May 26, 2010

Black Hawks vs. Blackhawks.

Michael Langlois of Vintage Leaf Memories has a nice article comparing the Chicago Black Hawks of 1961 to the Chicago Blackhawks of 2010.

Which leads me to this tangent - Black Hawks vs. Blackhawks.

Although the founding documents filed when the franchise became part of the National Hockey League in 1926 had the team's nicknamed spelled as one word "Blackhawks," the team was commonly known by the two word spelling of Black Hawks. It was not until 1986 that team settled the issued and reverted back to the original spelling we now know today: the Chicago Blackhawks.

The team was founded in 1926 by Major Frederic McLaughlin, a World War 1 veteran who inherited his father's successful coffee business. Even though he knew little about hockey prior to 1926, McLaughlin found the Blackhawks, naming them after his "Blackhawk" infantry division he commanded. The division itself was nicknamed after Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk Nation.

You can see how the spelling was confusing right from the on-set. Check out this rare pin, courtesy of,  believed to be the Hawks inaugural season of 1926-27, or perhaps even earlier. Even though the team's name was originally one world Blackhawks, very early on the two word variation was commonly used:

Even though the team itself commonly spelled the name with two words, the one word variation still crept in to official team issued products. Here's Bobby Hull's jacket from back in the 1960s. Note the one-word spelling.

The decision in 1986 to rechristen the team with the original one word spelling may have been a pre-emptive move to ward off future litigation. Over the years Native American groups have increasingly shown their objection the use of Indian names and logos for professional and college sports, such as the Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. By reverting to the one word spelling I suppose the Chicago hockey team could argue their name actually honours a piece of military history, and therefor would not need to change their name or compensate any Native group.

You know, aside from that big Indian head they use as their logo.

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