As a hockey Fan, do you ever wonder what team namess could have been for each of the 32 NHL franchises? For example, until the league’s newest franchise in Seattle unveiled their team name of ‘Kraken’, rumours were abound that the team would be called the Seattle Sockeye or the Seattle Raniers. (The team actually registered 13 different names). We thought that it would be fun to look at alternate NHL team names for each of the 32 franchises. (Full disclosure I have a background in Marketing so some of these potential nicknames may or may not have been a consideration for some of the franchises at one point or another).
Revisiting Alternate Nicknames for NHL Teams
There is no formal criteria (although we did poll some fans on social media) for these team monikers, but we wanted to come up with three alternate names for each NHL franchise. The history of NHL franchise names is varied. Some were a result of a fan contest, while others have more historical significance. Regardless, if you were going to spend $600M US on an NHL franchise, you would probably want to name it something that would register well with your fanbase.
Just for fun, here is a look at some alternative NHL team names that might just have been considered.
Of course, when the Ducks entered the NHL in their early nineties the team was associated with Disney and the Team name “Ducks” was a direct reference to the Mighty Ducks movie starring Emilio Estevez. Three alternate names for the Anaheim franchise:
- Anaheim Bulldogs – what’s mightier a Duck or a Bulldog?
- Anaheim Gladiators – think of the logo possibilities with this one.
- Anaheim Rockets – this one seems like a solid option.
As the story goes, after the original Winnipeg Jets moved to the desert, the ownership group of the Phoenix franchise had a name-the-team contest that attracted more than 10,000 votes. Coyotes was announced as the winner on April 8, 1996, finishing ahead of the second-place Scorpions. Desert Dogs comes to mind, but there are some great options for the Arizona Coyotes.
- Arizona Roadrunners – inspired by the WHA Phoenix Roadrunners. This one is an obvious choice.
- Arizona Rattlers – named after the diamondback rattle snake of the region.
- Arizona Scorpions – Maybe it is not hockey related, but it is modern and cool. You could develop some pretty cool logos for this one. As mentioned, this one was the second most popular choice based on fan votes.
It is always hard for an original six franchise to implement change especially when it comes to history and branding of the team. It’s no wonder why the NHL’s original six teams haven’t strayed from their original colors, logos and uniforms.
- Boston Ice Sox – we already have the Red Sox in baseball so why not the Ice Sox in hockey?
- Boston Whalers – too close to the defunct Hartford Whalers? Nah this could totally work.
- Boston Blades – with the double “B” you have a nice alliteration and reference to skate blades, so this is a definite option if the Bruins were ever to rebrand.
Sabres is already a pretty decent nickname.
- Buffalo Bisons – this one is a little too obvious and more importantly a little too redundant. It should be noted that the Buffalo Bisons were an actual team that existed in the International Hockey League from 1928 until 1936.
- Buffalo Blizzard – this sounds pretty cool (literally) does it not? The Blizzard was actually the name of Buffalo’s NPSL soccer team from 1992 through to 2001.
- Buffalo Blazers – this nickname has used before in Buffalo, but it does have a good ring to it.
Lots of options for Alberta’s southernmost team. Calgary Chinooks? Kidding, of course a lot of the options would revolve around the wild west and the cowboy-like atmosphere of the city.
- Calgary Cowboys – an obvious choice here as Stampeders is already taken by the city’s CFL franchise.
- Calgary Wranglers – well if Cowboys doesn’t work, how about Wranglers?
- Calgary Broncos – another nickname that pays homage to the “Stampede” heritage of the city. Although there are a few other teams named Bronco in next-door province of Saskatchewan with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League and the Humboldt Broncos junior “A” team of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
After the Team moved from Hartford, owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. chose the new nickname of Hurricanes for the Carolina based team.
- Carolina Archers – I could see a cool logo consisting of a bow and arrow shooting hockey pucks or hockey sticks at a target.
- Carolina Checkers – would also be a great option, although it is currently the name of American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers.
- Carolina Mudcats – a name used by a few baseball teams in the state. It could work for a hockey team as well.
Even amongst some slight controversy, it would be hard to improve on the existing ‘Blackhawks’ name, color scheme and logo. Especially when we had ranked the Chicago Blackhawks jersey at number four on our original list of Top 50 NHL Jerseys of All-Time. However, there are a few interesting options if the Chicago Blackhawks were looking to rebrand.
- Chicago Ice Hawks – sounds cool doesn’t it? Adding “ice” to any nickname automatically speaks to the sport of hockey.
- Chicago Hitmen – referencing the many famous crime families that made Chicago their home. Think of all of the potential pin-stripe uniform ideas you could have.
- Chicago Cougars – Another WHA inspiration as the Chicago Cougars were a franchise in the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1975.
According to the Denver Post, after the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado in 1995, they were unable to use their previous Colorado Rockies names so the owners were actually considering “Rocky mountain Extreme” as the new team name. Frankly Avalanche seems more badass.
- Colorado Rockies – ahh the original. Well now that MLB’s Colorado franchise is using this moniker, this option is probably a no go.
- Colorado Mountaineers – some great possibilities with the logo for this one.
- Colorado Eagles – another AHL inspired nickname as the Colorado Eagles play in the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Another contest-based selection. Blue Jackets was the winning selection based on 14,000 entries which included Blue Coats and Justice as other options.
- Columbus Buckeyes – a pretty obvious choice here as “Buckeye” is the nickname for residents of the state of Ohio.
- Columbus Stingers – paying homage to the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA.
- Columbus Barons – well if we are going to pay homage to the Cincinnati Stingers, we have to pay homage to the old NHL Cleveland Barons don’t we?
Guess it didn’t make sense to go form the Minnesota North Stars to the Dallas South Stars eh? Regardless, there is no shortage of appropriate nicknames for a Dallas NHL franchise.
- Dallas Oil Barons – ok maybe if the Edmonton Oilers had moved to Dallas in the late-nineties this would have been the team nickname. In today’s day and age, fossil fuels are a bit frowned upon so this one might not be the best…
- Dallas Ice Renegades – borrowing from the XFL’s Dallas/Arlington Renegades, the “Ice Renegades” sounds mean, but would “Ice Renegades” be taken serious by the League?
- Dallas Outlaws – a very obvious, but potentially overlooked choice. Outlaw is a great nickname especially if your team is big and mean with some swagger.
Detroit Red Wings
Let’s go with the obvious here shall we?
- Detroit Cougars – original name of Detroit’s NHL franchise that existed from 1926-1930.
- Detroit Falcons – this was actually the second name of the franchise from 1930-1932 where they then became the Detroit Red Wings.
- Detroit Vipers – from 1994 until 2001, the Detroit Vipers roamed the ice of IHL arenas. In 1997-98, the Vipers signed a 69 year old Gordie Howe who suited up and played one shift for the team after signing a one-day contract. This allowed Howe to play professional hockey in six (yes six) consecutive decades.
The Oilers name has been around from their inception in 1972 when the team was known as the Alberta Oilers and was supposed to split games in the WHA between Edmonton and Calgary. So Oilers has been there since the beginning. Oil Kings would have been another option (that nickname is currently being used by Edmonton’s WHL franchise). Other potential names for the NHL’s most northern team include:
- Edmonton Drillers – yes we know that the old Edmonton pro soccer team was known as the Drillers. It keeps with the theme of the Oil-rich province. Replace the soccer ball with a hockey puck in the logo and viola.
- Edmonton X-Treme – too extreme? Probably a little too out there for an NHL franchise. Roller Hockey maybe, but not sure if it would fly with the traditionalists.
- Edmonton Blizzard – being the NHL’s most northern team “Blizzard” just sounds right doesn’t it?
Original owner Wayne Huizenga chose Panthers as the name for his expansion team based on the big cat being Florida’s state animal. Florida teams have seen their fair share of cool nickanames for Florida-based franchises over the years (see: Miami Screaming Eagles). If the Panthers were ever to rebrands, how about:
- Florida Everglades – we could see some great logos for this one.
- Florida Solar Bears (see Orlando Solar Bears) – one of the greatest nicknames in all of sports.
- Miami Screaming Eagles – this one is just too good to pass up. The Screaming Eagles were members of the World Hockey Association, but never played a game in Miami due to the only available arena being unfit for use.
Los Angeles Kings
In 1967, the Los Angeles Kings entered the NHL as one of the original NHL expansion franchises. It’s believed that one of the nicknames suggested was Los Angeles Sharks which would be used as the team name of the WHA franchise in the early to mid-seventies. If the Los Angeles Kings were to rebrand today, how about any of the following options?
- Los Angeles Aces – was almost the name of LA’s WHA team in 1972.
- Los Angeles Angels – ok so there is a baseball team in the areas already named the Angels.
- Los Angeles Lions – MGM might sue, but Los Angeles Lions actually has a pretty good ring to it. There are some many options with a Lion logo that the marketing team could work with.
When Minnesota moved the Team to Dallas in the nineties, the NHL lost one of the great nicknames of all-time as the North Stars just became the Stars in Texas. It stands to reason that if the Wild were to change their name, North Stars would definitely have to be on the list.
- Minnesota North Stars – love that the Minnesota Wild reverse retro jerseys for 2022/23 pay tribute to the Minnesota North Stars.
- Minnesota Fighting Saints – The WHA franchise had it right. The Minnesota Fighting Saints were one of the WHA’s original twelve franchises, playing from 1972 to 1976. One of the greatest names and logos hockey has ever seen.
- Minnesota Lakers – or potentially Lake Monsters of which there are already some cool logos out there.
You don’t really mess with hockey’s holiest of holy franchises. Yet for the sake of this exercise there are actually some pretty cool options for a new moniker for Montreal.
- Montreal Citadels – sounds like the Holy Grail doesn’t it?
- Montreal Wanderers (throwback to an original NHL franchise). The original Montreal Wanderers franchise challenged the Ottawa Hocket Club for the Stanley Cup in 1904.
- Montreal Maroons – Another throwback as the Montreal Maroons joined the NHL in 1924, along with the Boston Bruins. The Maroons franchise existed from 1924-1938.
Ok so ‘Predators” is already a pretty cool team nickname for Nashville’s NHL team. Hard to improve on Predators, but here are some other team names that should have been considered:
- Nashville Bandits
- Nashville Titans – more of a football team moniker? Nah it works well for hockey as well.
- Nashville Tennesseans – a pretty obviously choice that is maybe a little too obvious.
New Jersey Devils
With the Devils being originally located in Colorado and prior to that Kansas City, there is no shortage of nicknames to choose from. Devils makes sense for so many reasons that are specific to the sate of New Jersey, but there are some other options that would make for good consideration.
- New Jersey Knights – guess with Vegas using the Golden Knight the New Jersey Knights might not work. Sounds good though.
- New Jersey Generals – wasn’t this used by the old USFL team out of Jersey?
- New Jersey River Rats – ok so this one was borrowed from the Albany River Rats which existed as an AHL franchise from 1993 until 2010 and was the farm team for the Devils from 1993-2006.
New York Islanders
Ok the folks on Long Island have a long history of fisherman references, let’s see if that factors into our list for the New York Islanders.
- New York Admirals – The Milwaukee Admirals have a great logo for their hockey team. Why couldn’t a New York version do the same? Cool nickname representative of the Long Island history.
- New York Mariners – Mariners just has a great ring to it.
- New York Crunch – inspired by the Syracuse Crunch, we’re thinking a Captain Crunch type logo for this one.
New York Rangers
The Rangers predecessor was nicknamed the New York Americans which is a pretty solid name in itself. Tons of great options here, but the three that we like best are:
- New York Blizzard – could work right?
- New York Raiders – again the WHA was full of marketing mavens. Good nickname with the New York Raiders.
- New York Americans – just rolls off the tongues doesn’t it?
Ottawa hockey teams have a history of great names, so these options might be a little obvious.
- Ottawa 67s – a great name that is used by the Ottawa 67’s Major Junior hockey team, who have played in the Ontario Hockey League from 1967 to 2023.
- Ottawa Nationals – the Nationals played in the World Hockey Association during the inaugural 1972-73 season.
- Ottawa Rough Riders – ok so this name comes from the former Canadian Football League team. Jokes were made about how the CFL had nine teams and two of them were named Rough Riders with Saskatchewan being the other. We look at it being such a cool nickname that was so popular that two teams decided to use it I the same league.
The Flyers were another original expansion team that joined the National Hockey League in 1967. Some great options include:
- Philadelphia Quakers – the Quakers were actually an NHL franchise that played a single season in 1930-31.
- Philadelphia Ice Pirates – the original Pittsburgh Pirates hockey team actually became the Philadelphia Quakers in 1930-31. So adding “Ice” to the nickname gives it a more modern moniker.
- Philadelphia Blazers – is it us or do you think that the NHL should honor (and acknowledge) the WHA a bit more?
The Pens is an iconic nickname and logo, so again difficult to improve on the original, but here are some alternate names for the Pittsburgh NHL franchise.
- Pittsburgh Steel – an obvious one right?
- Pittsburgh Ice Hammers – adding “Ice” to any nickname makes it more palatable doesn’t it.
- Pittsburgh Rivermen – this one might not fly as ‘River People’ might be more politically correct?
St. Louis Blues
The “Blues” just seems so fitting for their hockey team does it not? The Blues were named after a song by original owner Sid Soloman Jr. Here are some alternate options for the St. Louis Blues NHL franchise name.
- St. Louis Saints
- St. Louis Mercury – apparently this was another option when the team originated and joined the NHL in 1967. This is in reference to the space-related vehicle that was built in St. Louis back in the day.
- St. Louis Blades – this one references a potential move to Saskatoon when Bill Hunter was trying to purchase the Blues and moved them to Saskatoon. Saskatoon, of course, is home to the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League.
San Jose Sharks
When it was announced that the Sharks were joining the NHL we loved the nickname (and still do) and loved their color scheme which consisted of teal, white, grey, black and other variations. The Sharks logo was listed as number six as one of the coolest hockey logos of all-time. None-the-less here are some other potential nicknames for San Jose:
- San Jose Lions – maybe a little too boring?
- San Jose Warriors – uh wait what about the Golden State Warriors?
- San Jose Silver Blades – you have the Golden Knights in Las Veags, why not the Silve Blades in San Jose?
There was lots of speculation around what Seattle’s NHL franchise would be named. In fact we listed a few solid options in our post on Seattle NHL Team Name Options which included the likes of:
- Seattle Sockeye – this would have been a solid choice, but is a sockeye salmon mean enough for an NHL team?
- Seattle Totems – this was our favorite. Perhaps with some negotiations the team could have secured the rights to use the logo from the Seattle Thunderbirds which we rated as the coolest hockey logo of all-time.
- Seattle Emeralds – Seattle is known as the Emerald City and the color green was expected to be one of the core colours of the new uniforms and jerseys making this a very viable alternative option.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The ‘Lightning” is one of our favourite NHL team nicknames, but there were some other options.
- Tampa Gators – could be a cool logo right?
- Tampa Bay Ice Cats – well the only ice you might find in Tampa is in your drink, but again append “Ice” to any nickname and it just seems to work. Too close to Florida Panthers perhaps.
- Tampa Bay Pirates – Buccaneers is taken already.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Another storied NHL franchise that you just don’t want to mess with from a marketing perspective. However, if the Leafs were to rebrand, there are a couple of obvious choices:
- Toronto Marlies – although this it the team name of Toronto’s AHL team, it’s a pretty cool nickname. The Marlies are named after the former Toronto Marlboros, a junior hockey team that played in Toronto from 1904 to 1989.
- Toronto Toros – more WHA inspiration here as the Toronto Toros existed in the WHA from 1973 to 1976. Did you know that the last active Toronto Toros player to play in the NHL was Mark Napier?
- Toronto Falcons – this nickname has been used by various soccer teams in the Toronto area, but has a cool ring to it.
When the Canucks entered the NHL in 1970, people wondered why their original logo didn’t feature the character Johnny Canuck? Well their 2022-23 reverse retro jersey does in fact include Johnny Canuck… it only took 52 years to incorporate the obvious. Here are some alternate names for the Vancouver Canucks.
- Vancouver Millionaires – the original Vancouver Millionaires played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1911-1925. Did you know that the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915? True story. Look it up/
- Vancouver Lumber Kings – again easy to incorporate a Johnny Canuck logo here. Vancouver Totems would also be a cool moniker.
- Vancouver Ice Caps – you have the Vancouver Whitecaps in soccer why mot the Ice Caps for hockey?
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas is the NHL’s second youngest team and Golden Knights is a great nickname bur there were some other cool options available. Prior to the announcement of Golden Knights as the team name we had some thoughts on possible nicknames for the Vegas NHL franchise. Some of our favourite options include:
- Las Vegas Thunder – as taken from their former IHL franchise.
- Las Vegas Outlaw – great logo potential with this one.
- Las Vegas Aces – another pretty obvious one.
Capitals seems fitting, but here are some other considerations:
- Washington Patriots – would fit with the traditional red, white and blue color scheme.
- Washington Ice – simple, yet effective.
- Washington Racers – has a nice ring to it.
When the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg to become the Jets 2.0, there were some rumblings that the team was considering Falcons as their new nickname. Here are some alternate nicknames for the Winnipeg Jets NHL franchise.
- Winnipeg Ice – currently being used by Winnipeg’s WHL franchise
- Winnipeg Mustangs – Mustangs is just a cool team name period… in any sport.
- Winnipeg Monarchs – some major junior teams were dubbed the Monarchs in the province. Has a decent ring to it as well.
There you have it, alternate team nicknames for each of the thirty-two NHL franchise. For the most part, what we have in the League today seems to work, but if any of the franchises ever decided to rebrand, there are some viable options out there.
Ever wondered about the history of NHL nicknames? There was an article on NHL.com from 2016, that provided a little insight in how NHL franchises came up with their team names.