The team nickname game

Sammy the Slug
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood dances with Sammy the Slug during his introduction as the school’s new mascot.
(Dan Coyro / Associated Press)
This story has been corrected. See below.

Part of the fun of being a sports fan is team nicknames, which can range from the fitting to the fictitious; from the serious to the sarcastic. With that as a guide, and in no particular order, here are some of the best — and worst — sports nicknames:

10 MOST CREATIVE (professional division)

Richmond Flying Squirrels — Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants; nickname selected, over Hush Puppies and Flatheads, in a 2009 newspaper contest.

Albuquerque Isotopes — Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers; nickname chosen by fans and inspired by the fictional Springfield Isotopes from TV’s “The Simpsons.”


Montgomery Biscuits — Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays; mascots are Big Mo, an orange beast who loves biscuits, and Monty, an anthropomorphized¿ buttermilk biscuit who appears in the team logo.

El Paso Chihuahuas — San Diego Padres’ triple-A affiliate will relocate in El Paso next spring; name chosen by fans over Aardvarks, Buckaroos and Desert Gators.

Saltillo Serape Makers — Mexican League; the traditional brightly colored Mexican blanket is made in the state of Coahuila, not far from Saltillo.

Fayetteville FireAntz — Unaffiliated minor league team in the 10-team Southern Professional Hockey League, which also includes the Columbus Cottonmouths and Huntsville Havoc.
New Orleans VooDoo — Arena Football; second incarnation of the VooDoo after the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings relocated to New Orleans in 2010.


Culiacan Tomato Growers — Mexican Pacific League;  the Tomateros, two-time Caribbean World Series champions, are named in honor of Northwest Mexico’s thriving tomato industry.

Kannapolis Intimidators — Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox; team changed its name from the Boll Weevils after NASCAR champion Dale “the Intimidator” Earnhardt bought a share of the team just before his death in 2001.

Lamigo Monkeys — Chinese Professional Baseball League; formerly the Bears, the team changed its name and adopted the slogan “Lead a Wild Life” after moving to Taoyuan County in 2011.

10 MOST CREATIVE (scholastic division)

Banana Slugs — UC Santa Cruz; a student referendum followed by a poll of athletes was needed to change the name from Sea Lions in 1986.

Stormy Petrels — Oglethorpe University; named for a sea bird that, legend has it, would roost on ships when it sensed bad weather was nearing.

Keelhaulers — California Maritime Academy; given the school’s nautical mooring, what could be more threatening than keelhauling, an often deadly form of punishment used by European navies.

Beetdiggers — Jordan High, Sandy, Utah; the 106-year-old high school was once at the center of a thriving sugar-beet industry.


Chanticleers — Coastal Carolina; formerly the Trojans, the school’s nickname changed in the 1960s and was inspired by the witty rooster in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”

Fighting Camels — Campbell University; the alma mater of baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, the school was known as the Hornets before 1934. As for the origin of  the new name, well it’s complicated … and even the school is not sure.

Dots — Poca High, Charleston, W.Va.; The name “Poca High School” was established in 1922. The original mascot was an Indian after chief Pocatallico. The current mascot — “The Dot” — was formed in 1928, during a storming football game when a reporter said: “They look like a bunch of red polka dots running around the field!” The name stuck and is still currently used.

Syrupmakers — Cairo High, Cairo, Ga.; Roddenberry’s syrup plant was once located in Cairo, giving the town the name “syrup city” and inspiring the school’s nickname.

Marcos — Polo Community High, Polo, Ill.; formerly the Apostles, the school held a vote in 1939 and changed the name.

(tie) Orphans (boys teams) and Annies (girls teams) — Centralia High, Centralia, Ill.; The nickname is believed to date to a Depression Era basketball game when the school’s team, forced to play in rags, was likened to a bunch of orphans. When girls’ athletics was were added in the 1970s, “Annies” was the obvious moniker.


These teams were able to pack their nicknames when they changed cities:


Braves — After becoming the Braves in 1912, the franchise won World Series under the same name in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

Rams — Was meant to honor the work ethic of players produced by Fordham University and, since 1936, has followed the NFL team from Cleveland to L.A., Anaheim and now St. Louis.

Cardinals — The baseball team has been in St. Louis more than a century but the football Cardinals started life in the APFA in Chicago in 1920, moved to St. Louis in 1960 and to Arizona in 1988.

Dodgers — The nickname was borne of a pejorative for trolley-dodging Brooklynites but it had become so iconic, the team kept the name it when it moved to largely trolleyless Los Angeles in 1958.

Hawks — After playing its first season in Moline, Ill., as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, the franchise shortened the nickname to Hawks, making it easier to carry as the team moved to Milwaukee and St. Louis before landing in Atlanta, where it remains.


These nicknames were banned by either a court judge or a court of public opinion:

SuperSonics and Browns — Seattle and Cleveland, respectively, went to court to keep the NBA and NFL teams names from leaving town when the teams did.

Hornets — This nickname spent its first 13 seasons in Charlotte, where it sold a lot of T-shirts. It fell flat when the team moved to New Orleans, though, so the franchise changed the name to Pelicans and sent the old name back to Charlotte and the Bobcats, who will become the Hornets next season.

North Stars — When the NHL franchise in Minnesota moved to Texas in 1994, it could hardly keep “north” in its title. So it became simply the Dallas Stars. and When the league returned to the Twin Cities in 2001, the new team was named the Wild.

Oilers — The NFL team moved from Houston to Nashville in 1997 and kept the nickname before realizing there’s not much oil in Tennessee. It was even less creative in choosing a new nickname, though, taking the easy way out and going with an alliteration: Tennessee Titans.

Senators — The nation’s capital has lost two MLB teams, both named Senators. The first bugged out for Minnesota after the 1960 season and became the Twins. It was replaced by an expansion franchise in Washington but those Senators lasted just 11 seasons before moving to Texas as the Rangers.


Canadiens — The nickname, and spelling, identifies the people of Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city and the largest city in French-speaking Quebec. The nickname identifies the people of Canada’s second-largest city.

Islanders — One of three NHL teams in the New York area, it’s one of two actually based on an island — in this case, Long Island.

Brewers — For much of its existence Milwaukee was called the beer capital of the world, a history its baseball team honors.

Steelers — Iron and steel production was Pittsburgh’s main industry for nearly 150 years, which is why the Steelers’ logo is based on the Steelmark belonging to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Ravens — When the franchise was forced to leave the Browns name in Cleveland, its new name was inspired by “The Raven,” the poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, who once lived in Baltimore.


Jazz — The NBA team kept its original nickname when it fled New Orleans, the home of Dixieland Jazz, for Salt Lake City, home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Lakers — There may be 10,000 lakes in the team’s birthplace of Minnesota, but the Department of Recreation and Parks lists just 11 in Los Angeles.

Chivas USA — The goats are named after their sister club in Mexico’s Liga MX. But because that team is as hated by some as it is revered by others, the Major League Soccer club’s attendance has suffered by association.

Grizzlies — When the NBA moved this franchise from Vancouver, where grizzly bears once roamed, it should have changed the species of bear. Black bears, not grizzlies, populated the Memphis area.

Royals — Despite the huge scoreboard in the shape of a crown, Kansas City’s baseball team was named not in honor of monarchy but instead as paean to the city’s association with the American Royal Livestock Show.

For the record: An earlier version of this story said that the New York Islanders would no longer be on Long Island when they play in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. Brooklyn is located on the west end of Long Island.