10 greatest team mascot names
The hockey team mascot is the pet of the ice house. Though not a requirement, it can bring enjoyable elements to the building. It is never the intended centerpiece, but no mascot owner should diminish its importance.
And not unlike the four-legged companions of a private household, most mascots settle for, well, pet names. A lack of creativity or human dignity reeks in most cases.
S.J. Sharkie? N.J. Devil? You have to wonder how quickly that brainstorm subsided.
Skates (of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves)? Was anyone worried attendees at the Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) would forget a basic fact about the game?
Of course, given this practice’s optional status, no one deserves scathing feedback for assigning such monikers. With that said, an absence of rebuke cannot translate to reward.
So instead of dwelling on the mundane mascot names that have come, gone and stayed, let us highlight the exceptional. It is somewhat telling that the following NHL, AHL, ECHL and SPHL arena pets are all active. In the ever-precarious minor leagues especially, a noteworthy hockey team mascot name partially reflects a team’s sustained marketability.
These names require a short origin story that imparts a little wisdom to youngsters and outsiders. Some even have sentimental value.
If a hockey team mascot is going to draw its name from hockey terminology, uniqueness is imperative. One way to improve one’s odds in that department is to be sure no one else is using the term. (The ECHL’s Colorado Eagles ignored that memo when they christened their character Slapshot. That’s the same name and the same species as his Washington Capitals counterpart.)
But the AHL’s Providence Bruins secured that critical distinctiveness with Samboni. At their inception, the Baby B’s took a 12-year-old fan’s advice and made a pun of the popular rink vehicle. All it took was a shortened version of Samuel, Samantha or Samson.
Another AHL mascot boasts another de-formalized human name. The Tucson Roadrunners rely on Dusty to give young fans the impression that the human skaters in the matching jerseys intend to leave the visitors in their metaphorical powder.
Spike, who animates a canine costume for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers, took a practically obligatory moniker. It completes the tic-tac-toe flow of a word-association play beginning with nails.
Wheeling’s conference rival, the Atlanta Gladiators, kept with the Roman motif by giving their lion the Latin-sounding name Maximus. That is at least a tad more original than the simple “Max” of the Manchester Monarchs and defunct Binghamton Senators. And back up north, the AHL’s Laval Rocket have Cosmo to spread the spacious thoughts.
10. Coco (Hershey Bears)
For everything the AHL’s longest-running franchise makes to appear easy, naming its mascot is not quite No. 1. But it is a tall order trying to find a dignified moniker that flows with the town’s chocolate lifeblood.
Coco certainly suffices under that criterion. It shows an effort that would have been absent if the “parents” had simply gone with, say, Hersh. In addition, plenty of people have answered to that handle.
9. Nitro (Indy Fuel)
In the implicit context of this team, Nitro is short for nitromethane. That is, a popular energy provider across town at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Fuel family thus takes an exceptional extra stride by giving its mascot a more specific name than the team name itself. And let’s be honest, if dragons existed and could function as pets, Nitro would not be a stretch among name options. It certainly stands out more than Sparky (cough, New York Islanders).
No past or present counterpart in the ECHL matches that combination of local and personal pride.
8-7. Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars) and Viktor E. Rat (Florida Panthers)
The Stars had no mascot until 2014, while Florida already had Stanley C. Panther. They happened to introduce their respective Victor/Viktor E.’s one month apart.
That sequence mirrored one of those many instances where multiple movies of a similar theme come out in clusters. Think Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998 or a host of penguin-oriented films circa 2006.
Come what may, both teams get credit for giving Victor and Viktor a decidedly personal surname. The Stars pay homage to Norm Green, who begat their brand to begin with. Meanwhile, the Panthers took a nice stride in recollecting the franchise’s greatest season to date.
6. Diesel (Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs)
Like Hershey and Indy, this SPHL franchise exemplifies the local-tribute aspect with its team and mascot name.
To an outsider, the three-word team nickname might seem excessive. But Roanoke is synonymous with rails, and the blue-collar dog is a fitting touch.
In turn, bringing the canine emblem to life and giving him a distinct train-related name is a natural approach. The name in question evokes energy, speed, strength and power, all of which fit a puck puzzle as well.
5. Duke (Toronto Marlies)
Curiosity begets education, though there usually not much of it among most fan bases surrounding their team’s mascot name. But odds are young Marlies rooters are exceptionally inclined to ask the reason for theirs.
When they field that question, elders in the know can delve into a nugget of Canadian history. Toronto’s AHL team draws its nickname from preceding teams who shortened “Marlies” from “Marlboroughs.” That selection, in turn, was a nod to the Duke of Marlborough.
With that, bringing Duke the dog to Ricoh Coliseum’s rinkside was an empty-net breakaway.
4. Spartacat (Ottawa Senators)
The modern incarnation of the Senators went all-out with its Ancient Roman twist on the team name. Those tasked with extending that theme to the mascot flexed sound cultural savvy.
Granted, Spartacus was actually a slave who spearheaded an uprising against the figures depicted on Ottawa’s crest. The most famous interpretation of his story (a 1960 movie) culminates in his crucifixion.
But this is a sports team, and the main objective is to create a fun experience. Besides, the Sens would not be the first or the last to tweak mythology or history for entertaining convenience. If need be, you could interpret the Sens’ decision as imagining the conquering Romans appropriating a suppressed opponent’s name.
Under those flexible guidelines, Spartacat is a one-of-a-kind pun. Making him a lion adds yet another layer to the gladiator motif as well.
3. meLVin (Lehigh Valley Phantoms)
The spelling-and-grammar rulebook is looser than normal in this department. To date, no pro hockey team has capitalized on that fact than the Phantoms. By doing so, they also achieved the inconceivable by making a not-so-common name work exceptionally well.
After their first home, Philadelphia’s legendary Spectrum, was condemned, the team had an interlude in the Adirondacks. But the long-term plan was to return to the parent Flyers’ sphere of influence via Lehigh Valley.
The promise of a new building in that region finally came to fruition in 2014. When it did, the Phantoms punctuated the new era by emphasizing their dateline’s initials in a barely, if ever, used mascot name. As a bonus, they took up the LV-stressing strategy before any Las Vegas franchise could.
2. Carlton (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The Leafs have a similar situation to their crosstown farm team. A lesson in local roots is behind the mascot’s moniker, one you are less likely to encounter than Duke.
Toronto’s 21st century children were born too late to witness a game at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens. But seeing Carlton at the Air Canada Centre or a community event is one potential inlet to learning about the old arena.
Carlton is named for Carlton Street, where the Gardens stood. Few, if any sports franchises will ever have a comparable reason to use the same name in the same capacity. It is uniquely synonymous with the storied franchise from Canada’s largest city.
1. Bailey (Los Angeles Kings)
Ace Bailey was L.A.’s senior scout when he perished with colleague Mark Bavis in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. A subsequent foundation in his name centered on his legacy as a children’s philanthropist.
Per the foundation’s website, former teammate Wayne Cashman said, “Children all felt they were special to Ace, and you know, they were.”
And so, the Ace Bailey Children’s Foundation continues to support the heavy necessity of helping sick and underprivileged youth. But the Kings also tapped into Bailey’s legacy in a lighter manner. Their anthropomorphic lion has the simple task of amusing and inciting young and young-at-heart Staples Center ticketholders.