The NHL’s Best Team Names

In John van der Woude
Sep 15th, 2016

teamnames-636With all the discussion revolving around the Las Vegas Desert Sand Black White We’re-Not-The-London Knights, we thought it would be a good idea to rank all the team names in the NHL. Is this an exercise in visual design? No, so while it’s a bit outside of what we normally talk about, this is definitely still an exercise in branding, so it’s definitely still in our wheelhouse.

And as we’re finding out, a bad name can kill a branding effort from the very beginning, so it’s an integral part of the brand process. Can a badly-named team still have an amazing visual brand? Sure. And a well-named team can have an awful visual brand. But both the name and the visuals are part of the brand as a whole, so it’s still affected by those components. And considering this is the first NHL team to be named during the era of social media, most people will probably dislike whatever they come up with.

What’s the criteria? Glad you asked, because we’re taking this very seriously.

  • Creativity
  • Hockey-Related
  • Tongue-Feel
  • Does it Make Your Mouth do Ugly Things?

So, in HbD tradition, let’s count them down from worst to first.


30. Wild

One of only three teams in the league that don’t end with an ‘s’, Wild sounded stupid when it was announced in the ’90s, and it still does. While the esoteric nature is a plus, “eye-uld” isn’t the easiest syllable to say. Is Minnesota that wild of a state? Depends on your definitely of wild. Wilderness? Maybe. Wild parties. Probably not.


29. Ducks

Naming your hockey team after a corporate-schlocking bad kid’s movie and then slightly altering the name after a tame, feeble fowl that avoids winter by flying south and has nothing to do with hockey? Yeeeeaaahhhhh.


28. Senators

I know the history of the name, but you’re still naming your teams after a bunch of (mostly) old white guys who seem to have the combined charisma of an unsalted pretzel. Don’t believe me? Here’s a Google Image search for “Senator”. Ooof.


27. Predators

A Predator is not an actual animal. Human predators are just creepy and weird. Animal predators are bullies, picking on things much smaller than them. And alien predators are just ugly motherfuckers. There’s nothing redemptive here.


26. Hurricanes

“We’re a unstoppable and uncontrollable force of mayhem and destruction causing horrific devastation and tragedy everywhere we go that shifts direction depending on which way the wind is blowing!”


25. Blues

From the song, “St Louis Blues”:

Oh, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I said ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
If my blues don’t get you, my jazzing must.

No, that’s not depressing at all.

Got the Saint Louis Blues, just as blue as I can be.

I’m not crying. I swear.


24. Stars

“Bill, we want our team to be considered the stars of the league! What should we name them?”
“Um, Stars?”
Zero points for originality here. Now, if they would have added something interesting to it, like “North” or something, that would be better.


23. Kings

“Bill, we want our team to be considered the kings of the league! What should we name them?”
“Um, Kings?”


22. Islanders

I guess there’s a strong connection to where they play? Otherwise, it’s not really an imposing or threatening moniker, unless you’re speaking of the inhabitants of an island home to time travel, death smoke and polar bears which can disappear at will…which they’re not.


21. Capitals

Like, letters? Well, you forgot to capitalize your logo. Oh, because DC is the capital on the US? Great, I love it when teams offer a geography lesson in their name. At least they weren’t given a completely racist name.




20. Oilers

I can’t support a team name that’s directly and purposefully connected to a non-renewable resource that’s threatening the planet, humanity, and an entire generation of potential hockey stars through mismanagement.


19. Devils

Not the biblical one (Satan played for Buffalo, after all), the Jersey Devil was once thought to be a mythological “kangaroo-like creature with the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail” (huh?), but now they’ve discovered there’s actually 8 of them.


18. Avalanche

As natural disasters go, this isn’t a bad choice, with the cold-and-snow angle being relevant to hockey. But it would be better served with some sharks thrown in there as well.


17. Sharks

Speaking of sharks, sure, they’re scary and threatening and all, but it still reeks of pre-pubescent-8-year-old-boy-thinks-its-really-cool-ness. Plus, have you ever seen a shark on some ice? A lot less threatening.


16. Panthers

Speaking of pre-pubescent-8-year-old-boy-thinks-its-cool-ness, here come some big cats. I mean really, they’re just cats, right? So, like kittens. And really, how scary can little kitty-panthers be? Whoa! Okay, don’t hurt me, you can be above the Sharks!


15. Canucks

Canadian, but slang. It’s the Canadian version of the Yankees, but without anywhere close the amount of history or any sort of winning legacy. Oh, and it rhymes with ‘sucks’, among other things.


14. Jets

Fast planes are cool. Going fast is cool. Top Gun was a cool movie (well, kind of). But ‘Jets’ is nondescript enough to be attached to anything, including very uncool things like a Pokémon jet, Flintstone jets and the New York Jets.


13. Blue Jackets

Historical in context (ie – Civil War) and naming constructs (White Sox, etc), it has a lot of things going for it. But hockey players never wear jackets. They wear jerseys on the ice and suits off the ice. Or nothing at all. And if you call a blazer a jacket, you’re an uncouth fashion illiterate.


12. Lightning

This natural disaster kills more people in North America per year than avalanche and hurricanes. So as weather goes, this is your most threatening option. And it makes for striking photographs. Striking…get it?


11. Canadiens

Haha, a spelling error? That’s embaresing. Just kidding, we know it’s the French spelling of Canadian. But then, shouldn’t it be the MontrÉal Canadiens? What is this strange mixture of French and English? Plus, we know Montreal’s in Canada already. Seriously, what’s with all these geography and language lessons?




10. Flames

Esoteric but still physical in nature. Quality logo opportunities and intense/aggressive by nature. It’s a good name, but you remove one single letter, and you get the Lames. Or the Flams – and they’ve been no-showing for years now!


9. Sabres

Bonus points for using an alternate name for something common. The Swords? NO. The Sabres. Additional bonus points for not doing that exact thing with buffalo, like the Buffalo Bisons (read: Buffalo Buffalos), which is just so stupid. I’m looking at you The Angels Angels of Anaheim.


8. Coyotes

A pack of ragtags that are always believed to be roving and on the move, but they never really seem to go very far from where most people don’t want them to be. Sounds about perfect.


7. Maple Leafs

An object that flourishes with growth and optimism every summer, and then is dead by November. Enter 1967 joke here. I almost did, I swear. At least the name’s unique – the only team named after flora since the Kenora Thistles.


6. Penguins

Wow, how did this flightless bird get so high? Creatures that live on ice and snow and must band together as a team to survive the long and harsh winter season? Now read what I just wrote in Morgan Freeman’s voice. It was a struggle not to place them first.


5. Rangers

A name that spans time, sports and leagues, from the Glasgow Rangers (founded 1872) of the Scottish Elite League, to the Texas Rangers (1972) of MLB, to the Kitchener Rangers (1963) of the OHL. And when a bunch of Rangers band together, who knows what greatness could happen.


4. Bruins

An old folk name for a brown bear, which makes a potentially boring name much more unique and interesting. It’s actually the Dutch word for “brown”, which makes the name either more ridiculous or more amazing, depending on your tastes.


3. Flyers

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yeah, sure, could be either. Or maybe Buzz Lightyear, coming to save the day. Or even Abraham Lincoln riding an eagle. Doesn’t matter, it’s all awesome.


2. Red Wings

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yeah, sure, could be either. Or maybe Buzz Lightyear, coming to save the day. Or even Abraham Lincoln riding an eagle. But this time, they’re all coated red with the blood of their enemies. Even more awesome.


1. Blackhawks

The pinnacle of team names in the NHL. It feels historic, contemporary, elegant and aggressive all at the same time. No wonder Las Vegas was trying to poach it. It also makes for super easy headlines when they lose.


Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook! And don’t forget, we’re now on Instagram too.


22 Responses to “The NHL’s Best Team Names”

  1. SE says:

    Article starts by stating that the Wild are “one off [sic] only two teams in the league that don’t end with an ‘s’” — setting aside the grammatical error, ever heard of the Lightning *and* the Avalanche?

    • JVDW says:

      Serves me right for posting late last night. It’s been changed.

      • Bobby says:

        Yeah I disagree with a lot of this list. This is all obviously all subjective, but I’ll just stick to my teams name, the Islanders. How is it so low on the list? It is one o few pro sports team names that zones in exactly on an area. The Islanders, from Long Island, New York. I think it’s a great name even if it closes their market being that it is so specific to a region. Team names don’t have to be threatening, we aren’t all children, forever.

    • Paul Falcon says:

      It said one of only THREE- not two like you said-teams that don’t end in S. Pay attention.

  2. D says:

    #13 – Blue Jackets. Hockey players wear Sweaters, not Jerseys. If you are going to make a list about any sport, please know a little bit about it…

  3. Phil K says:

    Glasgow Rangers are no longer in business

  4. Matt Hunter says:

    Just as you did with the logo rankings, you establish criteria and then proceed to not follow them. You admit that you don’t know what “Flyers” means and rank them third?!? Does that equate to creativity in your minds? Hey Vegas, I got an idea for a name for your club, the Las Vegas Things. It’ll atleast get you toward the top of this list!

  5. John Dillon says:

    I would argue that Devils deserves to be ranked higher. When an organization adopts a name with a local history, and it works well, you should give bonus points. Not only did the team allow fans to vote for the name, but they also used the name with the most votes. The Avalanche are an example that that doesn’t always happen. As an added bonus, which was noted by the original owner John McMullen when the winning name was announced, a literal definition is: a person of notable energy, recklessness, and dashing spirit. Sounds like a credo that every team would like to be built upon.

  6. Eric says:

    Not really sure how Red Wings and Flyers made it so high on this list considering no one knows what they are. And also, Blackhawks? I know the’re iconic but if you’re bashing the Washington Redskins try a Google search of “what is a blackhawk” and this is what you get…….0…1c.1.64.serp..0.10.709…0i131k1.tDFzyaHOozQ
    I thought using natives as logos was a bad thing…

    • JVDW says:

      I think you’ve taken this whole article a bit too seriously. I know we don’t do comedy that often here at HbD, but this whole thing was meant to be cheeky.

      On a serious note, the thing Blackhawks have going for them is that they were named after a army regiment, which were named after an actual person (Black Hawk), which is what Google brings up. That’s much more reverential than a generic all-encompassing name for an ethnicity, like Redskins or Indians. But, I still consider their logo problematic.

      • Chris Barbieri says:

        I find it funny how some are all butt hurt about the Blackhawks logo when it is often regarded as one of the best looking and iconic uniforms in all of pro sports. It’s one of my favorites, and I’m a die hard Red Wings fan.

        Seriously, if someone slapped my ugly mug from when I was 8 years old and constantly being bullied on a jersey, and have it be as equally well received then I’d say have it. They can even emphasize the freckles that I had back then, and hated so much,

        If there’s any logo that should be deemed offensive, and banned forever, it’s the New England Patriots original New England Patriots logo. I mean, it would’ve been more believeable if they had replaced the football he was leaning on with a bar of soap, and some burly guy named Brutus standing behind him.

        And just another question, would you have ranked the Senators higher on your list if you associated their name with a bunch of young black men and minority women instead of “old white guys”?

  7. Chris Barbieri says:

    You say that one of the parameters for a good team name is “hockey related”, and yet I cannot think of one team in the NHL that has a hockey related name. You probably should’ve replaced that with region related because then team names such as the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars would make more sense.

    In the typical annoying PC fashion, you criticize the the Oilers name for being insensitive to the environment, but fail to acknowledge that the people who made Edmonton the city that it is were blue collar working stiffs working in the gas and oil industry, not waspy “trustafarian” tree huggers looking for some “hip” place to spend all of their parents’ money living the starving artist, bohemian hipster lifestyle.

    As for branding and marketing, the Dallas Stars are a prime example of what every team coming to a non traditional hockey market should do. Aside from Texas being the “lone star state”, the most popular team in the region, the Dallas Cowboys, have always been known for the star on their helmets, and when the Minnesota Northstars moved there in 1994, half of their work was already cut out for them as they already had the word Stars in their name, and had the gold and green star on their jerseys. Even as a kid growing up in Florida, it seemed like half the guys I knew liked the Dallas Stars before they had even won the Stanley Cup.

    • JVDW says:

      Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude. You’re taking all this a little too seriously. If you didn’t get the idea that it went satire/tongue-in-cheek, I can’t help you. Just chill.

  8. Paul Falcon says:

    It said one of only THREE- not two like you said-teams that don’t end in S. Pay attention.

  9. Paul Falcon says:

    The Blades would be a good name.The only negative being it is an object. People prefer names of people or animals. What do you think?

  10. Paul Falcon says:

    Great job compiling this list by the way. Funny and entertaining.It’s been 20 months since you posted it but i just came across it today.Thanks man.

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