The pelican in all its majesty (David McNew/ Getty).
When Yahoo! Sports' own Marc Spears reported that the New Orleans Hornets were set to change their name to the Pelicans, reaction was split fairly evenly among those who loved the name and those who hated. The proponents, like me, saw value in the goofiness of the name, which called back to a more ABA-ish approach and also went away from the indistinct toughness of most recent NBA franchises. The negative reactions mostly focused on the fact that pelicans are weird-looking and not superficially intimidating, as if lakes and Irish people were inherently imposing.
Whatever your opinion, it bears noting that "Pelicans" is not yet the official name of the franchise. In fact, a recent report suggests that the NBA has registered several trademarks for their potential new name. From KL Chouinard for the Milwaukee Bucks blog Behind the Buck Pass (via The New Orleans Times-Picayune):
Anil V. George, the attorney who typically handles the trademarks involving NBA brand names, filed trademarks on five new potential franchise names on behalf of the New Orleans Hornets NBA Limited Partnership.
The five names included the favorite Pelicans, a mascot that ties into the state bird as well as a minor league baseball team that existed from 1887 to 1959, but the four others also have strong Louisiana ties.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Rougarou
New Orleans Mosquitos
New Orleans Swamp Dogs
New Orleans Bullsharks
I do not know how Chouinard got this information, but this information seems reputable. For one thing, it makes sense that the NBA would register several names to protect the importance of the eventual announcement, even if everyone expects that the Pelicans will be the choice.
UPDATE: Marc Spears informed me that a source close to the situation says that the Hornets had to file other names for trademark in case the NBA does not approve "Pelicans." However, considering David Stern has already voiced his support for the name in public (albeit tepidly), that event seems very unlikely.
Nevertheless, we can have some fun with the four other potential names. So, let's look into exactly what each option means and expresses.
Rougarou: As noted by Chouinard, the rougarou is a creature of Lousiana folklore similar to a werewolf or chupacabra. That checks several boxes on the nickname ledger: It's intimidating, specific to the region, and unique. On the other hand, it sounds pretty weird and requires too much explanation to work particularly well. Its inclusion in this list is the best evidence that the NBA is simply trying to throw people off the obvious news that the team will go with "Pelicans."
Mosquitos: Mosquitos are annoying, and suck blood, and so pervasive in New Orleans that they may as well be a swarm. That works, I suppose, and I personally would have no problem with using the insect as a mascot. Unfortunately, it's a little too close to "Hornets" — same class— and not even grammatically correct. It's "mosquitoes," guys!
Swamp Dogs: Bayou slang for an alligator, apparently, but something tells me this one could get lost in translation and end up depicted as a dog covered in algae. No one wants to see that.
Bullsharks: These sharks are known to be cannibals, and I just don't see how the NBA can associate itself with such a despicable activity.
So, yeah, please get used to the idea of the New Orleans Pelicans. Barring a sizable surprise, these other names are just here to confuse us.
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