Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

How about Manitoba/Winnipeg Windigo?

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Selling jerseys and T-shirts and caps provides an important revenue stream for an NHL team and Winnipeg hockey fans aren't going to buy a lot of "Jets jerseys" even if they change the team colours and logo. Too many of the old units and caps have been sold and too many people will stick with the original.

So we have to come up with a new name and logo and colours which will fly off the shelves.

I have an idea for the new name, but first, let's take a look at the factors which decide what names teams go by in professional sports.

Back when Mayor Sam Katz was the owner of a professional basketball franchise in Winnipeg (The Thunder), we got to talking about what name the new NBA team in Toronto should go by.

To me, it was only natural that a Toronto basketball team be called the Towers -- considering that one of Hogtown's major attractions was the CN Tower, men that play basketball usually tower over other people, and I recalled how Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon were called the "twin towers" in Houston.

"Au contraire," wise man Sam was quick to point out.

Architectural structures do not conjure up logos and images that illicit passion and excitement and all the other things marketing people need to sell tickets.

Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's latest marketing score was a film about dinosaurs brought to life in Jurassic Park, particularly a ferocious little creature named velociraptor ("raptor" for short), which was a miniature sized T-Rex but with more intelligence, which made for a speedy little thief.

A marketing dream, raptors conjured up images ranging from Barney the Dinosaur to Alan Iverson and jerseys featuring raptors would fly off the shelves.

As it turns out, it doesn't even matter if raptors have anything to do with Toronto. The idea is to sell merchandise and the owners of the NBA franchise in Toronto chose this name no matter how large a stretch it was.

So what will be the best name for Winnipeg's new NHL team?

So far, it appears that Polar Bears and Falcons are the front runners.

Both are good ideas because animals make great team names (why do you think there are so many teams named after animals?)

You can make a polar bear look tough (vicious) or cute (cubs). Both sell. Beer and soft drink companies have been very successful using polar bears to hawk their products.

If there is a downside to the big, white bruins, it's that it reinforces images of our cold climate. We want our new NHL franchise to put Winnipeg on the map to attract tourism and investment and a freezing climate is not attractive.

The other most popular moniker maybe is Falcons. Again, we get a raptor that can be made vicious or cute (check out the baby Peregrines on that ledge at the Radisson). Falcons can also be fast and sleek and we can draw a connection with the 1906 Winnipeg Falcons; the first Canadian team to win an Olympic gold medal. Perhaps best of all, Falcon is a nickname for a number of aircraft, including the F-16, which is a jet!

I suggest a name drawn from the rich culture of the First Nations to inhabit this land and share its land and resources. And if the effort to use "Manitoba" for the new NHL franchise instead of confining its reach to Winnipeg (like the Manitoba Moose did and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't), we could be going native all the way.

"Manitoba" stems from Manitou (or Gitchee Manitou; the Creator). While there are obvious drawbacks to plastering such a sacred name on a sports uniform which gets blood spilled all over it from fighting (and then there's the swearing over a sacred symbol), this would not be using First Nations people as mascots in the same manner as Fighting Sioux or Redskins does.

This also eliminates names like Thunderbirds or Eagles. We don't want swear words and blood falling down on the sacred animal which carries prayers to the Creator and brings the Creator's messages back to the people.

How about we really go out on a limb and name the team Manitoba Windigo?

Windigo is a mythical character; a cannibal which preys on people or inhabits human beings and turns them into cannibals. Windigo is fast becoming a popular horror classic in the same vein as a vampire or werewolf, which are incredibly popular with the highly desirable young set on TV and in the movies and this is a priority for sales people everywhere. The variations on logo designs are endless here.

There are drawbacks to "honouring" this contrary creature but there is food for thought here.

I'm just sayin'.

Don Marks is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2011 A10

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