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55 Yard Line

Ottawa Rush panned, but CFL owner Jeff Hunt should just run with it

Neate Sager
55 Yard Line

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Jeff Hunt

Team nicknames are an acquired taste, like the CFL itself.

People in Ottawa were always going to hit the unlike button on the name for the new team in Canada's capital regardless of what the Jeff Hunt-fronted Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group selected. Complaining is what we do here, it's compensation for knowing our #FirstWorldProblems pale next to the real strife in the world. The reaction since the Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon broke the news that OSEG might lean toward naming the new team the Ottawa Rush — please let there be a Geddy Lee-inspired mascot? — has been mostly negative. The people who care enough about it to crack wise on social media seem to hate, hate, hate the name.

It was always going to be impossible to pick a nickname that everyone will like, that works both en français and in English in the bilingual national capital region and recognizes the city's football history without seeming like a rehash of it. It is understandable that singular names are taboo with many sports fans, but on reflection, Ottawa Rush works on several levels.

For starters, rush is a football term. It can also easily translate for potential francophone fans in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, a segment of the population now participating in football in unprecedented numbers. It's possible a short English name instead a longer French one could be more relatable, seem less like pandering.

It also pays homage to the days of Russ Jackson, Ronnie Stewart and Tony Gabriel without being hostage to a saga that ended sadly.

The Ottawa Rush name could potentially preserve the legendary 'R' that once adorned the helmets of the Ottawa Rough Riders — the longtime franchise that folded in 1996.

Hunt said many of the names submitted had also tried to preserve the R, including names like River Rats and Raftsmen.

The new team name is expected to be decided and announced early in the new year. (CBC News)

To each her/his own, but Raftsmen and River Rats are terrible names. It is the second decade of the 21st century. No one relates too much to those brave souls who helped float logs down a river generations ago. Highlanders also pushes the militarization of football way too far, plus it sounds too much like Islanders.

At the same time, though, Rush does evoke the region's rivers and rapids. Ottawa has not had a team which successfully incorporated the area's landscape into its branding. (A one-and-done independent-league baseball team tied in 2008 by calling itself the Rapids/Rapides, but was sold to pinhead owners who bush-leagued it by changing the spelling to Rapidz.) Ottawa Rush also rolls off the tongue more easily than Ottawa Voyageurs.

Above all, though, for me at least it gets to the essence of football. The gridiron game is the most evocative and visceral of all the team sports. You can watch baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer and know there is a reason the players are out there and you're on the stands or in front of TV. Football grabs you in this way where you almost feel compelled to be out there in a hold-your-manhood-cheap way, wishing you get in there and repel the invaders or crack a seemingly invincible defence.

(Aside: yes, I spend a lot of lonely afternoons watching those repeats of America's Game documentaries on NFL Network. Even the ones about Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers Super Bowl-winning teams while being a Minnesota Vikings fan.)

Hunt and OSEG are hoping that spirit still resides somewhere in Ottawa and has just been dormant for close two generations, though bad ownership, through the absence of the CFL and through the ill-starred Renegades era. You could say for many, it is a Rush to try to make this work again.

Ottawa Rush will not necessarily be the name. One could also rebuke OSEG for holding a name-the-team contest in the event it already has a name chosen (the Toronto Blue Jays did the same in the 1970s and the Toronto Raptors did in the '90s, too). It's not like it's being denied.

From Gordon:

Hunt confirmed Ottawa Rush is a strong candidate.

"I can say that that's a name that's been suggested," he said from Las Vegas, where he was attending CFL presidents' meetings. "I think it's a good name and one worthy of consideration."

So far there have been more than 3,000 potential names submitted to the website nameourteams.com.

Hunt said OSEG is in the process of whittling the names down to the strongest dozen or so possibilities before representatives from the branding company it has hired arrive in Ottawa for meetings early next week.

"Obviously, it's our intention to select a name that we think is most representative of what we're trying to achieve and go forth, and really the branding company can't start to do their real magic until we have the name," Hunt said.

"That's going to be one of the first orders of business. Let's choose a name and let's start building a brand around it." (Ottawa Citizen)

At the end of the day, the name should not decide whether the team makes it. Faith in the product will. Ottawa still has to hire a GM, but having stable local ownership is a big start. There is no fly-by-night involved with this potential Rush.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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