Archive

NHL

Sport Change has just completed six full months of reporting and studying the subjects dearest to Sport Change’s heart.  Much of that work has built to articles that will come within the next four months–the Ideal Leagues.

_

The premise

Like most random sports voices on the internet, Sport Change likes to opine and reimagine all sorts of things sports-related.  Though Sport Change has a steady group of followers and daily page-visitors, the voice of the site is just one of many with no actual say or sway.  As such, there is full creative license to reshape teams and leagues through the ever-available medium of fantasy.  The Ideal Leagues are simply what sports leagues (both pro and minor) would look like if Sport Change ruled the world–or rather if the world had independently arranged itself better to Sport Change’s liking.

_

Ongoing and participative

Though each Ideal League will be presented as something resembling a finished product, each league could become subject to change due to real-world changes or through the uncovering of previously undiscovered knowledge.  Additionally, Sport Change readers can make their voices heard by posting opinions on our message boards.  These opinions may work to effect Sport Change’s Ideal Leagues, so don’t hesitate to participate.

_

The gist

To begin the Ideal Leagues, we will be starting toward the top of the American sports pyramid with the Big Four professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) and top minor-league or semipro leagues.  Each league will exist in a fantasy world of sorts, and decisions made about one league are to be informed by decisions made in another.  The primary topics covered will be realignment, rebranding, relocation, and other forms of reimagining; in the context of both historic narratives and real-world scenarios.

_

The schedule

February is for football.  The NFL will be first up, followed by an scenario for a resurrection of the USFL.  Teams such as the Houston Oilers and San Antonio Gunslingers will be mentioned.

March is for basketball.  There won’t be much NCAA March Madness talk, but Sport Change will weigh in on an Ideal NBA and NBA Developmental League.

April is for baseball.  While teams take to the field, Sport Change will be unrolling the Ideal MLB.  Additionally, there will be several posts on Minor League Baseball and independent ball.

May is for hockey.  Expect an Ideal NHL and perhaps AHL as well.

_

Throughout all of this, there may be the occasional stray post to weigh in on a hot topic or an idea that just can’t wait, such as a Territorial Mock Draft for the NFL in April.  If you’re curious about the Sport Change take on the New Orleans Pelicans’ logo, all I can say is…meh.

New_Orleans_Pelicans

Sym-meh-try

_

Thanks for reading.  Stay alert for the Ideal Leagues–it should be fun.  Have a great day!

SPORT CHANGE

Advertisements

When a sports team moves to a new city, should the team’s history be carried along with it?  Please entertain Sport Change as Sport Change takes a break from rankings and realignment scenarios to wax philosophic on the subtle considerations involved in franchise relocation.

Kevin+Durant+Seattle+SuperSonics+v+Los+Angeles+yjRzQRoq_cNl

Kevin Durant and his team moved to OKC five years ago, but did the “Sonics” move with them?

_

I’ll quit using ‘Sport Change’ in the third person and I’ll talk to you straight.  This is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for quite a while, and it was awoken out of dormancy by a recent post written by Chris Creamer on sportslogos.net–a favorite website of mine.  The topic of that post was related to the branding possibilities brought up by the rumors of the Sacramento Kings’ possible relocation to Seattle.  Chris Creamer is primarily curious about whether the Seatte Supersonics brand will be resurrected or if the Kings brand will move with the team.  Chris’s piece raised the bigger question of what constitutes a team’s identity and a team’s history.  Like many other sports fans, Chris’s take on the matter is that when a team moves, a team moves it’s history and vestigial identity with it.  I disagree with this notion, and will attempt to explain why.  There’s a lot of gray area in this discussion, but I’ll try my best to address those questions and articulate an argument.

uniforms_kings_archibald

If the Sonics retake their history, what does that mean for a franchise that has seen many incarnations since 1945.

_

What is a team?

Let’s start with the basic question and build from there.  As far as I can observe, a team is comprised of a few elements: 1.) Players, coaching staff, and team employees.  2.) Trademarks and branding materials.  3.) History.  4.) Fans.

Who really owns a sports team?

Let’s make no mistake here: a sports franchise is an object that can be bought and sold by those wealthy enough to do so.  A franchise is a company that holds the legal rights to any contracted employees and any trademarks.  If a team owner wishes to sell the team, relocate the team, or make the team public property–they have the right to do so.  Of the four elements listed above, the owner has the strongest hold on number 1, and the grip loosens as we move through to number 4.  In my opinion, the order of importance is reversed and the definition of ‘team’ should begin with fans and history.

What is a team’s identity?

Though a team is (in most cases) a private franchise, the team’s identity is harder to pin down.  History and fan support are the core of a team’s identity, but branding materials also factor in.  A team’s nickname, logos, team colors, and uniforms are synonomous with the team, and though they are liable to change over the years–they are part and parcel of the team’s identity.  Besides following the linear path of a team (Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis Cardinals to Arizona Cardinals) there are other unique ways a team can find definition.

An old way and a new way.

Traditionally, when a sports team would relocate, it was analogous to a person moving to a new city. Teams would move their belongings, history, and name with them.  They were the same person, but with new surroundings.  A franchise’s history went with the owner, of course, but so did the branding materials and in many cases–the fans.  Taking a good look at the current era of franchise relocation, it’s clear that things have changed.  It’s gotten more complicated.

keep dodgers in bk

There was a time when franchise relocation meant cold-hearted loss for fans who had identified with the identity of their team.  It also meant no chance to ever regain that identity.

_

Here are five categories that relocated teams can fall into:

1.) A team that moves to a distinct new location and retains history and brand elements.  Place name and fan base change, but much of the old identity is left in tact.  Perhaps the best examples of this come from the Big Four’s westward expansion of the middle twentieth century: LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, and San Francisco Giants.

2.) A team that ‘moves’ to a location that is in the same region (geographically and culturally) as the previous city and retains the basic elements of the team–history, fan base, and some brand elements.  To get scientific about it, let’s say a move within 100 miles East of the Mississippi or within the same state if West of the Mississippi.  The Brooklyn Nets are an obvious recent example, and the Baltimore/Washington Bullets would arguably fall into this category as well.

3.) A team that moves to a distinctly new location, establishes new brand elements/team identity, but retains linear franchise history.  This is a common scenario, both traditionally and currently–whether it’s the Washington Senators becoming the Texas Rangers or the Houston Oilers becoming the Tennessee Titans.

4.) A team that moves to a new location, but picks up brand elements and fan base of a former team in that location.  This is a scenario that was common in bygone eras, then essentially non-existent for several decades before reemerging in recent years.  Though they reactivated their franchise through expansion, the Cleveland Browns are good example.

5.) A team that moves to a new location and leaves all elements of team identity with the former location.  This is new idea that occurred notably when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, and the Ravens started a new linear history as if they were an expansion team.

lewis_display_image

Ray Lewis was the first draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens franchise in 1996. He has never been affiliated with the history of the Cleveland Browns.

_

Let’s look at the last ten franchise relocations that have occurred in the Big Four, and see which category or categories they fall into:

(2012) New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn Nets.  Category #2.  This is a classic example of a team moving to a new location, but still within the same geographic area.  Of course it makes sense for the Nets to retain the New Jersey team’s history–they even kept the team nickname.

(2011) Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg Jets.  Category #4.  Here’s an example of the newer phenomenon of cities being reoccupied by a pro club and picking up an old team’s brand elements.  The new Jets still have Atlanta’s history, though, and the old Jets history is down in the desert.

(2008) Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City Thunder. Categories #3/#5.  This is a unique one.  The Thunder were born with a completely new brand and fan base–essentially all that remained of the Sonics was the players/personnel.  The city of Seattle holds the rights to the SuperSonics name and team colors, though the Thunder own the team’s history.  It’s likely that a new Sonics team would have to buy the history back from Oklahoma City.  It’s a brave new world.

(2005) Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals. Categories #3/#4.  On the surface, this relocation just looks like a classic #3–relocation and rebranding.  However, there have been a few different baseball teams in Washington called the Nationals in bygone eras, and the Nats draw from their history–whether official or not.

(2002) Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans Hornets. Category #1.  A simple relocation that is currently facing a rebrand–reportedly as the New Orleans Hornets.  There has been plenty of talk as well about the Charlotte Hornets regaining their old moniker.  Team nickname relocation is a new topic, and it reflects the trend toward nostalgia that is ever-present in the Big Four.

scouting-the-NBA1-610x400 (1)

When the New Orleans Pelicans fly to town, will the Hornets buzz back to Charlotte? If so, we would have a new precedent for brand relocation.

(2001) Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis Grizzlies. Category #1.  This is a classic #1 branding gaffe–right up there with the Lakers and Jazz.  Memphis could’ve pulled off a clean #3 and started with a totally new brand, but they foolishly clung to the Grizzlies identity.  I can’t imagine British Columbians are as heartsick watching their old Grizzlies continue play as Brooklyn Dodger fans were over the years–it’s the brand that is the problem.

(1997) Houston Oilers to Tennessee Titans. Category #3.  A rebrand/relocation that was pulled off very well.  The team played as the Tennessee Oilers for a year or two, but that never felt right.  It would’ve been preferable if the city of Houston had somehow been able to retain the rights to the Oilers’ brand and history and transferred them to the Texans.

(1997) Hartford Whalers to Carolina Hurricanes. Category #3.  Not much to say about this one.  It’s a classic number three, done fairly well.

(1996) Cleveland Browns to Baltimore Ravens. Category #5.  This is where things got very interesting for the topic of relocation.  When the Browns moved to Baltimore, the brand was put on hold and the Ravens were reborn as a new franchise.  If only the same method had been applied to the Baltimore Colts move to Indy in the eighties.  Today we would have a team in Baltimore called the Colts that could claim history of Johnny Unitas, Bert Jones, and other old Colts teams.

(1996) Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix Coyotes. Category #3.  This is another basic number three, but with two funny twists all these years later.  1.) The Winnipeg Jets became a team again.  2.) The Coyotes are probably the the NHL team that is most likely to move.  If only they had moved to Winnipeg instead the Atlanta Thrashers–then the history could’ve been retained.  Funny how that works out.

PhoenixCoyotes1990s

The Coyotes should’ve tucked their tail between their legs and moved back to Winnipeg a few years ago.

_

Looking forward

Now let’s look at a few upcoming relocation possibilities and see where they land:

-Sacramento Kings to Seattle.  This is the hottest relocation possibility in the Big Four currently, and it looks like it may very well happen.  If so, it’s almost a given that Seattle would reapply the SuperSonics moniker/team colors, and look to buy back their history from Oklahoma City.  It’s a shame that the history of the Royals/Kings NBA franchise would reach a dead end, but we’ll cover that in a bit.  This would either be a category #4 (Winnipeg Jets) or a category #5 (Baltimore Ravens).

-An NHL team to Quebec City.  There have been plenty of passing mentions of the NHL increasing it’s presence in Canada through expansion or relocation.  The most likely candidate is Quebec City, who are still stinging from losing the Nordiques to Colorado in the mid-nineties.  Construction on a new arena has begun, and it seems like a lock that that the league will occupy it.  If so, it’s very likely that the Quebec Nordiques would be reborn as a franchise.  Most likely, this would be a situation similar to the Winnipeg Jets–a category #4.

nordiques (1)

If Quebec gets and NHL team, it would be hard to brand them as anything but the Nordiques.

-The Tampa Bay Rays to….?  There is always plenty of speculation about the Rays relocating, and Sport Change has looked deeply into this issue.  If the Rays were to move to to say, Indiana, Louisville, Portland, or Oklahoma City–it would likely be either a #3 rebrand or a #1 brand retention.

-An NFL team to Los Angeles.   It’s very likely that there will be an NFL team in L.A. within a few years.  It’s quite unclear which team this would be, but the most likely candidates are probably the Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.  Each of the first three teams were once located in L.A. and are in-state/West of Mississippi.  If they were to move, branding materials and history would likely move with them–so category #2, like the Nets.  If the Bucs or Jags moved, it would likely be a rebranding and retention of team history–category #3.

4347971458_4f0b78832f_o (1)

If the Jaguars moved to LA, can you really imagine them retaining the brand? Well…I guess they did it with the Lakers and Dodgers.

_

THE RULES

As we all move forward into a new era of Big Four relocation, we should discuss what the rules of relocation are–unwritten though they may be.  All of this can be grouped into two basic rules:

Rule #1:  

In most cases, the brand should be left behind with the vacated city.  The city would hold the rights to these elements, like in the case of the Sonics.  As stated earlier, it would be a shame to see the history of the Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City Kings franchise come to an end, but the brand should remain available for pickup (through expansion or relocation) by any city that formerly held that brand.  There are exceptions to this, of course.  Category #2 relocations (like the Nets) are perfectly acceptable and the brand/history should be retained.  Additionally, I think that it’s acceptable for a brand under twenty years old and without a championship (like the Rays) to retain these elements as they move.  This is acceptable if the brand is universal–the sun’s rays shine everywhere (well, maybe not Portland) so a team like the Indiana Rays would be fine.  The Grizzlies fall into this exception, but made the terrible mistake of retaining a region-specific identity.

Rule #2:

In most cases, history is put on hold.  In this modern era of relocation, it’s unnecessary for a team like the Nationals to retain the history of the Expos.  That history should be left with Montreal.  If the city ever got a new team, they could reactivate and claim that history–even with a new brand.  A new Sonics team or a new Nordiques team should have full access to team history within the time that the city held that brand.  The history is the story of the franchise’s relationship with it’s city and it’s fans.  When a team relocates, history is vestigial at best and burdensome at worst.  Again, it’s acceptable to carry history if the team relocates within 100 miles East of the Mississippi or within the same state in the West.  On the Eastern seaboard, we could even say 50 miles.  The Baltimore/Washington Bullets and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets would fall within that rule of radius.

_

20010717LAI0051

If Montreal ever gets another team, shouldn’t they have access to the Expos’ history?

_

That sums it up.  It’s certainly an adjustment and any change can feel awkward.  However, what feels more awkward is the current methods.  These days, it’s like a Wild West of teams choosing from any of the five categories.  This will make franchise history tracking difficult and lead to identity crises for fans.  Can the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets claim their three WHA championships from the seventies?  Not as long as the Phoenix Coyotes are wearing them like identification tags on a dog collar.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments to get a discussion going.  Keep checking back for more posts as the winter moves along.

SPORT CHANGE

As a follow-up to our previous post about fifty monikers that could work in the Big Four, Sport Change will now take the top half of that list and rank them.  Here’s the top 25.

top-25

_

Each nickname listed below is currently unused by an team in the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) professional sports leagues.  The nicknames are ranked and given suggested uses.  For detailed descriptions of each nickname, read the top fifty post.  

For criteria on what makes a good team nickname in pro sports, consult the Moniker Monitor ground rules. 

Let’s get right into it.  Starting from the top:

_

2592

1.  Knights.  Suggested uses: would work well ahead of Indiana, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or most any city in any sport.

2.  Wolves.  Suggested uses: would work well as a nickname for Washington, Los Angeles, Arizona, or several other markets.

3.  Pilots.  Suggested uses: NHL may be best bet, with Seattle expansion or a rebranding of the Blue Jackets.

4.  Grays.  Suggested uses: Washington sports teams would benefit from historical connection with the Homestead Grays.  Would work for an NHL expansion team in Seattle.

5.  Pioneers.  Suggested uses: Portland would be the ideal landing place due to alliteration and Oregon Trail history.

Hockey+Boone

6.  Stallions.  Suggested uses: would work with many locations: Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Houston, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, and many more.

7.  Arrows. Suggested uses: Arizona would be ideal due to alliteration, but Arrows would work for a variety of locales.

8.  Comets.  Suggested uses: would fit the NHL exceptionally well, with Kansas City being perhaps the best choice.

1577

9.  Snakes.  Suggested use: would make for a better nickname than Diamondbacks.

10.  Mustangs.  Suggested use: Houston and Mustangs sound quite well together.

11.  Vipers.  Suggested use:  If a new team comes to Pittsburgh, the Pitt Vipers would be a pun with teeth.

12.  Cyclones.  Suggested uses: Oklahoma City or Kansas City would be the best bets, but Brooklyn could also transfer the Cyclones moniker to the Big Four.

5681

13.  Bulldogs.  Suggested uses: would work best in NFL or NHL; perhaps retained by AHL Hamilton franchise if the city joins the NHL.

14.  Huskies.  Suggested use: Toronto’s pro basketball team used to be the Huskies.  Without precedent of that kind, the name remains within the domain of NCAA.

15.  Monarchs.  Suggested uses: Perhaps it would work with Brooklyn or Memphis.

16.  Dukes.  Suggested uses: Again, perhaps Brooklyn or Memphis.

17.  Griffins.  Suggested use: Brooklyn is maybe the only market that could pull this off–perhaps in the NHL.

effiztl77mzb4f8h71zy6633y

18.  Generals.  Suggested use: At this point, Washington is the only market where this could work.

19.  Renegades.  Suggested use:  Something to consider for Tennessee in a rebrand of the Grizzlies.

20.  Miners.  Suggested use: could work as a blue-collar type nickname in the right locale; perhaps Kentucky or West Virginia if they were ever granted franchises.

21.  Scorpions.  Suggested use: Arizona is the only market where this would work, and it could work.

Yuma_Scorpions_Main_Logo

22.  Blackbirds.  Suggested use: right now there are too many birds in the Big Four, but Blackbirds is better than many of them.

23.  Bisons.  Suggested use: it’s long too late, but Bisons would’ve been better than Bills for Buffalo.

24.  Cougars.  Suggested use: remains a universally acceptable name, though other connotations come into play.

25.  Maroons.  Suggested use: it’s hard to imagine this name coming back to the Big Four, but if Montreal received another NHL franchise this would be a slam dunk.  Or a slap shot.  Whatever.

31-32MtlMar

_

Excellent.  The Sport Change Big Four moniker study is nearly complete.  Once votes are collected from our mega-polls, decisions can be made for nickname allocation in our Ideal Leagues.  If you haven’t voted yet, click here and here.  Thanks for reading!  Feel free to leave comments.

SPORT CHANGE

Leagues expand, teams relocate, and franchises change their names.  In the Big Four (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL) there is usually at least one instance per year of one of these events occurring.  With 116 unique team nicknames (monikers) currently in use in those four leagues, what is left?

1297

The Seattle Pilots had a brief flight in the AL a few decades ago. Will the nickname someday resurface over the horizon?

First of all, it’s important to define what makes a good nickname for professional sports teams.  Luckily, Sport Change has already done just that.    Many team nicknames are respectable based simply on a rich history of a particular franchise, but we’re talking about new nicknames in this post. New nicknames have to stand up at face value and maintain respectability in good times and bad.

An easy way to maintain respectability is to keep the moniker general and universal.  Save the wacky and novel names for minor league, college, and semipro teams.  Nicknames like ‘Reds,’ ‘Bears,’ ‘Warriors,’ and ‘Stars’ hold up well over the years and are respectable even when the team is struggling.

Having a nickname that is relevant to a particular region can work well (Steelers, Brewers, Cowboys) or it can steer a team (Ravens, Diamondbacks, Heat) into borderline ridiculousness.  Referencing the region in a very specific manner works better at semipro levels.

jagshel

Sometimes alliteration works very well. Other times…not so much.

Alliteration can be sweet (Pittsburgh Pirates, Tennessee Titans) or it can steer teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Wizards) into questionable territory.  At the pro level, alliteration should be seen as a bonus quality to a name that would stand up at face value even if the city changed it’s name.

Intimidation can be effective, but it works best with the full contact sports.  Can you imagine a baseball team called the Predators?  The NBA can go either way.  An intimidating nickname like ‘Hawks’ can coexist alongside a bland nickname like ‘Suns.’

With these ideas in mind, Sport Change spent several months collecting nicknames that are currently unused in the Big Four, but could potentially work.  The nicknames have been grouped into categories and the best will be selected, ranked, and given suggested uses.  Enjoy!

_

cuf01mvytp9agshgejmk

Gladiators is tough and intimidating, but would it work at the pro level?

Category #1: The Fighting Folks

Warriors, soldiers, or other people engaged in combat is a good source of sports nicknames.  Knights is a great option that is very surprisingly unused in the Big Four.  The Charlotte Knights are a minor league baseball team, and the NCAA has the the Rutgers Scarlet Knights among other variations.  Archers is a nickname that is basically unused in sports, but could work at any level.  Gladiators is a name that is used at semipro levels; where it may be best served.

_

Category #2:  Authority Figures

Kings is good enough to have two representatives in the Big Four, but there are several other authority figure names still available.  Monarchs is currently used by Old Dominion university, and former uses include the Negro League Kansas City franchise and the Sacramento WNBA team.  Barons is a great name that was used by the NHL’s Cleveland Barons in the 70s, and is essentially claimed by the AA baseball Birmingham Barons.  Dukes is a name that is rarely used, but could work well in the right situation.  With Albuquerque switching their baseball team’s name to the Isotopes, Duquesne U probably has the most visible use of Dukes.  Generals was used prominently by the New Jersey Generals of the former USFL–a team owned by Donald Trump that drafted Herschel Walker. Colonels was Kentucky’s ABA moniker, and is used by a few colleges.  Captains is a basic name that is seen in baseball’s Midwest Leaguers, the Lake County Captains.  I suppose somebody can be the captain of the Captains.

4locqiuhvz9ai7rax79ts98tt

The Lake County Captains have a great name that’s so obvious that it was passed over by many other teams. But the Big Four?

_

Category #3:  Men at Work

Occupational names are usually good bets for sports teams, as evidenced by the Packers, Oilers, and Steelers.  Lumberjacks is a name that would hold up in the right location, and ditto that for Miners.  Pilots is a very solid moniker that was once used by the former American League Seattle franchise.

_

Category #4:  Rogue Spirits

Nicknames like Mavericks and Trailblazers reflect the romanticized American image of the rugged individualist, and they work fairly well in most cases.  Pioneers is an obvious name that is surprisingly unused in the Big Four.  Independents was the name of the old NFL team in Rock Island, Illinois, and has some charm to it.  Renegades is a fun one that’s used by a few semipro teams here and there.  Legends is a bit eyeroll-inducing, but isn’t bad overall.  It works well for minor league baseball’s Lexington franchise.

_

5168

The ABA’s Carolina Cougars were one notable use of the moniker in professional sports.

Category #5: Raining Cats & Dogs

Moving on to the ever-popular animal category, let’s take a look at some cat and dog monikers that are widely employed just about everywhere except the Big Four.  Wildcats is a great nickname, but it’s too overused in the NCAA to work in the Big Four.  It would also seem redundant to have Wildcats when so many other wild cats are used as monikers.  Cougars is a great name (at face value) that has popped up a few times in the Big Four and other pro leagues, but two factors come into play here: 1.) Several colleges use Cougars.  2.) there’s the other meaning of ‘cougar’ that would cause Twitter to overload if a new team was called the Cougars.  On the canine side of things, Wolves is certainly one of the most underutilized monikers out there.  Timberwolves comes close, but there’s not use of just ‘Wolves’ in either NCAA D-I or Minor League Baseball.  And that’s 500 teams!  There’s Wolfpack and Seawolves, but no just ‘Wolves.’  The most visible use of just ‘Wolves’ is probably the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.  Huskies is a name that would be hard for a Big Four team to pull off, considering the prominence of Uconn and Washington U.  The Toronto Huskies were once a team in NBA, and there’s even a push to change the Raptors name to Huskies.  Another doggy moniker, Bulldogs, is very widely used in colleges and high schools, but may find it’s way back to the Big Four.

_

Category #6:  Bird Words

The Big Four is basically an aviary of bird-based monikers, some good (Eagles, Hawks, Penguins, Falcons), some acceptable (Cardinals, Ravens, Blue Jays, Orioles), and some questionable (Pelicans, Ducks, Seahawks).  Is there room for any more bird nicknames?  If so, Blackbirds would be a simple and effective moniker that would be easy to color-coordinate.  Owls is fun and fierce, though Temple may have staked their claim.  Roadrunners is a bit minor-leaguish, and would only work for a team in the Southeast United States.

_

5019_buffalo_bisons-primary-2013

Bisons (or Buffaloes) is a good all-American nickname that could be better represented in the Big Four.

Category #7:  Prairie Critters

There are some nicknames that take inspiration from the old American image of animals grazing on open prairie.  Buffaloes/Bisons are represented in NCAA, Minor League Baseball, and elsewhere, but would work well as a Big Four monikers in some areas.  The Buffalo Bills only peripherally use the creature as a mascot.  Stallions is a nickname that seems to appear in nearly every name-the-team contest that comes up, and it’s solid through and through.  Mustangs is another horsey nickname that could work in the Big Four.

_

Category #8:  Serpents

Diamondbacks is the only snake-based moniker in the Big Four, and I don’t think it has to be that way.  Snakes itself is a solid nickname.  Getting more specific, Rattlers is an effective nickname that shakes it’s tail in NCAA and MiLB.  Cobras is another good one, though it may be best on the semipro level.  Vipers is another nice one with extra teeth that could work in Big Four.

9mk3nrg5v5vfk22qg1gyucbct

Could Vipers work for a team in the Big Four? Only in the right situation.

_

Category #9:  Creepy Critters

Some nicknames take it to a level that is even creepier than snakes.  Spiders is effective, if repellent.  It works well for Richmond U.  Scorpions would work well for a desert team, and is largely unused.  Bats works great for Louisville’s AAA affiliate, and may only work if Louisville had a team in MLB.

_

Category #10:  Mythical Creatures

Mythical creatures are borderline acceptable for the Big Four, but could work if given the right chance.  Griffins is a cool name that shows up here and there on the Minor League and collegiate circuits.  Dragons is another name-the-team contest staple, but Dayton and Drexel are already making terrific use of the moniker.  Thunderbirds is a powerful beast that could work in an appropriate location, but it may be a moniker that some would take offense to.

_

605_worcester-tornadoes-partial-2005

With all the weather-related nicknames in sports, it’s strange that the most visible use of Tornadoes is the independent Worcester club of the Can-Am league.

Category #11:  Weather Report

There are plenty of weather-related nicknames out there, and it’s hard to imagine more being added to the Big Four.  That said, Tornadoes and Cyclones are obvious choices for weather monikers.  Cyclones is prominently used by Iowa State, but I’m not sure that would exclude the Big Four.  A wildcard would be Whirlwinds, but it’s hard to see that nickname working well at the pro level.

_

Category #12:  Active Objects

Another category of monikers is the animate (but not living) objects.  This isn’t quite like the inanimate monikers like Spurs and Nets, and is more like the Jets or Sabres.  Arrows is a solid nickname, especially if used alliteratively.  Comets is another good one, and with the folding of Houston’s WNBA franchise, it is underused.  Aces would be a fun one for a Wild West type team, like AAA’s Reno Aces.  The Las Vegas UFL team uses Locomotives, and that’s a nickname that could work in the Big Four.  Another could be Racers, a more active name than Pacers.

1hgv642y6b0pe0md2e0lfuipf

Murray State uses a name that the Indiana Pacers wish they had.

_

Category #13:  Colors!

Finally, we’ll talk about the most colorful monikers of all: colors!  Colorful nicknames were once the standard, especially in Major League Baseball–where a team’s nickname reflected their socks.  The Big Four currently has three: Reds, Browns, and Blues.  Blues is more of a music genre nickname, but it’s a color nonetheless.  Cardinals also have their roots in the color Cardinal red rather than the bird.  Taking a look at other available colors reveals a lack of possibilities.  Oranges is tough to separate from the fruit, and Syracuse already uses Orange.  Yellows sounds like cowards.  Greens sounds like a salad.  Purples…it just doesn’t work.  Continuing in the Browns tradition of neutral colors, Grays is perhaps the best possibility of all.  The old Negro League Homestead Grays nearly influenced the name choice of the Washington Nationals a few years back.  Tans is short and to the point–I could see it.  Another muted color nickname is Maroons, which has been used in the NFL and NHL.  The metallic colors also have promise, with Silvers taking second place to Golds, of course.

JoshGibsonW_grays

Grays is a terrific old name that was nearly chosen over Nationals when Washington was naming their baseball team.

_

There are the fifty.  Next up on Sport Change will be the rankings of the Top 25 Potential Big Four team nicknames.  Stay tuned.

SPORT CHANGE

Every once in a while, Sport Change news builds up to a point where we must take a pause to weigh in on hot topics in the arena of sport change.

300x316xmedium.jpg.pagespeed.ic.81vBJ6gIIz

The new Dolphins logo?

1.) Rumors have been swirling for a few weeks that the Miami Dolphins will have a new logo for the 2013 season.  There is even an alleged leaked image that has been making the rounds on some of our favorite websites such as uni-watch and sportslogos.net.   Just yesterday, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tweeted that yes, indeed, there will be a new logo for the Dolphins next year.  What is the Sport Change take?  Noooooooo.  The Miami Dolphins have had the same basic logo since their inception in the AFL in the sixties.  The logo has been tweaked several times over the years, but has held true to the basic model of a cartoonish dolphin jumping in front of the sun whilst wearing an old-style football helmet.  That’s really about as good as you can get with a dolphin logo.  If the image that’s been making the rounds is truly the new logo, it’s a big step backward.  At face value, the logo is attractive and unique–but it’s not a good NFL logo.  One of the commenters on Chris Creamer’s site said that it looks like a Sea World logo.  So if the Dolphins have a new logo that’s just a minor variation on the old theme–cool.  If they use this new concept–ugh.  I’ve been thinking about the Dolphins lately and how that franchise has taken a bottle nosedive into the turf over the last five years.  Many pundits are quick to blame GM Jeff Ireland–and for good reason–but this logo debacle could make it clear that real culprit is the man who hired Ireland.  Has Stephen Ross been the invisible hand that has turned a once proud franchise into canned tuna?

stephen-ross

Stephen Ross: the man responsible for the collapse of the ‘Phins?

_

2.) It was also just announced that the NHL’s Dallas Stars are looking to rebrand their image.  In the foreseeable future, the Stars will have new uniforms and a new logo.  Early rumors had the team colors switching to red, white, and blue, but now it seems as if the Stars will be retaining the color green.  I have so many different things to say about this.  First of all, I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that the North Stars should never have left Minnesota.  Any team history died that day twenty years ago when the NHL entered Texas.  At face value, ‘Stars’ is an appropriate name for any team in the Lone Star State, but the colors should be red, white, and blue and the logo should be a star badge similar to the Texas Rangers’ alternate logo.  That being said, at least the Stars are changing their current look, which screams 1992, and their Texas logo looks hideous.  There is more to this than meets the eye, however.  Though the Dallas Stars won a Stanley Cup in the late nineties and have had a handful of hall-of-famers on the team, it seems that this rebrand is a reactive measure.  Despite the fact that Dallas is a top-notch sports market, attendance at Stars games has been dwindling over the last few years to a point where the team ranked 28th of 30 in average fans per game in the 2011-2012 season.  Only the Islanders and Coyotes are ranked lower, and both have announced either relocation or rebranding in the last few months.  This rebranding will be a last-ditch effort to keep the team in Texas, but in Sport Change’s opinion, there never should have been a Dallas Stars.  It will interesting to see how this affects the upcoming Ideal NHL project.

7se8vupnwfs8hg109drix3ebw

One thing is for sure: it will be good to see this logo go the way of the dodo.

_

3.) Bigger changes could be coming to the NHL, as rumors are swirling that the NHL could expand by two teams as soon as next year.  Some say that the two teams will be Canadian, and that would be terrific in Sport Change’s mind.  It’s such a shame that Canadian teams left for the Southern United States in the nineties, and much of that had to do with the economics of the Canadian dollar at the time.  Now, it’s obvious that several cities would be good options for NHL expansion or relocation.  If Sport Change had to pick the top two markets most ready for the NHL, Sport Change would choose Quebec City and Seattle.  After that: Hamilton, Ontario; Kansas City, Missouri; and Saskatchewan would all be good choices.  Look for our upcoming Ideal NHL.

600_new_arena6_110210

Here’s a model of the new arena currently under construction in Quebec City. Odds are good that an NHL franchise will call it home within a few years.

_

That’s it for this news flash.  Keep checking back for more great Sport Change posts.

SPORT CHANGE

As promised, here is Part 2 of the Sport Change team nickname mega-poll.  Please take the time to read through and make your picks.  If you haven’t had the chance to vote in mega-poll Part 1, here’s the link.

_

Background

For several months, Sport Change has been conducting a ridiculous amount of research on sports team nicknames, or monikers.  Please view The Moniker Monitor, our collection of posts on the subject.  We’ve scoured through the Big Four pro sports leagues, all of NCAA Division I, and Minor League Baseball, among other sources.  There have been rankings, visions of reversion, and gazes directed to the past as well as the future.

Much of this work has built to a series of posts that are forthcoming in the next month or two: the Ideal Leagues.  This series will focus on how the Big Four professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) would look if Sport Change ruled the world.  There will some reimagining, relocation, expansion, and yes–name change.  While piecing these posts together, there were several name changes that could go a number of different ways; with many new choices roughly equal.  As such, it’s time to poll the audience.

An upcoming Sport Change post will share the top fifty sports team monikers that Sport Change has deemed most worthy of consideration for pro sports use.  Many of these are used in the polls below, but each poll has one or two unique choices thrown in to reflect the specific geography.  Each poll below also has an introduction to put it into context, and multiple choices.  Please place a vote in each poll and leave comments.  Each poll box has it’s own separate comment box, and there is also the comment box on the bottom of the post.  Overwhelming poll results will likely be used in the Ideal Leagues, though Sport Change reserves the right to veto power.  Happy polling!

_

NBA Poll #1: Should the Pacers get a new name?

tumblr_lw2jx3f32T1r6wimvo1_400

Let’s be honest: the Indiana Pacers have a highly questionable nickname.  Pacers.  Supposedlyit’s a reference to both horse-racing and pace cars at the Indy 500.  What could be more exciting that pace cars?  Let’s make this a two part poll.  1.) Should the Pacers seek a name change?  2.) If so, to what?  Here are a few suggestions–mostly retreads from our two polls in part 1 that dealt with teams in Indiana.  Knights and Stallions are two solid monikers that are surprisingly absent from the Big Four.  Both would seem to work here.  I’ll also add in Racers–a reference to the Indy 500 that isn’t the most boring car on the track.  It should be noted that while the Pacers have a devoted fan base, they’re right in the basement in terms of ticket sales.  A nice new brand would likely help, and now would be the time to change.  Here goes:

_

_

_

NBA Poll #2: What about the Nets?

hvkhsaffs9x9zre7gku4vmnte

The Brooklyn Nets are certainly an interesting brand.  The team moved from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn amid much fanfare.  In the process, they changed their place name, got new uniforms, and rebooted their roster.  The rebranding experiment has been a big success thus far, but one obvious change was noticeably ignored: the team nickname.  Nets is a very questionable pro team moniker, and was ranked 95th out of 122 unique monikers in the Big Four.  It’s cute how it rhymes with Jets and Mets, but it’s an inanimate object with an air of passivity.  Would you like to be a net?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Balls would be a better nickname than Nets.  At least you’re the object doing the scoring and not the reverse.  We’ll run this the same way we did with the Pacers.  Other existing teams that play in Brooklyn such as the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds and the Mets A-ball affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones have terrific names, and the NBA team should follow suit.  The Cyclones are a reference to the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island–visible from the ballpark.  Here are suggestions from the Sport Change 50 unused potential pro nickname list: Knights, Barons, Legends, Bulldogs, Comets, and Arrows.  I’m tempted to throw Balls in there too, but I’m worried that it would win the poll.

_

_

_

NBA Poll #3: A new identity for the Washington Wizards

Jordan_Wizards

When the Washington Bullets changed their name in the mid-nineties, it seemed like a welcome switch.  ‘Bullets’ was once a moniker celebrated for the players being as fast as speeding bullets, but rising murder rates in DC coupled with nineties political correctness made the name seem dated and dangerous.  Then the Wizards were born.  It was unique, to be sure, and it seemed to fit with the nineties trend of gimmickry and goofiness in the NBA–Wizards lining up next to Hornets, Magic, and (sigh) Raptors.  Shortly after the rebranding, the Wizards came under fire for the KKK connotation.  Oops.  The Wizards team seemed relevant at various times.  Chris Webber and Juwan Howard (40% of the Fab Five) were some of the first to don the Wizard apparel, and then Michael Jordan came out of retirement again.  The team never made it to the top, and as of this writing has hit a new low.  Washington Wizards has terrific alliteration, but it rides alliteration in much the same way as the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Both of those would be outstanding minor or developmental league nicknames, but the Big Four?  Not so much.  The Wizards have attempted to tweak their brand recently, but it’s the name that really needs changing.  But to what?  In this lengthy article on the genesis of the Wizards brand, many names that bubbled up from the name-the-team contest were revealed.  The five finalists were Wizards, Dragons, Stallions, Express, and Sea Dogs. The Portland Sea Dogs baseball team owns that name, so it’s off the table.  I despise ‘Express’ for a nickname, and it always seems to come up in name-the-team contests.  Dragons and Stallions are both nicknames that are on (or near) the Sport Change top fifty unused by the Big Four list, so we’ll carry them along.  Other discarded suggestions from that article include two that are on the list: Cobras and Generals.  Other goofy suggestions that we will not use include Antelopes, Astronauts, and Geckos.  Stars was also brought up, so we’ll include it even though the Dallas hockey team has the name.  I’m tempted to throw Washington Wolves in there, but the T-Wolves claim that moniker.  From our top fifty list, I’ll add two more: Grays, in reference to the old Washington-based Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues.  The Washington Nationals were nearly called the Grays a few years ago.  I’ll also add a wildcard: the Washington Whirlwinds.  Now that’s riding alliteration!

_

_

_

NBA Poll #4: When the Grizzlies moved to Memphis

5096

This is certainly a topic that will be covered in the Sport Change Ideal NBA post, so let’s look at this historically.  The Vancouver Grizzlies were an iconic and terrific brand for a city that was not able to support an NBA team.  When they moved, Memphis was an exciting new choice for a host city.  Rather than hold on to the regionally irrelevant Grizzlies moniker, Memphis should have decided to get a brand of it’s own.  We’ll pretend that happened.  The first question is whether to use Memphis as a place name or to go with the whole state of Tennessee like the NFL’s Titans.  Blues is a good suggestion, but is unavailable due to the NHL’s St. Louis franchise.  If the hockey team changed brands, that could well….change.  To use another wacky color-based nickname, we’ll go with Tans since it sounds like the ABA’s old Memphis Tams.  Memphis is a bit of a cocky city, so names like Dukes and Monarchs seem appropriate.  Renegades is an energetic nickname that seems to fit with the region.  Tornadoes represents the weather phenomena.  To top it off: Catfish, Turtles, and Bees make up the novelty animal nicknames.

_

_

_

NBA Poll #5: a move to Baltimore

1mj0en56f1he4oxk3ce2pppfw

In the Sport Change Ideal NBA, the Orlando Magic will be relocating to Baltimore, Maryland.  Once upon a time, Baltimore had the Bullets–then they shot off down the Beltway to DC.  With the successes of the Colts and Orioles, the Charm City has proven that it’s a first tier sports market with good potential for supporting an NBA franchise.  In the Ideal NFL, the Colts never moved from Baltimore, of course.  Of course, the Magic moniker has seen better days.  It was very rad twenty years ago, but Shaq and Penny are long gone.  The Charm City needs it’s own identity.  What about Charms?  It’s a small step up from Magic.  Baltimore is the city that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, so let’s suggest Stars and Banners.  If St. Louis gave up on Blues, this could be a good reference to the blue crab–a regional delicacy.  Since the NFL’s Colts remained in place, the clever Poe reference–Ravens–remains available.  As a final thought, we’ll trot out the trusty old Stallions.  Baltimore has a rich history of horseracing, and the Canadian Football League once had a team in Baltimore called the Stallions.  No joke.  They even won a Grey Cup.

_

_

_

NBA Poll #6: an expansion team in OKC

070403_clay_bennett

In the Sport Change Ideal NBA, the Supersonics never left Seattle.  Rather than attempt to steal a franchise from another city, Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett whines and pleads until David Stern allows an expansion team for Oklahoma City.  Some fans like Thunder, but Bennett must be careful.  Without any young stars on his team, they could flounder with a poor-quality nickname like that.  Entertaining the weather aficionados of OKC, he offers up Cyclones and Tornadoes as possible choices.  To fit with the Wild West imagery, Aces, Barons, and Mustangs are suggested.  One more alliterative nickname, the Owls, is thrown in for good measure.  What’s it gonna be?

_

_

_

NBA Poll #7: an expansion team in Pittsburgh

5989

To balance out the NBA conferences, David Stern also grants Pittsburgh, PA an expansion franchise.  Many nickname suggestions were dug out of the past.  The NBA once had a team in Pittsburgh called the Ironmen, the ABA had the Pittsburgh Condors, and the CBA had the Piranhas.  Presently speaking, the new ABA has a team called the Phantoms.  Stars is suggested as a reference to the iconic Pittsburgh symbol of the four point star.  Another suggestion, the Vipers, has teeth and cleverness.  The Pitt Vipers.  Let your voice be heard now!

_

_

HOCKEY TIME

_

_

NHL Poll #1: a new identity for the Islanders

79520qbne58r9i71zhuggbff0

It was recently announced that the New York Islanders would be relocating from Long Island to Brooklyn in a few years.  This came as good news, since the Islanders are unable to sell any tickets in their current locale.  However, much to the chagrin of Sport Change–it was announced that the complete New York Islanders nickname would continue to exist.  I’m all for preserving history (however minimal) but this is like the Colorado Rockies moving to Nebraska and keeping their nickname.  Islanders was a specific reference to Long Island, and their logo even has a rendering of the island.  Moving to Brooklyn is a terrific chance to keep the team alive, but it’s something even more rare: the chance to be the ideal Big Four brand.  So…the Islanders need a new nickname.  The ‘New York’ place name can remain in place, or it can be Brooklyn.  Both are acceptable.  To rhyme with the Jets, Mets, and Nets; I humbly suggest Vets–which can be used as a reference to both war veterans and animal doctors.  (half kidding)  A legitimate name, Knights, would work nicely here.  If the New York-Penn League’s baseballers changed their name, Cyclones would be nice as an allusion to the famous Coney Island roller coaster.  Monarchs has a nice air of authority to it, and would be a counter to the L.A. Kings.  Cockiness can be taken to a whole new level with Legends.  To top it off, Arrows and Comets would work well, and how about an outlier–Griffins.  What do you think?

_

_

_

NHL Poll #2: There’s an NHL team in Kansas City

hyhk1nf6yl2e5aflm7sxagthl

In the Sport Change Ideal NHL, there is an NHL team in Kansas City, Missouri–either via expansion or relocation.  The NHL once had a team in Kansas City called the Scouts, so would that be a logical name choice?  A defibrillation?  Monarchs is a nice authoritative name that references the old Negro League Kansas City club.  But would that be a misuse of history?  Kansas City Cyclones has a nice ring to it, and that region is certainly famous for twisters.  The television graphic that gives a tail of light to the hockey puck looks like a comet, so how about Comets?  Let’s throw an animal in there, too.  Cobras, it is.

_

_

_

NHL Poll #3: There’s an NHL team in Saskatchewan.

582px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Saskatchewan.svg

Let’s finish this off with another from the Ideal NHL.  In the Sport Change world, the province of Saskatchewan has a new NHL franchise located in either Saskatoon or Regina.  It seems like a long shot, and probably is, but there’s more of a chance than you might think.  All will be explained in that upcoming post.  For now, we need a name.  The place name will be Saskatchewan; to represent the entirety of the province much in the same as the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.  Saskatchewan is known for agriculture and wildlife.  I’ll throw in Ranchers for the ag side of things.  Animals are interesting here.  The Saskatchewan coat of arms features a whitetail deer and beaver, among other animals.  Both are fair game.  We’ll also throw in Huskies and Bobcats, which seem to fit the region somewhat.  Let’s mix in two generic names that work for hockey–Arrows and Comets.  What would be the best fit for our neighbors to the north?

_

_

_

And that, my friends, concludes the Sport Change two-part mega-poll.  If you haven’t voted Part 1 yet, here’s the link.  Thank you for participating, and stay alert for more great upcoming posts.

SPORT CHANGE

Which North American markets are second tier?

Tampa-3

My city is second tier, baby.

In the last Sport Change post, we revealed the rankings for the first tier of sports markets in North America–the top 30.  Now we’re taking a good look at the second tier–the next 30.  The second tier is perhaps more interesting as it reveals the general lack of viable unused pro sports markets.   The original plan was to rank the top 100 split into three tiers, but the dregs were hit just trying to fill out the top 60.

For information on what defines a sports market and our criteria for selection, please read the introduction in our previous post.

_

Let’s get right into it::

31. Indianapolis.  Indy just barely missed the first tier, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to think of this market as a secondary option for pro sports.  Let’s think of them as a C+ market–just about as good as a B-.  The Colts have a promising team and a sparkly new stadium, though attendance is middling.  The Pacers have trouble filling seats as well.  That said, I think Indy is a viable pro sports market.  If not, there is always the Hoosiers.

32. Montreal.  Ignore the Expos debacle for a moment and consider this: the NHL’s Canadiens are probably the most historic, supported, and successful hockey team on Earth.  I doubt any other Big Four league will come knocking, but there’s an outside chance at a second NHL team.

124

The Canadiens are synonymous with pro hockey. Just ignore that whole baseball thing.

33. Tampa Bay.  The Tampa/St. Petersburg area boasts three teams in the Big Four.  So why is it a second tier team?  For starters, the Rays and the Buccaneers are unable to fill seats despite having exciting teams.  Within a few years, it’s likely that one or the other will have relocated.  The NHL’s Lightning do better, but was putting a pro hockey team in Florida a good idea in the first place?

34. Portland.  The Trailblazers are the lone rep on the pro circuit, but they are a simply outstanding smaller market franchise that (as of this writing) draws 4th best of all NBA teams.  It remains to be seen if the state of Oregon can support another pro team, but the Oregon Ducks football team is also a powerhouse–both on the gridiron and in the ticket booth.

35. Utah.  Salt Lake City is similar to Portland in that the city only supports an NBA team in the Big Four.  The Jazz draw surprisingly well–just a shade below the Blazers.  In other athletics, the AAA minor league baseball Salt Lake Bees fill seats.  Brigham Young’s basketball and football teams also enjoy success.  That said, I think the Jazz will remain the lone Big Four rep indefinitely.

e04ylwkfdofkr2ctlerjov26s

The Spurs have earned their keep, but Texas is a bit crowded.

36. San Antonio.  San Antonio is a very large city that is often brought up in relocation/expansion talks for MLB and the NFL, despite Texas having a good foothold in pro sports.  The NBA makes it work with three successful Texan franchises, but I’m unsure about baseball or football.  Both sports are popular in Texas, but the Cowboys have a wide-reaching influence and the Astros make it clear that a team in a large Texan city can struggle.

37. Oklahoma.  The newish Thunder were extremely fortunate to begin their run in the NBA with such young talent.  We’ll see how it plays out over time.  Oklahoma is well represented on the amateur levels by the AAA RedHawks in baseball, and the Sooners and Cowboys in college athletics–particularly football.

38. Vancouver.  The Grizzlies idea took a faceplant, but the Canucks hold steady in the NHL.  Vancouver is a decent-sized city that has an appetite for sports.  The B.C. Lions are a top draw in the Canadian Football League.

mo4s55icd2yfae5f644c

Vancouver is a fixture in the NHL, but I don’t think they’ll be in any other Big Four league after the Grizzlies debacle.

39. Columbus.  Ohio’s largest city gets ranked this high mainly due to the presence of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  The NHL’s Blue Jacket experiment hasn’t panned out very well, so Columbus will need to work hard to hold on to it’s only Big Four team.

40. San Jose.  Against all odds, the Sharks have been a staple in Californian hockey for over twenty years.  There has been talk of the Golden State Warriors relocating to San Jose, which would be essentially unnoticeable in the bigger picture of sports.  They wouldn’t even have to change their name.

41. Calgary.  The Flames are a successful NHL franchise, but that will remain the lone Big Four representative.  That’s fine–there’s the CFL’s Stampeders.

1487

Calgary stamps on the competition.

42. Jacksonville.  It may be Florida’s largest city, but I’m not so sure the J-Ville is much of a sports town.  Shad Khan is trying to breathe new life into the Jaguars, and hometown hero Tim Tebow seems likely to return.  We’ll give that some time and see how it pans out.

43. Orlando.  Despite the relative support for the Magic, I do not consider Orlando to be viable or acceptable pro sports market.  Too much about the city is contrived and newfangled.  I expect the Magic to wear off as the team plummets further into mediocrity.

44. Sacramento.  The Kings are at the forefront of every whisper about NBA relocation.  They are likely to move–probably to Seattle.  Mayor (and former Phoenix Sun) Kevin Johnson has been trying to lure the Oakland A’s to Sac-town, but for the foreseeable future the biggest ballclub in town will remain the AAA Rivercats.  At least they’re one of the top draws in the minors!

 

zqifh03wxc54qk5ecexgk9ayg

More like the kings of a group of cities that have no business hosting a pro sports team.

45. New Jersey.  For the record, this doesn’t include the Meadowlands.  The lone representative in the Big Four is the New Jersey Devils of Newark.  Jersey is still stinging from the Nets’ departure, but the state as a whole enjoys a good measure of success in minor league and collegiate sports.

46. Ottawa.  The Senators are fairly respectable, but there is a marked lack of a CFL team–at least for now.  As such, Canada’s capital is our fifth ranked Canadian market.

47. Edmonton.  The Oilers have shown a remarkable ability to maintain a presence in Edmonton despite many obstacles over the years.  The CFL’s Eskimos round out the market.

 

91

The Oilers keep it greasy in the NHL.

48. Winnipeg.  The Jets happily returned to Manitoba recently–hopefully ticket sales will pick within a few years.  The Winnipeg Goldeyes, an independent pro baseball team in the American Association, do very well.

49. Kentucky.  The last section of our list features teams that do not currently have even one team in the Big Four.  This is where things get interesting.  The state of Kentucky doesn’t have much precedent for pro sports, but the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels come to mind.  On the collegiate level, UK and Louisville dominate fan interest in basketball.  The schools both have successful football programs as well.  In Minor League Baseball, the Louisville Bats are typically the 2nd biggest draw in all the minors, and the Lexington Legends rank around 25 out of about 150.  Louisville is a sizable city with more denizens than dozens of cities in the Big Four.  Even Lexington has more people than Cincinnati, Buffalo, or Orlando.  The Bluegrass State should not be overlooked in discussions of pro sports relocation or expansion.

images

I’m Kentucky. Hear me roar.

50. Alabama. The Crimson Tide and Auburn are two of the top draws in college football.  There is peripheral interest in basketball and baseball as well–but if Alabama could support a pro team it would have to in the NFL.  The question is whether or not Alabamans would split allegiance between Saturday and Sunday.

51. Virginia.  It may be a little broad to use the whole state of Virginia as a market.  The Virginia Beach/Norfolk area in particular hosts millions of people and is sports-crazy.  Richmond is also worth mentioning.

52. Nebraska.  Omaha, specifically, is a large enough city to support a pro team–at least in theory.  The Lincoln-based Cornhuskers dominate the state’s sports attention at present, but I could see a pro team in some league sticking in Nebraska.

53. Iowa.  This is a long shot for pro sports, but Iowa’s dedication to baseball, football, and basketball is undeniable.  The Iowa Cubs are a very popular MiLB team, and the Hawkeyes draw fans to the gridiron and the court.

rdoax3kaeh3lhz6t360f

The Hawkeyes are popular, but would a pro team fly?

54. Las Vegas.  This is the city that is always brought up in any talk about expansion or relocation.  The main reason is that Las Vegas is the largest metro area in the US without a team in the Big Four.  Here’s the problem: Vegas is not a major sports city.  They can barely support a minor league baseball team.  The best they can muster for football is the UFL’s Locomotives.  The UNLV Rebels do well, so if any league goes to Vegas I’d say the NBA has the best shot.

55. Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are wildly popular in college football and basketball.  I’m not so sure that the state could support a pro team, but it’s worth mentioning.

56. Hamilton.  Hamilton, Ontario is a large city in a very densely populated area on Lake Ontario’s west coast.  The city currently hosts the CFL’s Tiger-Cats and the AHL’s Bulldogs, among other teams.  Hamilton is possibly the best candidate for relocation or expansion in the NHL.

57. Quebec City.  Quebec is presumably still hurting from the NHL’s Nordiques leaving for greener pasture in Colorado nearly twenty years ago.  I could see the league returning at some point–but the language barrier remains an obstacle.

270

The Nordiques fled Quebec City for Denver nearly twenty years ago. Will the weird N thing return?

58. Saskatchewan.  The two largest cities in the province are Saskatoon and Regina–fairly close to each other.  Saskatchewan has hosted the CFL’s Roughriders for many decades, and has an outside chance at a future NHL team.

59. Connecticut/Rhode Island.  They’re pretty much the same state, so I lumped them into one.  College basketball jumps to mind, with Uconn, Providence, and Rhode Island U leading the charge.  Providence and Hartford are fairly large cities with a short history in the Big Four.  Notably, the Hartford Whalers used to call the NHL home and the Providence Steam Roller (or Rollers) had incarnations in the NFL and NBA.  Minor League Baseball teams in both states are quite successful as well.  Occasionally there’s talk of a pro ball team in Hartford, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

60. New Mexico.  We’ll round out the second tier with an underdog that has yet to sniff the pro leagues.  Albuquerque, New Mexico is the 32nd largest metro area in the US, and is larger than about half of the markets in the Big Four.  The AAA baseball Albuquerque Isotopes (named after a Simpsons episode) draw in the top ten of all ~150 minor league clubs.  The New Mexico Lobos are a very popular college basketball team.  We’ll call New Mexico the the distant wildcard in Big Four discussions.

ghyb25tvzhogmpe3beytq4wtg

I’ll show you second tier.

So there is the second tier.  You can see how the list gets thin at around 50 and then the wildcards come out of left field.  We’ll be referencing this study in several future posts, including our upcoming Ideal Leagues series.  The Ideal Leagues are an in depth exploration of what the Big Four pro sports leagues would look like if Sport Change ruled the world.  Stay posted.  Thanks for reading.

SPORT CHANGE