Congratulations hockey fans, you’ve survived the month of August. Known notoriously as hockey’s “dead month”, the month of August isn’t anything short of depressing for hockey fans, since there’s really nothing going on in the NHL. But don’t worry, we at The Hockey Writers are here to lighten the mood for you once again as hockey season approaches, as we’ll look at one of the more comical sides of the hockey world – minor league team names.
Sure, some NHL teams of past and present have seen some pretty strange names over the years (the Mighty Ducks, the Golden Seals, and even the Philadelphia Quakers, for example), but when push comes to shove, you really can’t beat minor league hockey team names.
However, with such a large selection of team names, for sanity’s sake, we’ll be looking at the strangest team names just five teams at a time.
Here’s our first edition:
The Wheeling Nailers
Oh, how could we ever forget. As made famous by Paul Bissonnette’s Twitter profile, the Wheeling Nailers easily earn a spot on our list of all-time greats. Here’s a little history on the Wheeling Nailers:
Founded in 1981, the Wheeling Nailers were originally known as the Carolina Thunderbirds. With four straight regular-season titles, and three Bob Paine Trophies as Atlantic Coast Hockey League champions, the Thunderbirds were a force to be reckoned with on the ice. In 1987, the team moved on to the All-American Hockey League. After one season in the AAHL, the Thunderbirds, as well as two other teams, moved on to become the basis of the ECHL, where the Wheeling Nailers now play.
Following trademark issues with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 1996, the team opted to change their name to the Nailers, following a contest that was open to local fans. Why the Nailers? Well, the city of Wheeling, that which the Nailers call home, actually has a long history in the nail manufacturing business. No, we aren’t kidding.
There you have it, the origin of the Wheeling Nailers.
The Greenville Swamp Rabbits
I came across this one recently, and my jaw dropped. What the heck is a Swamp Rabbit, and who lost a bet that forced this team to change its name? But no, no bets were lost. This name is full of history.
The Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL opted to change their name this season, with the goal of “honoring a piece of Greenville’s history while also being relevant within the community today,” as stated by the team’s owner, Fred Festa, per CBS Sports.
Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what a Swamp Rabbit is. Aside from being an animal, the Swamp Rabbit, believe it or not, actually has historical ties with the city of Greenville. The Swamp Rabbit is actually a railroad that connects Greenville to coal fields in Tennessee. It was nicknamed the Swamp Rabbit by locals, who would use the railroad to travel to northern Greenville County, where they would picnic.
But, seeing as it would make absolutely no sense to anyone else to put a train on a jersey with the name “Swamp Rabbits” across the front, they decided to use the animal logo instead, in order to keep some logic in play here.
But hey, you have to admit, that carrott-hockey stick is pretty slick, eh?
The Orlando Solar Bears
How much can be said about the Orlando Solar Bears? The punny name just makes you feel warm inside, doesn’t it? Or does it make you feel cold? Or both? I don’t know. Either way, it’s a polar bear in the sun… in Orlando! How much better can it be?
The ECHL’s Solar Bears re-birthed the name of the original Solar Bears, who played in the International Hockey League from 1995-2001.
Their bizarre team colors pair up with their equally bizarre team name to create a pretty funky ice hockey team. But hey, I kind of dig it.
The Macon Whoopee
Described by my colleague Matt Pryor as “the Pride of Georgia” (sarcastically, of course), the Macon Whoopee certainly earned a spot on our list of the strangest hockey team names of all time. The defunct team originally played in the Central Hockey League from 1996-2001, but was also the name of an ECHL team that unsurprisingly only lasted one season.
Yes, the team name was a reference to a sexual slang, despite it’s mascot, the whooping crane. Inappropriate? Sure. But it makes for a pretty good laugh.
*Note: The original team, the Macon Whoopees (plural) were a part of the Southern Hockey League during the 1973-74 season.
The Fayettville FireAntz
There are so many things that can be said about the FireAntz, but let’s just start with a short list, shall we?
- Ants are small, not-so-scary creatures, who admittedly could become dangerous if attacked by 20,000 of them,but don’t generally strike fear into the hearts of people.
- Why do they spell “FireAntz with a Z? Is it a mistake, or was it some sort of lame and awful attempt to be more “hip.”
- What does a Fire Ant have to do with ice, ice hockey, or really anything for that matter?
Well, long story short, the FireAntz have bounced from league to league, but still exist in the Southern Professional Hockey League, otherwise known as the SPHL.
Live on, FireAntz, and please, stay on the ice, and away from our bodies. Thanks.
So, that does it for our first round of the strangest hockey team names of all time. Have a team name that you think should be on the list? Add it in the comments, or Tweet it at me @CamHasbrouck, and we can see if it’s worthy.
Our next five teams will be revealed shortly, so stay tuned!
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!