Any day now the nickname police might be expected to descend upon Johnstown in view of the fact that the junior hockey team here is called the Tomahawks.
Aside from the potential offense to be taken over the nickname itself, there is the cultural misappropriation present in the logo with its crossed tomahawks and image of a Native American face.
Look out Tomahawks. After the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks affronts are sorted out, you’re on the list.
Oldtimers may recall our minor league hockey franchise long ago being nicknamed the Jets, offensive only if you might remember that was the name of the Caucasian street gang in the musical “West Side Story.”
Johnstown’s minor league hockey team had been known as the Blue Birds for the 1941-42 season before folding due to money woes. It is not clear if, when hockey returned in 1950 with the nickname the Jets, that was due to taking a stab at alliteration or merely an attempt to keep from offending ornithologists.
Later, life imitated art as hockey was revived in Johnstown using the Chiefs nickname, an appropriation of the name of the Charlestown team in the movie “Slap Shot,” which had been filmed in Johnstown.
The movie plot was a thinly disguised retelling of a Jets championship in the North American Hockey League’s 1974-75 season.
Upon reflection, it seems fans of Johnstown’s minor league, semi-pro or amateur teams consistently have gotten the short end of the stick with nicknames.
It is peculiar that, despite an abundance of affronts both past and ongoing, we aren’t marching as offended citizens of the area.
Consider that our town’s semi-pro football team scheduled to play in the Greater Eastern Football Association will be the Flood City Thunder.
It’s not only sports that takes license with the Flood City identifier. You will find it used to name social events and chapters of various organizations as well as businesses.
The majority of seasons we’ve had minor league baseball in Johnstown, the teams have been nicknamed the Johnnies. Sure, it is a cute corruption of the city name. It also invites ubiquitous scatological references being dumped on our fair city.
This was broken up in 1961 when the Johnstown affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, was alternately known as the Johnstown Red Sox or J-Sox.
With the return of minor league baseball in 1995, Johnstown’s Frontier League franchise was the Steal.
The nickname had the cover of a play on homophones, paying homage to the town’s history with steel-making and the fact that baseball teams can steal bases.
Nitpickers might view it as encouraging theft in general and reflecting poorly on our citizenry.
But soon the name went back to Johnnies and unavoidable bathroom references followed.
Alliteration was revisited for the 2000 season when our indoor football team was called the Johnstown Jackals. Apparently, no one bothered to look up that a jackal is a wild dog that feeds primarily on dead animals – a four-legged vulture.
I think I’d have preferred Johnnies being brought out of the water closet again for the indoor football team.
Even my alma mater, Greater Johnstown High School, could have done better on the nickname front than Trojans.
The name honors inhabitants of city of Troy who, if the writings of Homer are to be believed, lost their 10-year battle to save Troy from the Greeks.
Worse, Troy champion Hector was killed by Achilles and his body was dragged by chariot around the walls of the city in a grotesque display.
The Trojans eventually lost the war because they were fooled by Greeks hiding inside a massive wooden horse. It was mistakenly viewed as a peace offering and brought inside the city’s walls, only to have the Greeks emerge at night and open the gates to the previously impenetrable walls.
An easily offended type might argue that history’s Trojans were no better than simpleton losers and ask where were the nickname police when Johnstown High School needed them?