May 30 – Jet Fuel

Franchise Faces

With the recent controversy over the Washington Redskins team name, that got me thinking long and hard (heh, long and hard!) about franchise monikers and where they came from. Today, I want to look at teams that share a common name. In that process, we’ll decide which team lays claim to the name based on factors such as years in existence, success, superstars, etc. Of course, teams that leave one city and relocate to another, playing under the same nickname, don’t count. This also applies to minor league teams that share their affiliates handle. So, on with the list:

#5: Cardinals – St. Louis (MLB), Arizona (NFL)

Bird species are a popular name for teams in all the major sports, but Cardinals is the only one that is shared by two franchises and this duel isn’t too hard to sort out. The St. Louis club has existed for over 130 years, known as the Cardinals since 1900. In their long history, they have won 11 World Series Titles, 19 National League Pennants, and 20 MVP awards. They even have 17 Hall of Fame players to their legacy. Arizona, on the other hand, has enjoyed far less success, although they were also established over 100 years ago, even playing for a time in St. Louis. Their only championships came long before the modern day NFL, in 1925 and 1947. Winner: St. Louis

Cardinals

#4: Oilers – Edmonton (NHL), Houston/Tennessee (NFL)

Currently, both teams are trying to work their way out of the basement of their respective leagues, but this battle isn’t close. The Oilers success in Edmonton in the mid-80’s, led the town to call itself the ‘City of Champions’! Hell, they struck more riches than a prospector, with signing the legendary Wayne Gretzky and drafting future Hall of Famers like Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, and Glenn Anderson. The NFL Oilers moved from Houston to Tennessee and don’t even exist anymore, dropping the moniker in favour of calling themselves the Titans. Winner: Edmonton

#3: Jets – Winnipeg (NHL), New York (NFL)

Both teams have tasted the heights of success, but have also suffered crushing defeats – let’s call them crash landings – during their existence. Heck, this is Winnipeg’s second go-around with an NHL franchise, the first time ending with the club’s departure to Phoenix, where they were renamed the Coyotes. But there were better times in the 1970’s, when Winnipeg dominated the World Hockey Association, winning three Avco Cups and showcasing ‘Mr. Hockey’ Gordie Howe. New York also enjoyed success in 1968-69, winning their lone Super Bowl and displaying their own superstar, quarterback Joe Namath. Winner: New York

Jets

#2: Rangers – New York (NHL), Texas (MLB)

The New York squad is a member of the Original 6 NHL clubs and that holds a lot of weight in hockey circles. That said, the Rangers are the team I hate the most thanks to the childhood disappointment of watching them defeat my Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. I have to be impartial, though, and acknowledge the storied history for New York, including four Stanley Cups. In Texas, the Rangers have existed since 1972, having moved from Washington. They have yet to win a World Series, losing back-to-back championship seasons in 2010 and 2011 (ironically, to the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, also on this list). Winner: New York

#1: Giants – San Francisco (MLB), New York (NFL)

Both franchises have won championships in recent years, but San Francisco has strung together three World Series titles in the last five years, earning the distinction of being a dynasty team. On top of that, the baseball club has a long history that transferred over with them, following the team’s move from New York in 1957, where they were the original Giants of the Big Apple. That’s not to take anything away from the football squad and their own storied existence, winning eight league championships, including four in the modern era. This was a tough race to decide, but history always wins out. Winner: San Francisco

Super Saturday Shot Day: Jet Fuel

Honourable mentions include the Kings (Los Angeles (NHL) and Sacramento (NBA)); the Lions (Detroit (NFL), B.C. (CFL)); and the Panthers (Carolina (NFL), Florida (NHL)). Surprisingly, no NBA teams made this list and only the Sacramento Kings share a nickname with another pro squad. It’s also interesting that three different New York teams share their name with another franchise.

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May 31 – False Start

Legendary Leagues

Most leagues fail within their first year of operation. If they survive long enough to hand out their inaugural championship, then they usually face other elements of strife, such as low attendance, trouble landing a TV broadcasting deal, and teams folding or relocating. The waters are rough, but if a leagues treads long enough, it just may endure. Here are the top 5 defunct sports leagues and their intriguing stories:

#5: X Football League

Because the NFL just wasn’t fun enough, along came the XFL from World Wrestling Entertainment mogul Vince McMahon. Ironically, while most believe the ‘X’ stood for eXtreme, this is not actually the case and the ‘X’ was never defined. In partnership with NBC, the league only lasted one season. With a few rule changes that were meant to spice up pro football, the eight-team league was dogged by the stigma attached to professional wrestling and what many thought was an inferior quality of play. Ratings were initially strong, but dropped in half from week one to week two and continued to decline over the course of the year. The XFL fizzled out following the season-ending Million Dollar Game and closed up shop on May 10, 2001. Both McMahon and NBC reportedly lost $35 million each in the joint venture.

XFL

#4: SlamBall

A sport with trampolines and full body contact… sounds like a recipe for success to the Sip Advisor and the one time in my life I was mildly interested in the sport of basketball. When TNN (now Spike TV) was making strides to change its image from a country music station to a network geared towards male viewers, one of their early experiments was SlamBall. Unfortunately, the league only ran seasons in 2002, 2003 and 2008, but did hold an international tournament in 2012, in China. Created by Mason Gordon, SlamBall grew from six to eight teams for the 2003 season, but a disagreement between Gordon and Warner Bros. ended with the league being dissolved. The 2008 season returned to a six-team format and the winning coach was Samuel L. Jackson… er, I mean Coach (Ken) Carter.

#3: Roller Hockey International

The early 90’s were a wonderful time and part of that amazing period was the advent and popularity of rollerblades. So, along comes the RHI, hoping to capitalize on that fad. Games were even broadcast on ESPN2 during the early years, showing the potential popularity the sport could have harnessed. The high-scoring (RHI averaged 16.7 goals per game, compared to the NHL’s seven at the time) league played from 1993-97 and also in 1999. Played 4-on-4, a number of NHL alum also strapped on the blades, including Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier. Unfortunately, a planned Super Nintendo video game never materialized, although that fact probably saved me hours in front of the TV and instead, I was outside playing roller hockey! RHI folded operations for good in 2001, despite some of the best team names ever seen in sport.

RHI SNES

Sadly, it never came to be!

#2: United States Football League

Looking to compete with the NFL and offer fans an alternative to fill their growing football needs, the USFL may not have succeeded, but many of the innovations they brought to the game, as well as markets they used for franchises, would eventually be adopted by the NFL juggernaut. Backed by Donald Trump and others with deep pockets, the league produced a number of stars who also enjoyed success in the NFL, as well as two future wrestling World Champions in Lex Luger and Ron Simmons. The crushing blow to the USFL came when they filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, claiming it had established a monopoly. Despite expecting a substantial windfall, the USFL was awarded $1 (that’s not a typo). Heavily in debt, the league ceased operations. The ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary Who Killed the USFL? examines the league’s brief existence.

#1: World Hockey Association

Launching in 1972 with 12 teams, the WHA made an immediate big splash with the signing of NHL star Bobby Hull to a 10-year, $2.7 million contract. In all, 67 players jumped ship from the NHL to the WHA for the inaugural season. Sadly, the league was plagued with difficulties, including financial struggles, arena issues, teams relocating, and franchises folding. Four WHA franchises still exist in today’s NHL: the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets (moved to Phoenix), Quebec Nordiques (moved to Colorado), and Hartford Whalers (moved to Carolina). The league’s legacy also lives on via European stars coming to North America, higher salaries, and a lower draft age. For an in-depth look at the WHA’s seven tumultuous seasons, check out Ed Willes book, The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association.

Super Saturday Shot Day: False Start

False Start Shot

  • 0.4 oz Cider
  • 0.4 oz Bourbon
  • 0.4 oz Brandy
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Garnish with an Apple Slice

Honourable mentions include the American Basketball Association, which was loosely spoofed in the Will Ferrell film Semi-Pro, and the Arena Football League, which cancelled their 2009 season, but has since been resurrected under new ownership. Which defunct sports league do you miss?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This shooter went down very easy and was fun thanks to the bubbles of the Cider. The Bourbon and Brandy flavours do play a role, but not too aggressively. That makes for a couple good Cider recipes for me in the last little while and I might be experiencing a change of heart as far as the beverage goes!