Sports Names

Check out all our sports names posts.

Besides all the jargon of sports, many names of teams have unusual origins, and many terms in sports come from names.

Here are some examples to get started:

In the NHL, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks got their name from Disney CEO Michael Eisner who named the team after the hit Disney hockey movie The Mighty Ducks.

When Businessman Charles Adams wanted his new franchise to have brown and yellow team colors to match his stores as well and a name equated with strength and power, he ran a contest and the winning fan entry was the Boston Bruins.

The Buffalo team management held a contest and chose Sabres as fitting since team officials wanted a name not being used in the pros and something other than a buffalo/bison variation.

When the Flames were located in Atlanta, the name referenced the burning of the city in the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, management held a contest/vote, and the fans chose to keep the Flames name. The flame could now be considered a reference to Alberta's petroleum industry.

In the NFL, let's start with when George Halas moved the Decatur Staleys to Chicago in 1921. The Staleys played at Wrigley Field, the home of baseball’s Cubs. Halas determined that if the baseball tenants were Cubs, then his more rugged gridiron combatants should be known as the Bears.

Paul Brown chose Bengals as the team name for Cincinnati’s 1968 AFL expansion team because there had been earlier football teams in the city called the Bengals. The elder Bengals were members of the AFL in 1937, competed as an independent club in 1938, then played in a new AFL from 1939-41 before the league again folded.

The Buffalo Bills nickname refers to William F. Cody, who was known as “Buffalo Bill.” Buffalo had a football team called the Bisons, but the city’s minor league baseball and hockey teams also had the same name. The football team held a contest to select a new nickname following the 1946 season. More than 4,500 entries were submitted and Bills beat out Bullets, Nickels and Blue Devils.

The 1961 expansion version of the Washington Senators moved to Arlington, Texas, in 1972 and took on the nickname Texas Rangers. Their name refers to the famous Texas Ranger Division, the law enforcement agency that was created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823.

Moving to baseball, we can look to the aptly named Colorado Rockies who became a new franchise into Major League Baseball in 1993. The nickname "Rockies" is, of course, a reference to the Rocky Mountains which cover much of the western half of Colorado. The name Colorado Rockies had actually already been used by a National Hockey League team from 1976-1982. When that team relocated, they became the New Jersey Devils.

Minor league teams had been known as the Miami Marlins for several decades, referencing the marlin, a popular sport fish of the state. There were the Miami Marlins of the International League (1956-1960) and the Miami club of the Florida State League starting in 1963, who were known as the Miami Marlins during 1963-1970 and then again in 1982-1988.

When the major leagues expanded to the Miami area in 1993, the old nickname was revived, but called by the state name of Florida Marlins. Now that the Marlins are building a new stadium, the alliterative Miami Marlins will return once they move there.