Milwaukee's D-League team in Oshkosh will be called the Wisconsin Herd, so I thought to myself, in the major pro sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) as well as the minor leagues in baseball and basketball, what is the best team name in American sports that does not have an "s" at the end of it? Let's go through it, league by league, and then rank them all. (Disagree? Find me on Twitter @jimmiekaska and tell me what an idiot I am).
NFL: Zero teams. It's probably a rule or something, but every team name is a plural of something, whether it's an animal, person, or color.
MLB: Two teams. Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox. Both are misspellings of "socks" but qualify for this survey.
NBA: Four teams. Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz. Finally, some teams to actually rank on this list of whatever!
NHL: Three teams. Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild. A few more to rank!
NBA D-League: Eight teams. Wisconsin Herd, Canton Charge, Grand Rapids Drive, Greensboro Swarm, Lakeland Magic, Oklahoma City Blue, Raptors 905, Sioux Falls Skyforce. Must have been a memo about this from the NBA at some point?
MLB Minor Leagues (official affiliates only): 16 teams! Altoona Curve (Pirates AA), Bowie Baysox (Orioles AA), Colorado Springs Skysox (Brewers AAA), Everett Aquasox (Mariners A), Fort Myers Miracle (Twins A), Greenville Drive (Red Sox A), Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins AA), Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres A), Missoula Osprey (Diamondbacks Rookie), Orem Owlz (Angels Rookie), Round Rock Express (Rangers AAA), Salem Red Sox (Boston A), Trenton Thunder (Yankees AA), Visalia Rawhide (Diamondbacks A), West Virginia Power (Pirates A), Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox A). Plenty of material here.
I left out college sports because that's a list on its own.
So here we go! First, let's eliminate some of the teams in groups with similar concepts. This goes in reverse order of awesomeness.
Tier 1: Laundry
Teams: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Bowie Baysox, Colorado Springs Skysox, Everette Aquasox, Salem Red Sox
What's the obsession with socks by baseball teams? Either way, they're not particularly inspired choices as awesome nickname, although as Jerry Seinfeld said, we're all rooting for laundry. In these team's cases, quite literally.
Tier 2: The Weather
Teams: Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Tampa Bay Lightning, Lake Elsinore Storm, Trenton Thunder
While there are other nicknames for teams in sports that are based on the weather (like the Storm Chasers, or Hurricanes), these names possibly are best for the promotions teams for each squad to drum up easy sound effects and simple marketing concepts.
Tier 3: Misspellings, Parent Team Names, and Numbers
Teams: Raptors 905, Orem Owlz, Lakeland Magic
I'm removing these from the power rankings because the idea is too easy. The Raptors 905 area code-based team name is unique, but it's not like the 76ers or 49ers where you can root for the Sixers or Niners. They're smiply the 905. Magic will be covered below by the parent team in the NBA, and Owlz... in the spirit of this article, replacing an "s" with a "z" for the sake of being unique is kind of silly.
Tier 4: Not Top Ten
19. Oklahoma City Blue. The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Reds have the color-identifying nicknames pretty well locked down. St. Louis hockey goes by the "Blues" moniker. So this concept has been done, and in other cases for better reasons even.
18. Sioux Falls Skyforce. The result of fan voting combined "Sky" and "Force" and that's all there is to it. If you can't pick one, pick 'em both.
17. Winston-Salem Dash. The team named itself after the hyphen in Winston-Salem.
16 and 15. Grand Rapids Drive, Greenville Drive. Both teams are named for the strong automobile manufacturing facilities nearby.
14 and 13. Orlando Magic, Fort Myers Miracle. Unique, but mostly good for bad newspaper pun headlines.
12. Altoona Curve. Named for a locally-famous section of railroad. Most assume it's a nickname formed from the term 'curveball.'
11. Minnesota Wild. If you watched any early-round NHL action the past few years, it's mostly good inspiration for the crowd to go "let's go, wiiiii-ld!" Not sure what a 'wild' is though.
Tier 5: Wisconsin Herd
10. Wisconsin Herd. I'm putting it here because it's so new, I don't know what to do with it yet. A herd of what, exactly?
Tier 5: Not Bad, But Not The Best
9 and 8. Greensboro Swarm and Canton Charge. Both are strongly tied in to their parent club logos. Swarm = Charlotte Hornets (think bees) and the Charge mascot is part of the Cleveland Cavaliers logo. They're solid choices.
7. Colorado Avalanche. It works, oddly enough. Hockey is cold. Avalanches are typically huge sheets of snow and ice tumbling down. I like it.
6. Missoula Osprey. There are a million teams named after birds, but only one in pro sports named the Osprey. If you're going to name your team after a bird, might as well avoid being the 9,000,000th team to call yourselves the Cardinals.
Tier 6: The Best Team Names Without The Letter "S" At The End
5. West Virginia Power. Named for the many major power plants in West Virginia, this team name has practical application as well as an easy marketing concept. Pretty solid stuff.
4. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Anything with the word "jumbo" in the name is a winner in my book.
3. Round Rock Express. Named for Nolan Ryan. I would avoid charging any mounds here.
2. Utah Jazz. It's a great nickname even if has nothing to do with Utah. Look at how Wisconsin markets around receiver Jazz Peavy in football. There's several applications with the name.
1. Visalia Rawhide. Maybe it's the Wisconsin in me. Their mascot is a Holstein named Tipper, they have a giant red barn in their outfield, and rawhide can be interpreted either for the booming dairy industry in the area of the team or the actual baseball used during games. Checks every box for me, and on dollar beer nights, I really hope their marketing slogan is "let's get tipsy!"
All images: Getty Images