Sunday, February 8, 2015

Things I Don't Understand: Hockey Edition

It used to be called the least of the four major American sports. Now with the advent and continued growth of Major League Soccer, hockey is now the second to last popular of the five major American sports. Congratulations!

Based on my posts about the Boston Celtics, I think it's safe to say I'm a Boston sports fan, for the most part. I like the Bruins too. But, my question today is not about the Bs or the Hub of Hockey. It's about one of the Canadian teams.

Ottawa received an expansion team in 1990, and was allowed to use the name The Senators when they began league play in 1992. Now... before we go further, it is important to understand that I used the word "allowed" for a reason, as the NHL owned the rights to the Senators name. There was an Ottawa Senators that was founded in 1883 and played until 1935 when they were purchased and folded by the NHL.

All of this information is easily looked up on Wikipedia. So, it really isn't a mystery, or a surprise. What I don't understand is why the league and the team don't claim any continuation between franchises. The original Senators won 11 Stanley Cups with 34 hall-of-famers. The titles alone would tie them for third most Cups with the Detroit Red Wings.

I do understand that a new franchise may not want to ally themselves undeservedly with legendary winning squads. But then, why choose the exact same mascot, with the exact same colors? If the team truly wanted a clean slate, they could have named themselves anything else and used any other color scheme. But they chose the Senators, probably to throw back to the great Ottawa hockey club of the past. Why then, would they not decide to go all the way and claim the entire legacy and history?

The other reason I can think of for this bizarre decision, would be ownership and licensing issues. There is a long history of teams moving cities and changing nicknames in all the five major sports.  For example, the Tennessee Titans are actually the Houston Oilers, and reserve the rights to the older team's colors and logos. The Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals are some other examples.

However, the Ottawa Senators don't suffer from that issue. The Ottawa Senators moved to St Louis for one season, but then were bought by the league and closed. The team didn't go any where else. There isn't another city/franchise/ownership that can claim the Senator's heritage. There doesn't seem to be a legal issue that would bar the team from claiming continuity, or team history. Even if there were more complicated relocation issues, the NFL and NBA have done stranger things with franchsise continuity recently with the Cleveland Browns and the Charlotte Hornets.

I couldn't find an answer to my question anywhere on the internet. Not on Wikipedia. Not on the Senators or NHL websites. Not on fan sites either. If anyone knows the answer, please share.  

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