Finding a name for a Janesville hockey team
Concept: With the local co-op high school team named the Bluebirds, it’s only appropriate that a junior team take on the image of an even nastier bird. You also get the added benefit of alliteration.
Theme song: “Freebird.”
Janesville Fighting 99
Concept: Nickname honors the 99 Janesville men stationed in the Philippines during World War II with Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The battalion was forced to surrender and then march 75 miles to a POW camp where the men spent the next three years. By the end of the war, 64 of the 99 had died. Coincidentally, 99 just happens to be the most famous number in hockey.
Theme song: “Colonel Bogey March” from the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai.”
Janesville Ice Rage
Concept: Because the lush Rock County farmland was created during the ice age, this nickname is a play on words.
Theme song: “Cold as Ice.”
Concept: Nickname attracts younger demographic and plays off Rock County. The video game “Guitar Hero” has turned millions into wannabe rock stars.
Theme song: “Let’s Get Rocked.”
Janesville Ice Bison
Concept: Janesville did have a famous white buffalo named Miracle. The animal attracted thousands of visitors to the city.
Theme song: “Great White Buffalo.”
What’s in a name?
Janesville could learn the answer to that question in the next few weeks if the city council approves the $200,000 renovation plan for the Janesville Ice Skating Center. The upgrade, if approved at tonight’s meeting, would pave the way for the city to land an expansion franchise in the North American Hockey League.
An expansion franchise would need a nickname, of course.
“I think it’s important for the community to have ownership in the team,” said Bill McCoshen, head of the group seeking to bring junior hockey to the city. “I want it (selecting a nickname) to be a fun process.
“Janesville needs something to put its arms around.”
McCoshen hinted that he and his ownership group have a few ideas. He also said the team would most likely hold a communitywide contest to come up with a nickname.
So what kind of a name will we be asked to embrace? If you surf the Internet and look at the nicknames of college, high school, professional and minor league sports teams, you’ll discover that almost anything is fair game.
During the 1980s and 1990s, a wave of creativity swept through minor league baseball as franchises abandoned the names of their parent clubs, choosing to market offbeat nicknames like the Beloit Snappers or Lansing Lugnuts. Nicknames can be anything from birds to mammals to myths to weather formations.
Some sports franchises went so far as to name their teams after corporate entities. The now-defunct New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League were named after a beer (remember the pooch with Tommy Lee Jones’ voice in the commercials?). The AFL also gave us the Miami Hooters. And the CBA once had a team in Albany, N.Y., called the Capital Region Pontiacs.
Silly has actually become acceptable. How else can you explain the Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits of the Double A Southern League? Or the UC-Santa Barbara Banana Slugs? That’s a long way from the mid-1850s when a group of New York businessmen formed the Knickerbocker Baseball Club.
“We like to have the community and the ownership groups work together in the naming process,” said Mark Frankenfeld, NAHL commissioner. “We’ll insert common sense in terms of colors, what jersey schemes are being utilized, what’s important to the town.
“We even have an arts department that would take a concept and give teams several ideas to choose from. The logo and the colors are all part of marketing the product. If it’s goofy, we’ll adjust it. We want the community to back and accept it.”
Teams in the NAHL have nicknames ranging from the obvious (Alaska Avalanche, St. Louis Junior Blues) to the more creative (Mohoning Valley Phantoms, Owatonna Express).
Selecting a name and colors is an important first step for any franchise.
“You don’t want anything offensive to people or groups,” said George Spelius, president of the Midwest League. “Team owners have to go with what they think is right. You roll the dice on that sometimes.
“There are some real clever names out there. We’re fortunate in the Midwest League to have quite a few of the marks that are pretty good. They’ve all done quite well and have survived.”
A financial incentive adds to the importance of the naming process.
“You’re going to have your honeymoon period where you sell a lot of merchandise,” Spelius said.
There’s nothing like a quick infusion of cash for a new franchise, especially when the NAHL requires expansion teams to pay a $200,000 entry fee.
McCoshen said his group will act quickly if the city decides to renovate the Janesville Ice Skating Center.
“I’ve been keeping in touch with the league,” McCoshen said of the expansion process. “They know where we’re at. We’re not going to leave the city hanging. We’ll be making a decision within 10 days (of the vote). There seems to be a lot of support in the local hockey community.”