There, I said it.
While it's hardly a scalding hot take, to call out a minor-league team for doing something minor league-y, I think its time has come.
The Iowa AHL hockey team was branded as the Wild upon their arrival in Des Moines in 2013, and has elicited yawns from onlookers ever since. Which is a shame, since it came as a franchise with a great and befitting brand in the Houston Aeros. Minnesota Sports and Entertainment owns the team, and upon moving the team, must have wanted to have continuity with branding.
We see a similar trend in the Iowa Wolves, the Minnesota Timberwolves' G-league affiliate.
The Iowa Wild have been, for the most part, awful. The Iowa Wild haven't been anywhere close to .500 in their existence, and never any higher than fifth in their division. This summer, Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher made signing depth a priority and finally stocked Iowa with several free agents with some NHL experience, should the Wild have to dig into that pool.
Spoiler alert: They have.
Even with sending several players back and forth to Minnesota, they're still 18-13-6 and in position to make the playoffs for the first time.
While it's hard to be certain if the future is bright for the Iowa Wild -- given the Minnesota Wild's lackluster farm system -- if the Minnesota front office continues to prioritize NHL depth at the minor-league level, the Iowa Wild could be in for more winning seasons to come.
While that's reason enough to create a name for yourself, creating a better brand for the team should be a priority, and separating themselves from the Minnesota Wild brand can't hurt the team at this point.
While it's not uncommon for minor league teams to share a name with their major league parent club, it's a trend that's fading away. Only five other AHL teams share a name, and minor-league baseball teams have been abandoning this trend in recent years, realizing the brand gains they can create when finally having a name for themselves.
Most notably, this summer the Gwinnett Braves changed their name to the Stripers, following issues with fans being confused as to which games they had tickets to. The Iowa Wild may not have similar issues with lost fans thinking they're supposed to be seeing a game in St. Paul, but the principle remains the same. Have you noticed how I've had to type 'Iowa Wild' and 'Minnesota Wild' every time I've identified each team in this article?
While mildly annoying to the reader and writer, it underlines the branding issue.
While renaming a team is difficult and likely expensive process, it's probably worth the investment in terms of local press and ultimately perhaps, ticket sales. While the Wild moniker isn't keeping any native Minnesotans from making the trip right now, a re-brand could potentially re-energize the franchise and fan base, making the Iowa team a hotter ticket.
Currently, the Iowa Wild sit 12th in the AHL in average attendance, a number that's respectable, but could be improved upon.
So then the fun part begins: naming the team. While there are so many options, a re-naming of an existing and not relocating team can kick-start the energizing of a fan base, and give fans the feeling that they have input on the team they enjoy watching. Getting away from being linked to yet another major league franchise like the Iowa Wolves and Iowa Cubs could be reason enough for local fans to give a non-college team some attention.
The best minor-league names either match the city perfectly, or are a spin-off from the parent club without infringing too closely, or both. Spinning off from the Minnesota Wild with something that ties in Iowa's agricultural reputation would likely be a tough sell, but I believe that they can either strike a balance or find something that fits one side very well, without getting too gimmicky, like another non-plural name.
In the end, I'm sure the Iowa Wild will stay the Iowa Wild for quite some time, because of their ownership and how proud the Minnesota Wild are of themselves and their branding for little reason. But it is fun to imagine what the Iowa Wild getting a new and exciting name, and creating some buzz around a team that has been a branding buzzkill for its entire existence.
What do you think the Iowa Wild should be named?
Comment below, or find me on twitter @BenRemington to discuss.