The long-awaited mascot, logo and jersey designs finally have been unveiled for the new OHL team moving to Flint, Michigan, next season.
We are the Flint Firebirds! pic.twitter.com/gXvyUbZuOM
— Flint Firebirds (@FlintFirebirds) March 16, 2015
There you have it, the Plymouth Whalers are becoming the Flint Firebirds.
Team president Costa Papista had this to say about why the name “Firebirds” was chosen, according to MLive.com’s Aaron McMann:
“Flint is a community that has been built and sustained on the fierce resilience of its residents, and we see the Firebird as a symbol of that resilience.”
A number of other names were submitted by IMS Hockey, including “Flint Force,” “Flint Fury” and “Flint Pride,” but the name that generated the most discussion was “Flint Tropics.”
Based on the 2008 film “Semi-Pro” starring Will Ferrell, there were arguments for and against why the new club should embrace the fictitious ABA team from the movie.
However, team officials made the right move in not calling their team the “Flint Tropics.”
Flint Tropics Would Have Been a Laughingstock
To name a junior league team after a fictitious ABA team that was part of a comedy would have been doing a disservice to the community of Flint and Genesse County. It’s a punchline, and as a result, the team and community would have been a punchline as well.
Flint has been through a lot during the past 10-20 years with high crime rates and loss of manufacturing jobs. The last thing it needs is another reason for people to poke fun at it.
Obviously, a junior league team coming to the city doesn’t mean all of Flint’s problems will automatically vanish. But like Papista said, the theme of resiliency is something the community can connect with — more so than being linked to a movie that wasn’t even that great to begin with.
Team names also have to be able to stand the test of time. Much like the Pittsburgh Steelers or Detroit Red Wings, those team names mean something to their respective cities. Not to mention fans of these teams have a sense of pride. They are proud to be from the Steel City or proud to be from Motown, despite all of its past issues.
Would you be proud if your city named its team after a Will Ferrell movie? Will anyone even remember the reference 20 years from now? The hope is to be able to keep hockey in Flint for a very long time and naming a team for a punchline in a movie doesn’t translate well to long-term sustainability.
Not to mention the players themselves probably don’t want to be compared to a comedy. These players are attempting to make a career out of playing hockey, and you think they want to tell people they play for a team that got its name from a movie starring semi-professional basketball players?
I’m going to say no.
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Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.