Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Moniker of potential NHL team is a critical issue

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THERE are a select few cities in North America that have lost a professional sports team and been fortunate enough to have another one take its place down the road.

In the National Hockey League, that list includes Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Atlanta and, if recent reports are to be believed, Winnipeg.

On the professional football side, there's Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore and Oakland. (The Oakland Raiders are the only team in the big four sports to have left a city, played somewhere else and returned to their birthplace. Winnipeg could have been the second if the City of Glendale hadn't ponied up $25 million to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in the desert for at least one more year.)

In baseball, there's Washington and New York, to name a few. All these cities have shared a common challenge -- do you pull the old team's name out of the archives or pick something new?

The Cleveland Browns' situation perhaps best mirrored what's going on in Winnipeg right now. It lost its beloved football team to Baltimore in 1995, which was subsequently renamed the Ravens, but the city was awarded an expansion franchise a few years later.

Tony Grossi, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's football reporter since 1984, said when it came time to select a name, there was a groundswell of support for the moniker that dated back to 1946.

"Browns fans made their voices heard. And the mayor of the City of Cleveland got actively involved and demanded that if the city got involved that they would retain the Browns name, colours and history," he said.

"To my knowledge, it's the only professional sports team and city that did that, that cared enough about the team name to actively campaign for it."

Grossi said franchise relocations can have negative implications for a team's alumni. Legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas, for example, was famous for never embracing the Indianapolis Colts after they moved from Baltimore.

"The Baltimore Colts' Hall of Famers were torn. There was no place in Baltimore to honour them. They were just names in a book. It would have been the same in Cleveland. If you renamed the Browns, what happens to the Browns players who were still alive?" he said.

 

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

 Wild return big biz boon

THE return of the National Hockey League can work wonders for a city and the neighbourhood where it plays. Just ask Tom Reid.

The longtime Minnesota North Stars veteran from the 1960s and '70s thought it would be fun to open a pub near the Xcel Energy Center after it was announced St. Paul would be the home of the Minnesota Wild.

Soon, Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub opened two blocks from the rink, an area "you wouldn't want to visit when it got dark outside."

"At the time, there were two restaurants open on those two blocks. Now there's seven. It has established itself as a very thriving area. You've got 18,000 people per game coming to St. Paul to witness the event, not just with the game but everything else surrounding it. People were so excited to have hockey back and to be able to identify with the game again at the NHL level," he said.

 

-- Kirbyson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2011 C1

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 9:14 AM CDT: Adjusted headline, fixed typo

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