Column like I see 'em - Real change in sports doesn’t come easily...or cheaply


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

What’s in a name? For many modern sports franchises, both at the professional and amateur level, it’s quite a lot. It can be the difference between popularity and irrelevance. Perhaps more importantly, however, it could be the difference between having a few extra dollars in the bank and being constantly strapped for cash.

After almost a year of deliberation and preparation, Neepawa’s Junior “A” Hockey Club is on the cusp of unveiling its new team name and logos. The organization made the decision last July to discontinue the use of the name “Natives” as part of its ongoing identity and branding.

The introduction of the new look will happen on Monday,  June 7 at 11:30 a.m. on the team’s website and social media accounts, as well as on NACTV.

Let’s go Thunder Chickens?

The team has gone through a lot of work behind the scenes to come up with the new brand. Whatever it is. I am still out of the loop on the new look, despite my best efforts to get a sneak peak.

I just hope the identity won’t be anything basic like “Wildcats”, “Bulldogs” or “Eagles”, three of the most overused names in North American sports,  according to On the flip side, let’s not go to extremes with a weird moniker, such as “Whistlepigs”, “Thunder Chickens” or “Moos”, all of which are real and active sports teams located somewhere in America, because of course they are.

Over the past few decades, the need for a dynamic name and logo has become more and more important. The renaissance began in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when the sale of sports merchandise to the general public skyrocketed. It was led by the popularity of established clubs like the Chicago Bulls and the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland again/Las Vegas Raiders.  Meanwhile, new teams, like the San Jose Sharks, Charlotte Hornets and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim understood that nothing establishes a fanbase quicker than looking cool out on the ice or on the court...other than winning of course.

Nowadays, it’s not just the professional sports franchises that have to understand the importance of a solid identity. A local team’s logo could very well be the first visual representation of that community to outsiders. If it’s done right, the branding can also create a bond with the local fans and the community at large.

Time to put up or shut up

No matter what the new name for Neepawa Junior “A” Hockey Club is, I sincerely hope that the public will get behind it, and I’m not just referring to those who regularly attend the games. I’m talking directly to any person who has said “I won’t support the team, as long as they’re called Natives,” and there are more than a few of you out there. I’ll admit, behind the scenes, I’ve also questioned the name. But now that the change has occured, what are we going to do about that?

Changing everything about a sports team’s identity comes with a massive price tag. On-ice team jerseys, on average, cost around $5,000 per set. Then there is the purchase of all new merchandise and signage. On top of that is the changes to the website and all social media platforms. None of that is cheap.

So right now, this is your opportunity to literally put your money where your mouth is. When the merchandise is available, buy a hat, or a t-shirt. Just something.

Even if you don’t want to support them to that degree, then simply donate a dollar, two dollars, ten dollars, whatever to the hockey club.

You can do so by doing an e-transfer, which is actually  a surprisingly easy process. Even I was able to do it...after my younger co-workers explained it to me.

Just log on to your banking app on your phone; click on “Send money with e-transfer”; punch in the email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and then just decide how much you want to back up your words with actions.

If that’s too much of a hassle, then just hand a few bucks over to head coach/general manager Ken Pearson the next time you see him out and about. However you want to show support, just do it.

I’ll get the puck moving right now by promising $50 to the team...and I work in media, so $50 is a painful amount of money to give. Now I can only eat on even  numbered days for the next week or so. But I’ll do it anyway, because it’s been said that one of the only ways to spark change is to take money out of people’s pockets. If that’s true, then one of the ways to reward change is to give support, in this case, financial support willingly and without expectation.

At the end of the day, please remember that ultimately, no matter what the new name is for the Neepawa Whatevers, the first name is a heck of a lot more important than the last name.

Disclaimer: Column like I see ‘em is a monthly opinion column for the Neepawa Banner & Press. The views expressed are the writer’s and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press.