ranked bottom five.  Intimidation is great in a contact sport, but this is a bit of a stretch.

20. Ducks.  Much more respectable now that they’re not owned by Disney and have dropped the ridiculous ‘Mighty’ from their name.  But the effect still lingers.  Besides, there’s only room for one cute bird name in the league, and Pittsburgh scooped it up decades before Anaheim.

The Objects

21. Jets.  Not bad.  Just bland.  It works.  Similar to some football team.

22. Sabres.  I actually kind of like this moniker, but it’s a reach for a pro team name.  It may also be a little to classy for hockey.

Rattle those Sabres!


The Forces of Nature, Plural

23. Flames.  It’s a nickname that seems cool for an instant, but then flames out quickly.

24. Hurricanes.  Meh.  Not a big fan of weather nicknames.  “I’m a Hurricane.”


The Questionable Critters, Part II

25. Coyotes.  It’s a regionally relevant predator, but are they trying to be clever?  Coyotes aren’t exactly the most respectable animals on the planet.  This would be a good minor league hockey team name.

26. Blue Jackets.  Oh, boy.  What a crappy nickname.  For starters, they should be claiming the entire state of Ohio as their own.  There’s no Cincy or Cleveland, so have at it.  A name like the Ohio Knights, Ohio Wolves, or Ohio Captains would be much, much better than some vague reference to the Civil War based in a college town.  When this nickname was first released, I remember seeing the bug logo and not realizing the Civil War thing.  They’ll always be a questionable critter to me.

The real reason the Union won the Civil War was this little guy.


The Forces of Nature, NS/NP

27. Avalanche.  It’s not terrible, as far as NS/NP names go, but that’s not saying much.  At least it’s regionally relevant.

28. Lightning.  According to the story, the owner was trying to think of a name when a lightning storm occurred.  Good thing it wasn’t a hail storm or an incidence of drizzle.

29. Wild.  Very vague, but not necessarily terrible.  Like the OKC Thunder, the Wild get points deducted due to the fact that they chose NS/NP after the fad shown itself to be a bad idea.  Minnesota should’ve known better.

The Stinker

30. Islanders.  If you read the Sport Change October newsflash, you’ll know why this is ranked last.  When there’s an opportunity to change a bland moniker, take it!

The longshoreman is landing in Brooklyn soon. Culture clash time.


So there you have it.  Feel free to comment and offer your own take.

Sport Change has now ranked the monikers of each of the Big Four sports leagues.  Sometime in the near future, there will be posts dedicated to ranking the all of the monikers collectively and doing some further analysis.  Stay alert.  Other than that, there will be some long-overdue basketball posts coming up.  Thanks for reading.

For NFL moniker rankings, click here.

For MLB moniker rankings, click here

For NBA moniker rankings, click here



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