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St. John's IceCaps
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Posted 2011 October 9
What a strange feeling.
The first hockey game I ever went to was the old Charlotte Checkers of the Eastern Hockey League when I was only two or three years old, but by the time I was a teenager I had pretty much stopped following hockey of any sort. This wasn't because I wasn't interested, but because it was simply impossible to do so. My family had moved to a town in eastern North Carolina, about five or six hours from the Washington Capitals (then the closest NHL team) and roughly half that distance from the nearest minor league hockey team. This was back in the 1980s, so television coverage of the NHL was nonexistent in most of the country. In retrospect, there were almost certainly AM radio stations carrying hockey game that had a night time range big enough for me to be able to listen to games, but I wasn't aware of it at the time. Besides, hockey on the radio just doesn't work if you ask me.
So for years I was waiting for the chance to be a hockey fan again. Finally, while I was in college in Chapel Hill, Raleigh (about thirty minutes away) got its first minor league hockey team: the Raleigh IceCaps of the East Coast Hockey League. Finally, I was able to see games again. If the EHL Checkers were the birth of a hockey fan, the ECHL Raleigh IceCaps were the rebirth. And it wasn't long before I had turned into an absolute fanatic, going to various away games so often that I had friends in just about every nearby city with an ECHL team (an ECHL mailing list helped with that, but truth be told some friends I made the old-fashioned way, simply because I went to so many away games that people started to recognize me).
All good things come to an end, and by the late 1990s the IceCaps had been chased out of town by a team that decided to manufacture a rivalry with the Washington Capitals, a team I had been a fan of for over twenty years by that point. (Perhaps I wasn't able to actually pay any attention for most of those twenty years, but had you asked me who my favorite NHL team was there would have been no hesitation.) Between the higher ticket prices, the fact that I had no connection to this team, and the presence of other teams in nearby cities, I said the hell with it. In the entire time that Raleigh has had an NHL team, I've been to just one game. At first I was going to minor league games in nearby cities such as Fayetteville, Greensboro, and Winston. But it wasn't long before driving that far to see minor league games lost its appeal, and it wasn't much longer before I had stopped paying attention to hockey once again. (Yes, the NHL is much easier to follow, but they lost me the year they cancelled an entire season and still haven't regained me yet.) All in all, it would not be unreasonable to say that my time as an active hockey fan started when the IceCaps came into existence and ended when they left.
There had never been a previous team (at least, none that I'm aware of) called the IceCaps. I had assumed there never would be again because...well, let's be honest here: because it isn't a good name for most places (more on this in a bit). So I was quite surprised when I learned that the Manitoba Moose, after relocating to St. John's, were going to call themselves the St. John's IceCaps. I felt a strange twinge of nostalgia upon seeing that. Truth is, I would love to still be an active hockey fan. It just doesn't fit into my life right now. I'll be damned if I'm going to give Pete Karmanos any of my money, so watching the team in Raleigh is out of question. And going to a game alone isn't all that much fun, and it's hard convincing many people to go to a minor league game an hour or two away when there's an NHL team in town. (I still think minor league hockey is more enjoyable to watch, but most people don't buy that for a second.)
In case you're wondering why a team in Raleigh was called the "IceCaps", it was because Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina. As you can see, the team's first logo even had a capitol dome on it, and yes, that is what the dome on top of the North Carolina Capitol looks like. If one is being perfectly honest, one admits that naming a team after being the state captial doesn't make a lot of sense unless the team is in league that doesn't cross state lines. When the IceCaps joined, however, there were already teams in Nashville TN and Richmond VA, plus a team in Columbus OH joined the league at the same time as Raleigh. In other words, over a quarter of the teams in the league were located in state capitals when the IceCaps debuted, yet only Raleigh felt the need to name themselves after the fact that they were the state capital. It was kind of cheesy, when it comes right down to it. But at the time I was too happy about finally getting to see hockey again to care about that.
St. John's is also a capital, and the AHL also has numerous other teams in state/provinicial capitals (Albany, Hartford, Oklahoma City, Providence, and Toronto; plus Hershey, Manchester, and Cedar Park are all less than a half hour away from Harrisburg, Concord, and Austin). However, there's more to the IceCaps name than St. John's being a provincial capital. After all, mountains with icecaps on them aren't exactly unheard of in the mountainous terrain of Newfoundland and Labrador. I won't say there's not a city in the world where "IceCaps" works better than it does in St. John's (Calgary and Denver come to mind as counterexamples), but St. John's is pretty high on that list.
Not that the name doesn't have problems in St. John's that it didn't have in Raleigh, however. You see, Canada has this chain called Tim Horton's, which despite being a donut shop is roughly equivalent to McDonald's in the U.S. in terms of ubiquity. And one of the more popular items at Tim Horton's is a drink formed by pouring cappucino over ice and which is known as the "Iced Capp". I've even seen pictures on the web (made before the IceCaps released their logo) which suggest a drawing of a Tim Horton's Iced Capp as the logo. That's not a problem in Raleigh, because the Tim Horton's closest to Raleigh is in the western part of West Virginia. But based on the comment sections to some of the articles I read announcing the St. John's team's new name, it's what came to damn near every Canadian's mind when the name was announced.
But good name or bad, it's a good logo for the name. One particularly nice thing about it is that it actually has an icecap in it. The Raleigh IceCaps never managed this. To the right you will see the Raleigh IceCaps' second (and last) logo. It had ice, but no icecap. Personally, I always thought this logo looked like the title on the front of a comic book. No one is likely to say that about the St. John's IceCaps logo, because it's not just a wordmark. You can see not just the ice, but also the maountain it's on. And if you look closely, you can see the outline of Newfoundland and Labrador in the ice. It's not blatant the way it would be if the team were located Texas or some similarly arrogant location (are there any other locations that arrogant?), but it's there. The way they made it a subtle feature is a neat touch. Another subtle homage is that the team colors are basically those of their parent team, minus the red. Of course, this works great: a color scheme of blue, grey, and white is perfect for this team name.
So is there anything I don't like about this logo? There is one, although it's a small thing. I don't like the two-tone effect on the word "IceCaps". I think it would work better if it was all the darker shade of blue. Still, they made a good logo for a name which I had thought for all these years it was impossible to make a good logo for, a name which I love no matter how bad it may actually be. As far as I'm concerned, that's all that matters.
Final Score: 15 points.
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