When is a Fish also a Pirate? The Team Name Legacy

When is a fish also a pirate? The answer is in Hull. Earlier this off season the Hull Stingrays ended and enter new team the Hull Pirates. It was a change that marks a new company, new owner, new lease and new debts.

Teams within a city change their names with surprising frequency over time. Whilst the case of the Newcastle Cobras, Riverkings, Jesters, Vipers is an extreme example there are plenty of others. There are many reasons for this.

Trademarks and copyrights can prevent a new club from taking an old clubs name.

New teams may also want to distant themselves from a club that may have a poor reputation such as in Sweden when the Hammarby club went under and its fans restarted the side at the bottom of the Swedish pyramid as the Bajen Fans.

It could also be to reinvigorate the sport and create publicity as it did in the AIHL when the Canberra Knights became the Brave.

A name though carries a lot of emotion. Would the Atlanta Thrashers really haven called anything other than the Winnipeg Jets on the NHL’s return to Manitoba?

In the UK at the other end of the M62 from Hull is Manchester. Here the Manchester Storm name is back. The name due to the success on and off the ice in the late 1990s carries with it strong memories. It is remarkable that even prior to this summer the number of non-hockey fans who mention the Manchester Storm whenever you mention the sport.

It is also seems that the return of the Manchester Storm has brought back fans who have drifted away over the past decade or so. It seems unlikely some of these fans will have come back to the sport if the team had been called anything else.

Billingham Stars are a side whose name changed recently and after a successful past. From 1971 to 2011 the Stars were known as the Bombers and had success reaching the top flight twice in 1982 and 1990 and then won the ENL North and playoffs in 2005. Since becoming the Stars the side has continued to be well supported and popular as well as successful.

There is something that links a name with a place and a sport. Famous sporting teams are found in all sports. Arsenal links London and football. The 49ers San Francisco and American Football. The Belle Vue Aces link Manchester and speedway in a way that no other name can. That link though comes from the history and success of that team. With ownership of hockey teams in the UK changing quite regularly we risk losing building that history and link which makes a sport recognisable and unique in a city.

It would be great if a name could carry on in a city after a club closes its doors. It would help to create a history and a legacy to build on giving something back to sport and the city after the clubs demise. It would also stop hockey fans from having to explain to non-fans that that team finished and now it’s this team with the entire saga that inevitably goes with that.

It will be interesting in the forthcoming season how well the Hull Pirates do in terms of their fan base compared to the Stingrays. It has been positive so far to see Stingrays fans backing the new side but diehards and hockey fans are not the ones to win over but the average person on the street. It will also be interesting to see how a returning name fairs and if the Manchester Storm can capture that link between the city and the sport which has been missing for a over a decade.


Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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