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Top 15 Sports Teams and How They Got Their Names

Updated on August 20, 2016

PPL Center - Lehigh Valley Phantoms

PPL center in Lehigh Valley - home rink of the Phantoms
PPL center in Lehigh Valley - home rink of the Phantoms | Source

What is in a Team Name?

Have you ever wondered the logic behind team names? When I was a young boy growing up in New Jersey, I wondered what was behind the names of NFL American football teams NY Giants and NY Jets. I also wondered how an NHL ice hockey team, from New Jersey, became known as the NJ Devil's.

There were no Internet or immediate research facility to answer these questions that were eventually answered over time, as I grew older. It was evident that many team names were derived, in part, by the city or state in which they played their home games but there were no explanations to understand the complete name of teams.

Even when I moved from NJ to Pennsylvania 15 years ago, I was introduced to the local sports teams for baseball (MLB), American football (NFL) and ice hockey (NHL). Again I wondered how these teams became known to the locals as Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Flyers.

I will list, for you, the results of my research which include some of the most famous NFL American football team names (from my lifetime) along with the NHL original six ice hockey team names. Because I live near Philly (locals that live in or near Philadelphia), I will also cover the names of most of the professional sports teams from this area.

7 NFL Teams and Their Names

team city*
team name*
established
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Green Bay Packers
1921
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Eagles
1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Steelers
1933
Dallas, Texas
Dallas Cowboys
1960
Denver, Colorado
Denver Broncos
1960
Oakland, California
Oakland Raiders
1960
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnesota Vikings
1961
* reflects both current home city and current name. Teams are listed in order they were established and alphabetic within the year

Green Bay Packers

Category - NFL - American football

Thanks to Earl Lambeau, George Calhoun (who gathered in a newspaper editorial room with the intention of creating a football team) and the Indian Packing Company (who provided equipment, jerseys and a practice field) - the "Packers" were born in 1921.

NFL - Philadelphia Eagles

our view of a game between the Vikings and Eagles
our view of a game between the Vikings and Eagles | Source

Philadelphia Eagles

Category - NFL - American football

Once known as the Frankford Yellowjackets, the icon of an Eagle that represented the new National Recovery Act was chosen as the team name when the act was introduced in 1933.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Category - NFL - American football

In 1960 when the franchise elected to change their name from Pirates, team owner Art Rooney held a name-the-team contest to which the winner received lifetime season tickets to the winning entry of Steelers.

Dallas Cowboys

Category - NFL - American football

When you are a General Manager for a professional football team you get the responsibility to name a new franchise - take for example Tex Schramm GM for the 1960 expansion team in Texas. After trying names like Steers and Rangers, Tex eventually settled on Cowboys.

Denver Broncos

Category - NFL - American football

The name Broncos was the winning entry in a name-the-team contest of more than 100 entries back in 1960 as the AFL team migrated to the NFL with a new name.

Oakland Raiders

Category - NFL - American football

Lakers, Raiders, Senors were all finalists in a contest held by Chet Soda (first General Manager of the team) to name-the-team in 1960. While Raiders was not the first selection, it did become the name after initial selection of Senors brought conflict to the area.

NFL - Philadelphia Eagles

Minnesota Vikings versus Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings versus Philadelphia Eagles | Source

Minnesota Vikings

Category - NFL - American football

Featuring a state name versus city, in their 1961 team name, Minnesota General Manager Bert Rose selected the warrior name of Viking because he liked the image that came with it.

We attended an NFL professional football game in 2010 and watched the Minnesota Vikings beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24 to 14. It was a home team loss but that is okay with me since I am not an Eagle fan and I only attended the game since the Vikings are a family favorite.

7 NHL Teams and Their Names

team city
team name
established
Montreal, Canada
Montreal Canadiens
1909
New York, New York
NY Rangers
1926
Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Bruins
1924
Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Blackhawks
1926
Toronto, Canada
Toronto Maple Leafs
1917
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit Red Wings
1926
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Flyers
1967
Teams are listed as they appear in my original six tee-shirt except the Flyers

Montreal Canadiens

In 1909 in an attempt to appeal to the people of Montreal, an ice hockey club was created called Club de Hockey Canadien. The club simply translates to Canadiens and Montreal is one of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

NY Rangers

The year was 1926 when Tex Rickard (owner of the New York arena known as Madison Square Garden) decided to create his own ice hockey team and did so by creating Tex's Rangers. While Tex was eventually dropped from the name, Rangers stuck and remains in tact today. The Rangers are of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

Boston Bruins

Inspired by the colors of a grocery store owned by Art Ross, the Bruins were created to play ice hockey under General Manager Art Ross. The Bruins are of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

Chicago Blackhawks

Black Hawk down was a military movie that was created a few years ago in the US. While there is no affiliation between the movie and ice hockey, the Black Hawk Infantry Division was the inspiration by team owner which created the team in 1926. The Black Hawks (now known as Blackhawks) are of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

Toronto Maple Leafs

They began their journey in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas, then became the Toronto St. Patrick's in 1919. It was Conn Smythe who renamed the team to Maple Leafs in 1927. The Maple Leafs are of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

Detroit Red Wings

Their icon is a tribute to the Detroit "Motor City" and their name changed from Detroit Falcon's in 1932 and eventually became Red Wings (inspired by a team that owner James Norris played for - "Winged Wheelers"). The Red Wings are of the original six teams that formed what is known today as NHL (National Hockey League) - a professional ice hockey league for which Canada and the United States participate.

NHL - Philadelphia Flyers

with permission of SRVideo
with permission of SRVideo | Source

NHL - Philadelphia Flyers vs Boston Bruins

Source

Philadelphia Flyers

While there is no real meaning of the name Flyers, a name-the-team contest resulted in the name and it stuck to this Philadelphia ice hockey team. The team logo, pictured above, is one of my favorites in the NHL.

If memory serves, the Bruins beat the Flyers 6 to 0 but it is fun to see a professional ice hockey game.

Phantoms - Philadelphia to Lehigh Valley

Philadelphia Phantoms - Calder Cup final game four
Philadelphia Phantoms - Calder Cup final game four | Source
Lehigh Valley Phantoms - home arena
Lehigh Valley Phantoms - home arena | Source

LV Phantoms

Well I promised 15 team names and have only identified 14 names thus far. I wanted to cover my favorite NHL team (NJ Devil's) but a contest winning selection, for a team name, was not that exciting so I decided to stay local with my favorite sport - ice hockey.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are a professional minor league affiliate of the NHL Philadelphia Flyers. The team plays their home games in the PPL center in Allentown, Pennsylvania and participates in the American Hockey League (AHL).

The Phantoms, originally known as the Philadelphia Phantoms from 1996 - 2009 played in Philly at the Wachovia Spectrum (demolished) and Wachovia Center (now called Wells Fargo). For some reason, the Phantoms moved to Glenn Falls, NY and became the Adirondak Phantoms (2009 - 2014) before returning to PA in Allentown in 2014 in time for the fall season.

The Phantoms, called that because their parent team (Flyers) decided that name was best when they purchased a franchise in 1995, broke an AHL record when the LV team scored three goals in 20 seconds (see lead picture).

© 2014 mts1098

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very interesting! I have also wondered about some names. Thanks for doing and sharing the research.

    • mts1098 profile image
      Author

      mts1098 2 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      MsDora - the real tough part as limiting to just 15 :) Hope your new year is off to a great start...cheers

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