Posted June 05, 2013

New Toronto Raptors’ management regime will consider franchise name change

Ben Golliver, Masai Ujiri, Tim Leiweke, Toronto Raptors
(Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors could have a non-dinosaur mascot in the near future. (Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors’ new management regime will investigate the possibility of changing the team’s nickname.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) president Tim Leiweke told reporters on Tuesday that he is considering ditching the only moniker the franchise has used in its 18-year existence.

The National Post reports Leiweke’s comments, which were made during a press conference introducing new GM Masai Ujiri.

On potentially changing the Raptors’ name: “We’re definitely going to take a look at it. It doesn’t mean we’re committed to it. It means it’s a good conversation. I saw those generic uniforms today in the paper. … That won’t be the uniform, by the way. I can assure you of that. I think we need to have this conversation.”

The Raptors entered the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1995 and are now the league’s only franchise in Canada after the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis in 2001. The organization has qualified for the postseason in just five of their 18 seasons as a franchise and have just one playoff series victory to their name. Despite missing out on the playoffs for the fifth straight season, Toronto managed to rank No. 13 in home attendance last season, at more than 18,100 fans per game.

Leiweke was hired by MLSE — the company that oversees the Raptors, the National Hockey League’s Maple Leafs and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC — back in April. The Globe and Mail reported last month that Leiweke’s goal is to execute a rebranding effort that makes the Raptors appeal to all of Canada, in addition to Toronto. That effort will include a bid to host the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto.

Why are the Raptors named the Raptors, anyway? The team’s website notes that the franchise’s moniker was selected with the help of a nationwide contest that was swayed by the popular 1993 dinosaur-themed movie Jurassic Park.

[The Raptors' ownership group] instituted a nationwide “Name Game” contest to name the team and develop team colors and a logo.

The Name Game became one of the most popular such enterprises in league history, generating more than 2,000 entries. The final top-10 list was dominated by animal names: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs (Toronto’s nickname is Hogtown), Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers.

No doubt fueled by the enormous success of the movie Jurassic Park and the popularity of dinosaurs with youngsters who would grow up to be fans in the target market, the team’s new moniker, the Toronto Raptors, was unveiled on Canadian national television.

The Raptors franchise had also considered naming itself the “Huskies” after a Toronto professional basketball team that competed in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) from 1946-1947. The BAA was a precursor to the NBA.

Two other NBA franchises recently decided to pursue moniker changes. The New Orleans Hornets changed their name to the “Pelicans” at the end of the 2012-13 season; the Charlotte Bobcats announced in May their plans to become the “Hornets” at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. Completing a name change can take up to 18 months, as it involves a formal process and approval from the league office.

56 comments
Raheem1
Raheem1

I do not think the name should change. However, if it did change, I would prefer the Toronto Beavers. Beavers has a huge history in Canadian history and is Canada's national animal.

Rob47
Rob47

Toronto Flounders

HarvHarvey
HarvHarvey

Toronto Spartans gives that rough & tumble look 

RobinO'Farrell
RobinO'Farrell

In keeping with mundane team names, like the toronto F.C. for football club...how about the Toronto B.C.? More seriously though, I do Like the suggested Toronto Towers, but can you imagine the mascot?!

Ezekial4lyfe
Ezekial4lyfe

How about stop caring about the name and practice more so the team plays as a team . Aso fire bargnani

JimboRock
JimboRock

to keep on the same page as Raptors the new name is obvious. The Toronto Saurus.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Toronto Towers. It's even alliterative. Good name for a basketball team, and the CN tower is still impressive.

RJC
RJC

Winning will make the team appealing to fans in any geography... has nothing to do with their name.... it's that they lose continually and are rarely competitive

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

I grew up near Toronto. I remember when the Raptors & Grizz came out. The NBA franchise was totally based on Jurassic Park. It’s no different than a Mighty Ducks situation. It’s cheesy. I was 12yrs old when the team came out so I openly embraced the dinosaur culture. So did parents with low basketball IQ.  Well, it’s 2013, we live in the internet, smartphone age.. let’s fix out mistakes.

In 1947 the Toronto Huskies played the first organized professional game in North America against the New York Knickerbockers. The KNICKS!!!! Toronto has an ORIGINAL team with history and a stamp date equal to that of the Knicks franchise. End this madness now.. bring back the HUSKIES. Canada is known for being cold, we have huskies & the name makes sense in respect to Canadian basketball history.

Anything other than “Huskies” is delusional.

justin22
justin22

The Toronto Wolverines...

Scallywagners
Scallywagners

The Canada Drys

The Tronno Zeds

The Tronno Maple Trees

La A
La A

Toronto Huskies

Dixie Normous
Dixie Normous

The Canadian Drunks

Have Another Donut, Hosers


David131
David131

So surprised to learn that they ranked 13th in attendance last year.  Is it the pride of being the only team in Canada?  From a marketing/branding angle, maybe play that up.

Bobbystoke
Bobbystoke

When the league was allowed to have big mascot logos on the jerseys, The raptors were one of the top five coolest with the entire raptor with pinstrips. Now considered throwback, they are some of the top selling old school jersey's (mcgrady, carter). Don't change the name, just change how plain the jersey's are!

Mark4
Mark4

Toronto has already made the off season move that they needed to by kicking Colangelo out of the driver's seat and upstairs.  They will automatically be better without his bumbling, cap binding moves.

doublejtrain68
doublejtrain68

Here's a better idea -- how about getting out of Toronto, where all they care about is hockey and baseball? Move the team to Seattle, Kansas City, St. Louis or Nashville. 

JonathanPerry
JonathanPerry

How about you focus on making your basketball team better instead of what it's name is. 

6marK6
6marK6

Yeah. the name Raptor was a horrible choice to begin with. Never name yourself after a current movie, especially if that movie has nothing to do with your city. I can honestly say that I have never ever seen any Raptor merchandise. Come up with a name that has something to do with Toronto's history or geography. It does not have to be an animal or start with a T.

ptbnl
ptbnl

I like the name Hogs but also something starting with the letter T.  Perhaps Terriers, or Turtles or Tower, but I guess Turkeys would not go over well.

bluedragon
bluedragon

none of those names are remotely good. Raptors is sadly the best of their previous options! unless they come up w/ something brilliant might as well keep Raptors. the mascot could go though

Action
Action

Why don't they find a name that sounds Canadian?  You know, kind of like the Jazz in Utah, or the Grizzlies in Memphis, or the Lakers in LA?

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

@Rickapolis You're funny.. I actually laughed at this one.  You should contact Leno or The Daily Show.. this material is priceless.  

justin22
justin22

@UncommonStats canada may be known for being cold, but toronto isn't exactly known for an inuit sled dog. that said, it's a decent name if you don't mind that several fairly well known collegiate teams also use it, at least one of which over a decade longer.. 

La A
La A

@doublejtrain68 We care about our beavers, maple syrup and igloos. Don't forget about those too! smh

Creemore
Creemore

@doublejtrain68 Is that why a losing team ranked 13th in the league in attendance?  Don't let facts get in the way of your analysis.

6marK6
6marK6

@bluedragon You did not read the article. None of those names listed have been suggested for the new name. Those were names suggested by fans before they named the original franchise.

6marK6
6marK6

@Action Your three examples are of teams that were well named and then switched cities. Then of course the names became a joke. Like Utah Jazz.And now New Orleans has to call themselves the freaking Pelicans.

MartinOlague
MartinOlague

@Action Actually, there are Grizzly Bears in Tennessee. It's a large population too.

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

@justin22 @UncommonStats It's a fantastic name, a name we had in 1947.  The Huskies name means as much to Toronto as the Knickerbockers means to New York.  Collegiate teams stole the name from the history books.  It was here first.  When the Winnipeg Jets came back they went with same name.  Jets... they didn't worry about the NFL's NY Jets.. they reclaimed their history and entitlement. 

Action
Action

@6marK6 - I've 42, so I remember the Utah Jazz and Vancouver Grizzlies.  I find it absurd that these teams didn't change their names, although the Grizzlies wanted to change their name to the Memphis Express and the NBA said no.  They didn't want it to look like the team was named for a sponsor (FedEx).  Utah Jazz is the worst.  Interestingly, the Houston Rockets started as the San Diego Rockets, so moving to Houston actually improved their name / city association.

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

@justin22 @UncommonStats It's a great name in my opinion so I can see why there are a few.  After all this is only my opinion but the Huskies is much more basketball appropriate than the Raptors.

justin22
justin22

@UncommonStats @justin22 i knew uconn bc i am a 20-yr fan; i looked up the others to see how old they were. that said, i'd take no umbrage - my huskies are later additions to the pack as well.

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

Have you seen the CFL before?  It's awful, terrible.  8 teams competing for the Grey Cup.  It's embarrassing yet Canadians love it.  The Huskies name symbolises history.  The Knickbockers name symbolizes history.  Each respectively for their own cities.  NY is a major contender in sports, culture, history & grandeur.  Toronto... well, not so much.  Small things are important here.  Don't read into things too much.  @mannythegoat @UncommonStats 

UncommonStats
UncommonStats

@justin22 @UncommonStats Props on looking that up.  I omit that part of my rant.  The rest I stand by 100%.  Anything aside from Huskies runs the risk of being another "Pelicans".  Also the Raptors has had an alternate Huskies jersey for a few years now.  That alone justifies the permanent change.  Again though, props on that initial Googling. 

justin22
justin22

@UncommonStats @justin22 actually, you're wrong. washington huskies date from 1889, michigan tech, northeastern u, northern illinois all 1920, st. cloud st. 1932, uconn 1934. 

mannythegoat
mannythegoat

@UncommonStats

It does NOT mean as much the Knickerbocker name means to New York. The Huskies played one season. Just one. The Knicks have a little more history to them than a single season. I think you're onto something with the Huskies name but let's not get carried away

Action
Action

@6marK6 - That started when the Browns left Cleveland.  Cleveland went ballistic, and the NFL agreed to let the city keep the names and the history / records of the team.  Seattle got the same deal from the NBA.  The Jazz have been in Utah for so long now that there is no point in them giving that name up, but if a team like that were to move today I think they'd be required to change names.  Can you imagine the Colorado Nordiques?

6marK6
6marK6

@Action @6marK6 Yeah, wouldn't you think that both Utah and Memphis would want to change the name just to have a new start and distance themselves from their loser past? It is criminal that New Orleans cannot get the Jazz name back. I know Seattle worked it so they got to keep the name Sonics.

Action
Action

@newshamg @MartinOlague - There are probably some scary looking ladies who live up in the mountains who could be confused for grizzlies.