Sports fans are undeniably nostalgic. Spend any amount of time among passionate sports fans and there will undoubtedly be an argument in which the players of a bygone era are compared to the players of today. It is almost always the case that the players that have long since retired are viewed through rose-colored lenses, and it is only natural to believe that things were better in the past than they are today.
In keeping with this tradition of sports nostalgia, fans naturally long for the return of the teams that have left any sports league. In many cases, sports franchises that have departed are replaced with a new franchise, which is why Charlotte wound up with the Bobcats when the Hornets left for New Orleans. It is partially due to nostalgia that the new Charlotte franchise was more than happy to adopt the Hornets name when New Orleans dropped it in favor of Pelicans.
When franchises move or dissolve, we naturally hope that they will one day return. The relocation of teams has resulted in some very odd-fitting team names like the Utah Jazz, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies. Utah is probably the last place anyone would look to find jazz music, Los Angeles is hardly known for its lakes and grizzly bears are not exactly roaming the woods of Memphis, so it is only natural to want to return these lost and bewildered mascots to their original homes. What follows are 15 franchises that deserve to be resurrected after being moved or completely dissolved.
15 Kentucky Colonels
There were many teams that made the jump from the ABA to the NBA as a part of the 1976 merger between the two basketball leagues. The Colonels, despite owning the best record of the nine years of the ABA’s existence, did not join the NBA and instead dissolved. And while there is a semi-pro team in Louisville that has co-opted the Kentucky Colonels’ name, if the NBA chooses to expand or relocate a current franchise, Kentucky should be a primary consideration and the Colonels name should be restored to a high-level professional basketball team.
14 Syracuse Nationals
The Nationals were one of the first teams in the NBA, joining the league as a part of the merger between the BAA and the NBL in 1949. The Nationals were particularly successful due to the presence of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, who led the team to the 1955 NBA Championship and was a 12-time All-Star. The Nationals eventually moved to Philadelphia to become the 76ers, and given the current state of the franchise perhaps a change of scenery to Syracuse and a return to the Nationals name would be in the best interest of everyone involved.
13 Canton Bulldogs
There are a number of reasons to wish that the Canton Bulldogs be resurrected by the NFL, including the fact that the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be a great place for an NFL franchise. The Canton team was in the NFL for just a short period of time during the 1920s, but it was wildly successful during that brief tenure, winning the NFL Championship in 1922 and 1923 while also boasting a 25-game win streak that spanned from 1921 to 1923. The team also employed Jim Thorpe, easily one of the most revered athletes of the early 20th century.
12 Brooklyn Lions
Brooklyn is quickly becoming one of the hippest places in New York and, as such, is deserving of an NFL franchise. New York may be home to three NFL franchises in name, but two of those franchises play their home games in New Jersey and the third is closer to Toronto than it is to New York City. So the Brooklyn Lions would be an excellent team to bring back to life, if for no other reason than to see a potential Super Bowl scenario in which the Lions of Brooklyn would face off against the Lions of Detroit.
11 Rochester Royals
The Royals had the misfortune of playing in the same division as dominant big man George Mikan, which limited their success quite a bit. The team still managed to win the 1951 NBA title, and was home to nine members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, not to mention the fact that Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham played for the team, as did Chuck “The Rifleman” Connors, who is immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and also played pro baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers). The Royals would move to Cincinnati and Kansas City before finally settling in Sacramento as the Kings.
10 Los Angeles Rams
There is no NFL franchise in one of the biggest media markets in the nation, and there have been some rumors that the San Diego Chargers, the St. Louis Rams or the Oakland Raiders could be considering a move to Los Angeles. The Rams and Raiders have both called Los Angeles home, but the Rams’ had a longer relationship with the city and can count legendary NFLers like Eric Dickerson and Jack Youngblood among the team’s alumni. The team moved to St. Louis despite a half-century of football history, and a return would be a welcome occurrence.
9 St. Louis Maroons
The Maroons were so good that they were responsible for the league they played in having to fold completely. The baseball team, which existed as the Maroons from 1884 until 1886, went 94-14 in the first and only season of the Union Association, a league that was referred to as the Onion League due to the lack of competitive depth that allowed the Maroons to so thoroughly dominate. The Maroons would gain entry into the National League the following year and eventually moved to Indianapolis to become the Hoosiers.
8 California Golden Seals
The Golden Seals appear on this list mostly because of the fact that their brief history in the NHL was so disastrous and marked by constant ownership turmoil. As a member of the WHL, the then-San Francisco Seals were a solid draw while playing their home games at the Cow Palace, but an arena in San Francisco was never built as planned and the team was forced to move to Oakland.
Ownership changed hands several times and there were failed relocation attempts (with Vancouver a possible destination) and failed sale attempts (Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford and broadcaster Pat Summerall tried to purchase the team at one point), and the franchise floundered competitively. The biggest misstep was a trade made in 1970 that would include the Seals’ 1971 draft pick, a pick that wound up being the top overall pick and was used by the Canadiens to select a future Hall of Famer in Guy LaFleur.
7 Buffalo Braves
The Buffalo Braves were an expansion team that joined the NBA in 1970 and though the franchise eventually became today’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Braves never quite succeeded in drawing the interest of the Western New York fan base. The team had a Hall of Fame coach in Dr. Jack Ramsay and a potent offensive talent in Bob McAdoo, but neither were able to bring success to Buffalo and the team eventually left for San Diego before settling in Los Angeles. The fans in Buffalo today would surely support an NBA team with the same vigor they support the Bills and the Sabres, so a restoration of the Braves franchise would certainly be welcomed.
6 Houston Oilers
Now the Tennessee Titans, the Houston Oilers were a longtime NFL franchise that featured one of the best and simplest logos in history: an oil derrick rendered in the team colors of Columbia blue and scarlet. While the Texans have since taken over Houston, the Oilers had a long history in the city that featured memorable players in Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and Warren Moon, and the Texans should at least consider adopting the Oiler name as Charlotte has done with the Hornets in the NBA.
5 Minnesota North Stars
A cool logo and a solid color scheme are more than enough to warrant a return of the Minnesota North Stars, but the fact that the team existed for 26 seasons and enjoyed some modest success certainly serve as contributing reasons as well. The team had several deep playoff runs, including two trips to the Stanley Cup, the last of which occurred in 1991 with the team led by Mike Modano. The team formerly known as the North Stars moved to Dallas and dropped the North from its name, leaving Minnesota without an active NHL franchise until 2000 when the Wild joined the NHL.
4 Quebec Nordiques
The Nordiques never won a Stanley Cup while in Quebec, making the fact that the team won one immediately following its relocation to Colorado all the more difficult to stomach. The Nordiques were a staple of the NHL for a quarter-century, keeping its impressive logo of a hockey-playing igloo the entire time. Quebec has never had any other major professional sports franchise since the Nordiques departed, and returning the team to Quebec would be a great move for those who long for the time when the NHL included the Nordiques, the Whalers and the North Stars.
3 Montreal Expos
Of all the franchises on this list, the Expos have to be the one with the worst fortune and timing. The team’s best season and best shot at a World Series title came during a season that would see the World Series canceled altogether due to MLB labor strife. A number of Hall of Famers played for the Montreal franchise, including recent inductees Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, and the city was once home to the minor league team that included Jackie Robinson.
The city of Montreal is deserving of another chance with MLB, and though the franchise still exists as the Washington Nationals, it hardly recognizes the team’s Montreal history: the Nats restored the retired numbers of Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub and Tim Raines after the move, though it should be noted that Dawson and Carter have a place in the team’s Ring of Honor.
2 Seattle SuperSonics
Seattle’s loss of the Sonics to Oklahoma City was a matter of contention for quite some time, and that the city is still without an NBA franchise is an absolute travesty. Though the franchise has had plenty of success since moving to Oklahoma City, the fact remains that Seattle was an excellent basketball city and remains deserving of an NBA franchise as soon as possible. Fortunately for fans of the Sonics, the city of Seattle retained the rights to the team name and the green-and-gold color scheme, so it seems like a simple eventuality that the Sonics will rise again.
1 Hartford Whalers
The Whalers left Hartford for North Carolina in 1997, leaving the state of Connecticut without a major pro sports franchise. As with most departures, negotiations between the team and the state became contentious and led the Whalers to boldly declare they were leaving Hartford without having a destination city in place. Despite many years of mediocrity, the Whalers were a beloved NHL team and had hockey legends Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull during the final years of their respective careers. The team also has the best theme song ever composed in “Brass Bonanza,” so restoration of the Hartford Whalers would bring “Brass Bonanza” the prominence and attention it so richly deserves.