Hornets Or Pelicans … What’s In A Name?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — What’s in a nickname?

It depends on the circumstances. And for folks in New Orleans, those circumstances will change dramatically in the next 24 hours as the team they’ve known as the Hornets will become the Pelicans. The Hornets have scheduled a Thursday news conference to unveil their new logo, mascot and colors, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

What’s in a nickname?

For Hornets (… er, soon-to-be Pelicans) owner Tom Benson, apparently everything.

The owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, Benson owned the rights to the Pelicans nickname before he bought the Hornets in April. The Pelicans date back to 1887 in New Orleans, giving them roots in the city dating back to before Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball (in 1891). The former minor league New Orleans Pelicans boast a rich baseball history and lineage, according to a Wikipedia entry:

Notable Pelicans included Shoeless Joe JacksonJimmy DygertHenry “Cotton” KnauppBill LindsayZeke BonuraGene Freese, and Hall of Famers Dazzy VanceJoe SewellBob Lemon and Earl Weaver. In Jackson’s only season with New Orleans (1910), he hit .354 to win the league batting title and led the team to the pennant with an 87–53 record. The following year, he would hit .408 with the American League’s Cleveland Naps.

In the 1950s, the team was associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was managed by Danny Murtaugh. Other notable Pelican managers included Larry Gilbert and Abner Powell, with the latter credited with introducing the “rain check” in 1889.

The Pelicans’ name briefly resurfaced during the 1977 season when oilman A. Ray Smith moved his Triple-A Tulsa Oilers to New Orleans to play in the Superdome. Tony La Russa was the starting shortstop for the team. After a single season, the team then moved toSpringfield, Illinois, and were renamed the Redbirds.

Whether or not the that history resonates in the city and with fans throughout the state and beyond, however, remains to be seen. As Spears noted, it wasn’t exactly met with fireworks from locals when word spread that a change was coming:

The name “Pelicans” has received a lot of criticism from Hornets fans and NBA followers. During the news conference, a video is expected to be shown explaining the history behind the nickname and what it means to New Orleans and the state. There was similar resistance when the Seattle SuperSonics changed their nickname to Thunder when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, but now the nickname is widely accepted.

The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002. Some fans are hoping the Charlotte Bobcats change their name back to the Hornets, considering the change in New Orleans. A source said the Bobcats will do their due diligence in considering a switch back to the Hornets, but nothing is imminent.

All that said, the Pelican is the state bird, on the state flag, on license plates various other official entities in the … wait for it … Pelican State.

But again, what’s in a nickname?

For fans of the Saints, Hornets and all things New Orleans who have come along since the baseball Pelicans, it’s all about the look of the new logo, mascot and colors.

“I believe people will like that it’s a state pride thing,” said Carl Blouin Jr., whose roots run generations deep in the Crescent City. “It really depends on what the logo looks like. If it’s a goofy Pelican with a long neck and a knot in his throat, no. If it’s a tough Pelican diving into Black Bay to catch a shad, looking fierce, then maybe so. But if it looks like a cartoon character … we’re going to have a major problem. It’s all going to depend on the logo.”

We’ll have to wait and see exactly what it looks like then. In the meantime, we need your input …


  1. kobi says:



  2. zgillet says:

    I vote for… wait for it… the New Orleans Hurricanes.

    Too soon?

  3. nba says:

    let’s go pels. it sounds stupid.

  4. lol says:

    new orleans mardi gras

  5. Let's be honest says:

    I will say, the Hornets do have something of an “NBA legacy” if you think about it. For those of us growing up in the 90s, the hornets was a beloved team that, while never truly excellent, produced memorable players like Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and Glenn Rice, not to mention great off the court garb and the resurgence of the Hornets under Chris Paul a few years back where he began his career. It’ll be a shame. Not entirely convinced about the strength of this Pelicans name. Knowing New Orleans culture fairly well, I’m convinced they could have pegged, if not a fiercer name, at least a much cooler one, to the organization.

    • justsaying says:

      I sure enjoyed watching them play back then. It was a shame LJ lost his hops due to injuries; he might’ve been a HoF power forward if he’d kept his athleticism. And Zo, if he were playing today would be the league’s best center, or at worst tied with a healthy and productive Dwight howard.

  6. justsaying says:

    Too bad they can’t work out a 3-way trade of names with Charlotte and Utah.
    Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Jazz, and Utah Bobcats all sound appropriate. But kind of like lakes in LA, jazz in Utah is a prevailing tradition the fans wouldn’t be willing to break with.

    Pelicans IS terrible though. It sounds like a college team.

  7. Lauren says:

    I wasn’t sure about the new moniker at first but after seeing these logo design submissions in 99designs contest, think it’ll be a great team name! http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/01/03/pelicans-logo-contest-winner-and-top-designs/

  8. kbags says:

    All this means to me is a chance to be a Charlotte hornets fan again

  9. Oscar says:

    Here’s a good one.

    New Orleans Vamps!
    New Orleans Bats!

  10. Ben says:

    Pelicans works for me, and five years up the road I think it will feel right. Hornets has always fit with Charlotte, and I hope they take back the name and the colour scheme. The Bobcats era is one that can happily be forgotten. Perhaps Jazz would have been ideal, but its completely moot since it isn’t an option. And anyway, I think I’d rather have the New Orleans Pelicans than the Utah Mormons. Mind you, if you took the state name approach, you could ironically have ended up with the Utah Bees…

  11. Common Sense says:

    When they change cities they should be required to change the name. Lakers is ridiculous in Los Angeles, what do we have… the LA River? Jazz in Utah? They should be the Utah Tabernacles. The Thunder…well that couldn’t be much better except maybe the hurricanes would be more appropriate. The Clippers…what? What was San Diego thinking? When Sacramento moves it should be required to either go back to the Seattle Supersonics or the Seatlle Rain Clouds, or the Seattle Needles. Come to think of it…this is all stupid. But I definitely think teams should not be able to keep the name when they move, it’s not fair to the fans…blah…this topic just got boring fast

    • Sea Pea says:

      San Diego Navy hub, Clipper ships…makes since to me. At least LA is on the coast. It makes a little since. Should be Salt Lake Lakers though. Miami Suns and Phoenix Heat is more appropriate. Seattle Kings….from King County Washington.

      • crooklyn king says:

        or the brooklyn kings from kings county. i agree, when teams move they should b required to leave there name behind. or at least give the old citys fans a vote on weather they want there name 2 stay. but its not about the fans, never realy has been. and speaking about that dont make since, there are no lakes in LA, doese utah have jazz, nets are what u go throu to win, knicks are a type of pants, are there bears in memphis, humidity not heat in mia, players dont pace coaches do, dont get me started on the clippers, have you ever seen a bull in chi town, and where is toronto hiding there dinosaurs.

  12. big cat says:

    how bout the new Orleans monsters , new Orleans vipers , new Orleans slam , new Orleans krew , new Orleans gators , new Orleans bayou too name a few…