Smith: You can change look but not history

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014
Canterbury Kings

ALL HAIL THE KINGS: The new playing strip of the Canterbury T20 team has been unveiled.

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OPINION: Has the Kings got zing? Or is it just another tired, retreaded name more synonymous with other sporting sides?

Cricketing knight Sir Richard Hadlee has given the royal assent to Canterbury Cricket's decision to "rebrand" (one of the ugliest phrases in sport) their Twenty-20 team as the the Canterbury Kings and abandon their red-and-black garb for a puky purple and gold strip.

Such support from on high must give Canterbury Cricket CEO Lee Germon the warm fuzzies after he broke the Wizards' 13-year spell on the province's premier cricket team.

But what do grassroots fans think?

Lindsay Kerr, of Rangiora, is a Canterbury cricket and rugby tragic. Here's his take on the switch from the Wizards to the Kings.

"Kings, Queens, Wizards, Flames, Bulls, whatever ridiculous names are made up, we are still Canterbury and we play in red and black."

So, what's in a name? Plenty.

Naming a sporting franchise "the Kings" is a failure of imagination. Say "Kings" to a sporting fan in this part of the world and some will automatically think of Shane Heal's Sydney basketball team. Others note the LA Kings (ice hockey) and the Sacremento Kings (NBA). Not to mention the Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League.

Those with memories spanning back beyond the Twitter and Facebook era will recall the "Kingz", the ill-fated Auckland-based football team that floundered in the former Australian National Soccer League despite having Oceania player-of-the-century Wynton Rufer as player-coach.

Ask a cricket buff about the Kings and he'll get all misty-eyed about the Calypso Kings, that wonderful West Indies dynasty of the 1970s and 80s.

Nicknames have long been the rage in New Zealand sport. The national rugby team has been "the All Blacks" since 1905.

The All Whites (football) and Tall Blacks (basketball), Silver Ferns (netball), Black Ferns (rugby), Black Sox (softball) Black Sticks (hockey) are now part of our sporting lexicon.

But some rebranding attempts have fallen flat, notably badminton's bid to brand their national team the Black Cocks (after the shuttlecock).

North American softball fans initially thought the Kiwis were crazy to call their world champion side the Black Sox. That name was formerly reserved for the Chicago White Sox team tainted by throwing ball games at bookies' behest in the 1919 baseball World Series,.

In reality, only the All Blacks have any resonance beyond our shores. The rest of the world calls our teams "New Zealand". Funny that.

Cricket's hucksters can claim that the Kings has connotations of dominance and royalty. A republican would probably respond that it smacks of elitism and outmoded irrelevance.

Kings is, however, a headline writer's dream. A Canterbury T20 series victory will be inevitably met with "Kings Reign Supreme". But what if they "win" the wooden spoon? "Kings dethroned".

And, what about "Kings Abdicate" or "Kings Overthrown" when they inevitably change names again when some marketing whizz has another lightbulb moment.

The team will still be known simply as Canterbury for the Plunket Shield four-day and one-day competitions. That's a merciful relief.

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An exiled Canterbury sports fan reminded us in an email from Sydney this week that Canterbury won a clutch of domestic titles when they were the only team in the nation without a "brand" name. Coincidence, or not?

Germon has asserted that T20 has no tradition so it's basically a blank canvas.

My beef with "Kings" is it has no relevance to this province in a way the Canterbury Rams (basketball) and Canterbury Bulls (rugby league) does.

Given Canterbury's dalliance with dairying, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to dub the T20 team the Canterbury Cows and drape them in the black and white marketings of a Fresian?

Or, since our recent seismological shifts, shouldn't the side be called the Canterbury Quakers? Maybe not because of the perception of religious affiliation. But what about the Shakers?

A dud nickname can become a millstone. Ask the Tactix. If ever a team needs a new image it's our netball battlers.

But changing a name is one thing, changing a team's colours is trampling on tradition.

The Cardiff City football club was known as the Blue Birds for obvious reasons. But there was uproar in the Welsh capital when the club's new Malaysian owner changed the colours to red because he thought it might attract more shirt sales in the Asian market.

Vincent Tan also changed the club's crest, relegating the Blue Bird logo to a mere speck with a red Welsh dragon as the centrepiece.

Sporting their new colours, Cardiff promptly won promotion to the English Premier League for the first time in their history.

But they were relegated in their first term - karma perhaps. A contrite Tan said "boo hoo" and said he was prepared to bring back a blue hue.

Call them the Kings if you like, but Lindsay Kerr is right: Canterbury teams play in red and black. End of story.

We must never forget the most important part of the team's title is "Canterbury". Not the gimmicky appendage.

We note that the Canterbury women's team will remain the Magicians. In the interests of royal symmetry shouldn't they become the Canterbury Queens. And their age-group teams the Princesses?

Where will these nonsensical nomenclature trends end?

- The Press

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