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The Origins of All 30 NHL Team Names

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Ever wonder what a Canuck is? How about a Blue Jacket? With another NHL season upon us, here's a breakdown of how the league's 30 teams got their names.

1. New York Rangers

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In 1925, the New York Americans joined the National Hockey League and played their home games at the old Madison Square Garden. Tex Rickard, the boxing promoter and ex-gold prospector who built and owned the arena, decided he wanted his own NHL team, which he was awarded in 1926. Rickard's team was immediately dubbed "Tex's Rangers" as a pun referencing the paramilitary force founded in Texas during the 1830s. The Americans folded in 1942, while Tex's Rangers remain.

2. New Jersey Devils

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Given that New Jersey has never been known for its mountains, the team needed a new nickname after the Colorado Rockies relocated to the Garden State in 1982. The New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority sponsored a statewide newspaper contest to determine the new nickname and some of the other finalists included Americans, Blades, Coastals, Colonials, Gulls, Jaguars, Meadowlanders, and Meadowlarks. While some fans objected to the winning selection on religious grounds—one threatened the life of a reporter who was covering the search—the Devil has an entirely non-religious folk history in New Jersey. According to legend, a harmless creature known as the Leeds Devil, or the Jersey Devil, roamed the Pine Barrens in the southern part of the state from 1887 until 1938.

3. New York Islanders

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When New York's expansion Major League Baseball franchise held a name-the-team contest in 1961, Islanders finished third behind Mets and Empires. Eleven years later, Islanders was selected as the nickname for New York's new hockey team, which plays its home games on Long Island.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

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The team sponsored a name-the-team contest after Ed Snider, then-vice president of the Philadelphia Eagles, brought hockey back to the City of Brotherly Love in 1966. Snider's sister, Phyllis, reportedly suggested the name Flyers, which sounds good when paired with Philadelphia but doesn't have any real meaning.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sponsored a name-the-team contest, but Carol McGregor, the wife of one of the franchise's part owners, Jack McGregor, was the one responsible for the nickname. In his book, Pittsburgh Penguins: The Official History of the First 30 Years, Bob Grove describes how Carol McGregor came up with the name. "I was thinking of something with a P. And I said to Jack, 'What do they call the Civic Arena?' And he said, 'The Big Igloo.' So I thought, ice ... Pittsburgh ... Penguins." More than 700 of the 26,000 contest entries were for Penguins.

6. Boston Bruins

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When grocery store tycoon Charles Adams brought a team to Boston, he hired former hockey great Art Ross to serve as his general manager. Adams tasked Ross with coming up with a nickname, with one of the requirements being that the team's colors would be the same as his grocery store chain's: brown and yellow. Ross decided on Bruins.

7. Buffalo Sabres

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When Buffalo entered the league in 1970, owners Seymour Knox III and Northrup Knox wanted the nickname for their new team to be unique. The brothers sponsored a name-the-team contest and decided on Sabres, with a buffalo featured prominently in the team's logo.

8. Montreal Canadiens

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In 1909, John Ambrose O'Brien created the Club de Hockey Canadien. Ambrose wanted his team, a charter member of the National Hockey Association, to appeal to Montreal's francophone population and he hoped to drum up a rivalry with the city's established team, the Wanderers. The Canadiens are often referred to as "The Habs" or "Les Habs," an abbreviation of "Les Habitants," the name for the early settlers of New France.

9. Ottawa Senators

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The original Ottawa Senators, founded in 1883, won 11 Stanley Cups. When an NHL team returned to Ottawa in 1992 after a nearly 60-year hiatus, the nickname, a reference to Ottawa's status as Canada's capital city, was an obvious choice.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

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Conn Smythe purchased Toronto's hockey team in 1927 and one of his first orders of business was renaming the team. The franchise that began play as the Arenas in 1917 changed its nickname to St. Patricks in 1919 to attract Toronto's Irish population. Smythe eventually decided on Maple Leafs, for a couple possible reasons. Smythe fought in the Maple Leaf Regiment during World War I, and there was a former Toronto hockey team called the East Maple Leaves.

11. Winnipeg Jets

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The Winnipeg Jets, formed in late 1971, got their moniker from a team of the same name that played in Canada's Western Hockey League. The current franchise is actually the second incarnation; the first relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 and became the Phoenix Coyotes. The current franchise was originally called the Atlanta Thrashers— named by Ted Turner after Georgia's state bird, the brown thrasher—before it was sold to a Canadian group, True North Sports & Entertainment, in 2011, and relocated.

12. Carolina Hurricanes

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After the Hartford Whalers moved to Raleigh in 1997, new owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. named his team after the devastating storms that regularly ravage the region.

13. Florida Panthers

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Had Tampa Bay been awarded a baseball team in the early '90s, they likely would've been called the Florida Panthers, a reference to the endangered species of the same name. Instead, the nickname was adopted by Florida's second NHL team. When Panthers president Bill Torrey revealed the nickname, he told reporters: "A panther, for your information, is the quickest striking of all cats. Hopefully, that's how we will be on the ice."

14. Tampa Bay Lightning

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In 1990, a thunderstorm served as inspiration for then-president of the Tampa Bay Hockey Group Phil Esposito's decision to name his team the Lightning. Esposito said that, in addition to being a natural characteristic of the Tampa Bay area, Lightning expressed the fast action of a hockey game.

15. Washington Capitals

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Washington owner Abe Pollin decided on the perfectly apt nickname Capitals after staging a name-the-team contest.

16. Chicago Blackhawks

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World War I veteran and coffee tycoon Frederic McLaughlin was Chicago's owner when it entered the NHL in 1926. McLaughlin named the team after the 86th Infantry Division in which he served. The "Black Hawk Division" was named after Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk American Indian tribe, who fought the Illinois militia in 1832. The nickname was officially changed from Black Hawks to Blackhawks in 1986.

17. Columbus Blue Jackets

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Blue Jackets was the winning entry in a name-the-team contest. According to the team's website, the name "celebrates patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, more specifically, the city of Columbus." Ohio contributed more residents to the Union Army than any other state during the Civil War.

18. Detroit Red Wings

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After purchasing the Detroit Falcons in 1932, James Norris renamed the team after the "Winged Wheelers," the nickname of the Montreal Hockey Club for which he once played. Norris chose a winged wheel as the team's logo, a nod to Detroit's growing reputation as the heart of the automobile industry.

19. Nashville Predators

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A vote by the fans helped determine Nashville's nickname, a reference to the saber-toothed tiger remains that were discovered during an excavation in the city in 1971.

20. St. Louis Blues

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According to the team's website, owner Sid Saloman Jr. selected the nickname Blues in 1967 after W.C. Handy's song, "St. Louis Blues." Mercury and Apollo were two of the other nicknames that were considered.

21. Calgary Flames

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The Flames played in Atlanta from 1972 until 1980 and their nickname was a reference to the burning of Atlanta by General William T. Sherman during the Civil War. While the team moved, the nickname remained.

22. Colorado Avalanche

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Rockies, the nickname for Colorado's hockey team that left for New Jersey in 1982, had been adopted by Denver's baseball team by the time the Quebec Nordiques left Canada for the Front Range in 1995. Management originally wanted to name the team Extreme, but received all sorts of negative feedback, and justifiably so. Avalanche, which eventually beat out Black Bears, Outlaws, Storm, Wranglers, Renegades, Rapids, and Cougars, drew some criticism, as well, given their deadly nature. A member of the marketing group responsible for naming the team replied: "This is the NHL, a rough and tough sport, and Avalanche is something that matches the 'on the edge' feel they want to create. Hey, Cougars and Bears kill people, too. People shouldn't get so excited about Avalanche being a disrespectful name or something. It's just a name."

23. Edmonton Oilers

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Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, is also the oil capital of Canada. Edmonton began play in 1972 in the World Hockey Association and retained the name Oilers when it joined the NHL in 1979.

24. Minnesota Wild

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In 1998, Wild was chosen from a field of six finalists, which also included the Blue Ox, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Freeze. (Voyageurs were the working-class employees of fur trading companies in the region during the 1700s.)

25. Vancouver Canucks

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Johnny Canuck, who originally appeared as a Canadian political cartoon character in 1869, was reinvented as a comic book action hero who fought Adolf Hitler, among other villains, during World War II. Canuck is also slang for Canadian, making Vancouver's hockey team the Canadian equivalent of the New York Yankees—with a little less money.

26. Dallas Stars

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When the Minnesota North Stars, whose nickname was decided by a fan contest, moved to Texas in 1993, they ditched the "North" and didn't feel compelled to replace it with "South" or "Lone."

27. Los Angeles Kings

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The late Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the Los Angeles Lakers and later the Washington Redskins, settled on Kings as the team nickname from entries submitted in a fan contest. The Los Angeles Monarchs played in the Pacific Coast Hockey League during the 1930s and Cooke's new team adopted the same royal color scheme as the Lakers.

28. Anaheim Ducks

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Quack. Quack. Quack! Quack! QUACK! Anaheim joined the NHL in 1993 and its team was known as the Mighty Ducks, after the wildly popular Disney movie and cross-marketing vehicle of the same name. The nickname was changed to Ducks and the logo was changed in 2005 after Disney sold the team.

29. Phoenix Coyotes

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The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 and Coyotes was the winner in a name-the-team contest that attracted more than 10,000 entries. Scorpions was the runner-up.

30. San Jose Sharks

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Sharks was chosen from 2300 entries in San Jose's name-the-team contest. The other finalists included Rubber Puckies, Screaming Squids, Salty Dogs, and Blades. Blades was the most popular entry, but ultimately rejected because of its gang implications. When the nickname was chosen, seven shark species made their home in a stretch of the Pacific Ocean off the California coast called The Red Triangle.

See Also...
NHL Expansion and Relocation, 1942-Present

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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