These days, San Francisco feels good about its 49ers. But, even during the darkest days of the team's long Babylonian captivity in the cellar, we could at least take pride that "49ers" is one of the cleverest and most geographically apropos franchise names in all of sports. Only a Northern California team could have such a title.
Some of you may already know that San Francisco will soon be graced by another unpoached, organic franchise -- the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL hockey league are slated to play their first games here a year from today. (Incidentally, the ECHL used to stand for "East Coast Hockey League," but is now simply stands for ECHL. Yes, just like KFC).
Much of the attention for the new franchise has gone to its incongruous name. Yes, the team will be playing in the Cow Palace -- but San Francisco is not a place that considers itself a cow town. Pat Curcio, the team's president, general manager, and head coach -- who picks up his phone! -- laughs about that. Sure, there were names that he liked more than "Bulls." But they would have cost a million bucks.
"We were looking at 'seals,' 'fog,' 'rock,' 'breeze,' 'spiders.' We really liked 'Sea Lions,'" recalls Curcio, a Toronto native who has played and coached in hockey's minor leagues and in Europe. "But all those names are still licensed."
In fact, it turns out that there are people who trademark potential franchise names
and sit on them, hoping to pounce on an expansion team that doesn't do its due diligence
, or extort one that does.
Like any visitor to our city, Curcio enjoyed a visit to Pier 39 and gawked at the sea lions. What a great name that would make for a team, he thought. But he claims the fees to obtain the name would have run in the "high six-figures." Minor League hockey teams aren't in the habit of paying out that sort of money.
"'Bulls' worked. The NBA team
had no issue with it," notes the coach. "We did some licensing stuff with Chicago
and as long as our colors aren't red and black, there's no problem -- and it didn't cost us a dime to do. Besides, 'Bulls' is growing on us."
And, since a male sea lion is referred to as a bull, Curcio says future team logos may veer away from the current bovine iteration.
Some other information of note about the city's newest franchise:
- The team's colors are 49ers gold, Giants orange, and black. This combination could create a number of possibilities, some horrifying, some intriguing.
- The ECHL is equivalent to Double-A minor league baseball -- that is, two steps beneath the big leagues. Hockey's version of Triple-A is the AHL. The Bulls are, as yet, unaffiliated with an NHL franchise, but hope to be by the time the puck drops in 2012.
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- The team will play 36 home games and tickets will run between $16 and $38. This means Curcio would have to hock up to 26,315 of the best seats in the house to pay off the potential asking price for the name "Sea Lions."