Photo of the St. Louis Blues versus the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Enterprise Center. 

Image Credit: Dave Herholz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The NHL has a lot more history than the rest of the sports world gives it credit for and hockey had decades of history before the NHL was even founded. With the NHL's rapidly growing popularity in the United States, we thought it would be cool to include a brief history on how all 30 NHL teams came up with their nicknames. Enjoy!


Anaheim Ducks - The Ducks organization was founded in 1993 by the Walt Disney Company. (Their home arena isn't far from Disneyland in Anaheim). The company named the team the "Mighty Ducks" as an attempt to capitalize off of the Disney Hockey movie of the same name starring Emilio Estevez. When Disney sold the team to Henry Samueli in 2005, the team's name was changed to the Anaheim Ducks.

Mascot: Wildwing



Arizona Coyotes - The city of Phoenix inherited the Winnipeg Jets in 1996 and held a name the team contest for area residents. "Coyotes" was the nickname chosen and "Scorpions" was the 2nd choice. There were more than 10,000 entries.

Mascot: Howler the Coyote



Boston Bruins - Grocery chain entrepreneur Charles Adams became a fan of hockey after watching the 1924 Stanley Cup. He convinced the NHL to expand to the United States and the Bruins were awarded to Boston on November 1st, 1924. He gave the team brown and yellow colors to match his grocery chain's colors. Adams eventually hired Art Ross as the team's General Manager. Ross decided to name the team the Bruins because bears have speed, agility and are cunning. Ross also eventually served as the team's coach four separate times.

Mascot: Blades the Bruin




Buffalo Sabres - Both the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL at the same time in 1970 as expansion teams. The Knox Brothers were the Sabres first owners and held a name the team contest. The owners chose the name Sabres but spelt the name the way fans would in neighboring Canada. The name was chosen because swords are carried by leaders and could be used effectively on offense and defense. Buffalo also inherited an NBA team that season; the Buffalo Braves who moved to Los Angeles in 1978 to become the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mascot: Sabretooth



Calgary Flames - The Flames played in Atlanta, Georgia as the Atlanta Flames from 1972 until 1980. The nickname was in reference to Atlanta being burnt to the ground during the Civil War. When Calgary inherited the team in 1980, they kept the same name figuring it would stick in a city with a heavy Oil industry. Atlanta is the only city to lose two NHL franchises to other cities (Flames and Thrashers).

Mascot: Harvey the Hound



Carolina Hurricanes - Raleigh, North Carolina inherited the Hartford Whalers in 1997 and the whole move was on a whim. The team didn't even play in Raleigh during it's first season. Owner Peter Karmanos named the team himself rather than holding a name the team contest for fans. Hurricanes are common in the Carolinas, so he chose this nickname.

Mascot: Stormy



Chicago Blackhawks - Until 1986, the Blackhawks nickname was spelled "Black Hawks". The team's first owner Fredric McLaughlin fought in an infantry division called the "Black Hawk Division" in World War I. He honored his old group by naming his hockey team after them in 1926. The division took it's name from Chief Black Hawk of the Saux American Indian Tribe which fought the Illinois militia during the 1830s. The Blachhawks are one of the Original Six NHL teams making them one of the oldest franchises in the National Hockey League.

Mascot: Tommy Hawk



Colorado Avalanche - Denver previously had an NHL team called the Colorado Rockies that left in 1982 to become the New Jersey Devils. The city received a Major League Baseball franchise in 1993 and named them the Colorado Rockies. When Denver once again inherited an NHL team in 1995 (Quebec Nordiques), a marketing group was hired to name the team. They had already planned on naming the team the "Extreme" but received all types of negative feedback. The nickname "Avalanche" was eventually decided on. No name the team contest for fans was held. Other nicknames that were considered were the Bears, Cougars, Renegades and Outlaws.

Mascot: Bernie the St. Bernard



Columbus Blue Jackets -  The Blue Jackets were an NHL expansion team in 2000. A name the team contest was held and over and 14,000 entries were received. Ohio contributed more soldiers to the Union Army than any other state and Columbus is the capital of Ohio. According to the team's website, the nickname "celebrates patriotism and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio".

Mascot: Stinger



Dallas Stars - The city of Dallas inherited the Minnesota North Stars in 1993 and just subtracted the word "North". No name the team contest was ever considered. The Twin Cities went 7 years without the NHL and were awarded the Minnesota Wild as an expansion team in 2000.

Mascot: Victor E. Green



Detroit Red Wings - James Norris, the Red Wings' first owner, once played for a team called the Montreal Winged Wheelers. When he purchased the Detroit Falcons in 1932 he changed the team's name and made the winged wheel the team's logo because Detroit was becoming the epicenter of America's auto industry.

Mascot: Al the Octopus



Edmonton Oilers - During the 1950s and 1960s, Oilers owner Bill Hunter also owned an amateur hockey team called the Oil Kings. Being that Edmonton is also the oil capital of Canada, he named his team the Oilers when they began play in the World Hockey Association in 1972. The NHL had all but ignored Hunter when he initially attempted to create an expansion team in Edmonton. When the Oilers finally became part of the NHL in 1979, the team kept the same name as when they played in the WHA. The team was also once known as the Alberta Oilers but only for a brief time.

Mascot: None



Florida Panthers - Businessman Wayne Huizenga (Blockbuster) and the city of Miami, FL were awarded an NHL franchise in December of 1992. Huizenga purchased the nickname Panthers from an investment group that were trying to bring baseball to Tampa Bay (before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were founded). He named the team the "Panthers" because the animal strikes quick like his hockey team would and the Florida Panther of the Everglades was an endangered species at the time. The Panthers shared Miami Arena with the NBA's Miami Heat until their arena in Sunrise, Florida was finished.

Mascot: Stanley C. Panther




Los Angeles Kings  - Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke held a name the team contest for fans before the team began play in 1967. The team was part of the NHL's "Second Six" team expansion. The nickname Kings was ultimately chosen to pay tribute to the old Los Angeles Monarchs hockey team that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey League during the 1930s. He was also the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and gave the Kings the same color scheme of yellow and purple. Yellow and Purple are commonly worn by royalty.  When Bruce Mcnall purchased the Kings during the late 1980s, he changed the team's colors to black and silver and brought Wayne Gretzky to the Kings.

Mascot: Bailey




Minnesota Wild - Minnesota lost the Minnesota North Stars in 1993 but received an NHL expansion team in 2000. The nickname "Wild" was chosen by the team's front office in 1998 because of Minnesota's vast wildlife. Other nicknames that were considered were the Blue Ox, Freeze, Voyageurs, Northern Lights and White Bears.

Mascot: Nordy



Montreal Canadiens - The Montreal Canadiens were founded in 1909 by J. Ambrose O'brien. O'brien wanted to create a team that appealed to the large French speaking population in Montreal. He named them "Club de Hockey Canadien". They were also nicknamed "Les Habitants" as tribute to the area's early French settlers and are nicknamed "The Habs" today.

Mascot: Youppi!



Nashville Predators - The Predators organization were founded in 1998 and held a name the team contest with only three nicknames on the ballot; the Ice Tigers, Fury and Attack. Predators owner Craig Leipold suggested the nickname "Predators" because sabre-tooth tiger remains were found in Nashville during the 1970s while the city was undergoing construction. The nickname stuck. At the time, Nashville was only pursuing an NBA franchise but it fell through and instead pursued an NHL franchise.

Mascot: Gnash



New Jersey Devils - Newark, NJ inherited the Colorado Rockies in 1982. The New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority was in charge of finding a nickname of their new NHL team. The organization held a contest in the newspaper and left the decision up to the fans. The nickname "Devils" was chosen as tribute to the urban legend of the New Jersey Devil that roamed the Pine Barrens in New Jersey many years ago. Nicknames that were also considered include the Coastals, Meadowlarks, Blades, Jaguars, et al.

Mascot: N.J. Devil



New York Islanders - When the New York Mets were introduced as an expansion team in Major League Baseball in 1961, the nickname "Islanders" finished third in the voting. When Long Island was awarded an NHL team in 1972, they chose the nickname "Islanders". There was wide speculation that the organization was going to adopt the nickname "Ducks" as tribute to an old hockey franchise that once played in the EHL.

Mascot: Sparky the Dragon



New York Rangers - Former Boxing promoter and Madison Square Garden owner Tex Rickard founded the New York Rangers in 1926 to compete against the New York Americans. The media named the team "Tex's Rangers" in reference to the old Texas Rangers enforcement agency that served the state of Texas. The New York Rangers were one of the NHL's Original Six teams.

Mascot: None



Ottawa Senators - The original Ottawa Senators began play in 1883 and went on to win 11 Stanley Cups between 1917 and 1934. When the NHL expanded to the United States, the team suffered tough financial times and relocated to St. Louis, MO in 1934. In 1992, the new Ottawa franchise revived the old "Senators" nickname which references Ottawa as Canada's capital.

Mascot: Spartacat



Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers were founded in 1966 by Ed Snider. His sister Phyllis suggested naming the team "Flyers" but it had no real historical meaning to the city.

Mascot: None



Pittsburgh Penguins - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper held a name the team contest but it was Carol McGregor( wife of Penguins owner Jack McGregor) that gets credit for nicknaming the team. She came up with the name while thinking of hockey being played on ice in an arena that area residents called "The Igloo" (Civic Arena in Pittsburgh). There were more than 26,000 nickname submissions to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Mascot: Iceburgh



San Jose Sharks - The San Jose Sharks organization held a name the team contest in 1990 and every submission was entered to win tickets to the 1991 NHL All-Star game. Other suggested nicknames included the Rubber Puckies, Screaming Squids, Salty Dogs and Blades which was the actual winner. However, the organization thought that the nickname "Blades" had street gang implications and instead went with "Sharks".

Mascot: S.J. Sharkie



St. Louis Blues - The Blues were a part of the "Second Six" team expansion in 1967. The team was named after a W.C. Handy song titled "St. Louis Blues". Owner Sid Saloman was the founder of the nickname. Other nicknames that were included were "Mercury" and "Apollo".

Mascot: Louie



Tampa Bay Lightning - In 1990, a major thunderstorm prompted team President Phil Esposito to nickname the team the "Lightning". Tampa Bay, Florida is also an area that experiences a lot of rain and thunderstorms throughout the year.

Mascot: Thunderbug



Toronto Maple Leafs - The Toronto Maple Leafs were formerly the Toronto St. Patricks. Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe renamed the team the "Maple Leafs" when he took over in 1927 for two reasons. 1) He fought in the Maple Leafs regime in World War I. 2) There was a former hockey team that played in the Toronto area called the East Maple Leaves.

Mascot: Carlton the Bear



Vancouver Canucks - The word "Canuck" is historically a nickname for a native Canadian. The nickname for the hockey team, however, references Johnny Canuck, a cartoon character during the World War II era that fought Adolf Hitler. Johnny Canuck serves as the club's alternate logo and mascot.

Mascot: Fin the Whale



Washington Capitals - The nickname "Capitals" references Washington, DC as the capital of the United States. Capitals owner Abe Pollin came up with the name after initiating a name the team contest. The nickname also plays off of the old Washington Senators franchises.

Mascot: Slapshot



Winnipeg Jets - Before moving to Arizona in 1996, the Winnipeg Jets were part of the 1979 merger between the WHA and the NHL. Jets owner Ben Hatskin named the team "Jets" because of his admiration for the NFL's New York Jets. The Jets were also a former junior league team, also owned by Hatskin.

Mascot: Mick E. Moose



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