When You’re A Jet, You’re A Jet All The Way … Marketers Be Damned

On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense to call an NHL team in Winnipeg anything but the Jets. Just ask Leonard Bernstein.

For the life of me, I can’t understand True North would want to keep the Moose name (Chris Creamer’s Sportslogo Blog) (until it was explained to me by … getting ahead of myself here.) The Moose themselves were a transplant – they were the Minnesota Moose (Vintage Minnesota Hockey) until the NHL put an expansion club into Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2000. Secondly, the Moose never seemed to grip Winnipeg’s imagination the way the Jets did, even in the WHA days (and one could argue, especially by the time the WHA folded and three of its four franchises were taken over by the NHL, that the calibre of hockey was worse than what you saw for the past 11 years in the AHL). And thirdly, the Winnipeg Jets just sound … cooler … than any other name I could think of. Especially ‘Moose.”

While True North thinks they may have invested a lot of money and effort into building the Moose name, it risks a public backlash. Just ask the Seattle Sounders (Sounders home page) For a generation, pro soccer clubs in Seattle were always called the Sounders. (thebesteleven.com) But in 2007, when the owners of the Sounders (then playing in the Division II United Soccer League) got their money for an expansion franchise together and were approved to enter Major League Soccer, it was decided by the owners and MLS that Sounders wouldn’t be a suitable name. (Seattle Times) When the club held a ‘name the team’ contest, only three names were available for a choice – Seattle FC, Seattle Republic, and Seattle Alliance. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). The reason given sounds similar to what True North is doing: the old name represented a loser, and it was time for a change.

That didn’t sit well with Seattle’s soccer fans (who have established themselves as the most passionate soccer fans north of the Rio Grande). Under fan pressure, the new owners consented to a write-in ballot option – and nearly half of the participants wrote in some variant of ‘Sounders.’ So, when the name was officially unveiled in April 2008, Sounders it became. (New York Times)

So, why would True North screw around with the fans this way? I talked about the impending Thrashers’ sale with a salesman at a sporting goods store as I bought shoes this afternoon. And he’s got a point with his analysis.

“They’ll try to call it the Moose for a couple of years, but the fans will get restless and angry,” he said. “They’ll still sell a lot of merch, but there will be a lot of people angry why they’re not calling it the Jets. Then, when the merch sales flag, they’ll turn around, say they’ve changed their minds, and the Jets will be back.”

Yeah, I know. Conspiracy theory. But it always makes sense to follow the money. And money enough to keep a team going is a rare commodity in some corners of the NHL.

Author: Stephen LaRose

2006 winner of the Canadian Association of University Teachers’s Award of Excellence in Journalism for a bunch of prairie dog stuff. Invited into the best homes in Regina. Once.