NHL animal logos: meek or menacing?

On Wednesday, the Connecticut Whale (AKA Hartford Wolfpack) sent out a press release with their new logo -- a cartoon whale looking pretty agitated while he came out you with a hockey stick. Unfortunately, this whale also looked a little too fat to actually fit through the giant letter C, so he might have trouble kicking some real butt.

The press release said that the logo obviously was an homage to the old Hartford Whaler, but also it captured the family-friendly spirit of their team. Um, I see a chubby whale with a crazy look while he's swinging a hockey stick. Is that family friendly?

That got me to thinking about the various animal-based logos in the NHL. We've got some angry ones, some cute ones, and some just plain bizarre ones. Are they menacing? Are they family friendly? Sometimes they're both, and sometimes they're just goofy. Let's look at the animal friends of the NHL and see if their logos through various incarnations had the appropriate level of menace for a pro hockey team.

(All logos via the good folks at Sports Logos.)

Anaheim Ducks

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The initial Ducks logo was an old-school goalie mask in the shape of a duck bill (with no actual duck, though there is mascot Wild Wing, who is fun to mention simply to reference the time he caught on fire).  There's no real violence or aggressiveness involved here, though I suppose you could make the argument that famed cinematic serial killer Jason Voorhees wore a goalie mask, so maybe this isn't such a Disney-inspired idea; instead, that's a serial-killing duck after you. This is even more so when you look at the alternate logo; this duck mask has obviously been throw the ringer, or at least played behind Keith Ballard, as it's permanently molded to his scowl.

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And then, of course, there's the infamous duck-flying-through-the-ice logo, which is menacing in that it sends hockey fans of all kinds running in fear of its stupidity. I know Disney ran the team for a while, but someone must have been seriously drunk to approve that idea.

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Atlanta Thrashers
This bird features angular eyes, which, if cartoons have taught me anything, means that it's angry or at least focusing intently. Add in the fact that this bird has managed to use the tip of its wings to hold on to a hockey stick -- take THAT opposable thumbs -- and it's ready to whack someone over the head with it, and you've got at least the threat of mild violence.

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Boston Bruins
The Bruins have their traditional B logo, though they've also integrated a bear into it a few times. First from the old days, it was a silhouette of a chubby bear looked more hugable than wanting to incite violence.

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More recently, there was the introspective zen bear of the yellow third jerseys. This guy looked like he wanted to counsel you and tell you that it wasn't your fault before stealing your picnic basket.

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The current alternate logo is a play off the original, though the chubby bear from years past is now a little sleeker and definitely on the prowl, either for Montreal Canadiens fans or picnic baskets.

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The most menacing one, however, is the alternate logo used for a good two decades. Not does this bear have tiger stripes, it's got crazy eyes, like he's got a thyroid problem or something. Compare him with the gentle giants of the past and this bear screams "Don't mess with me, I'll tear off your limbs and drink your blood." Menacing? You're damn right.

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Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres have always had a conundrum with their logo -- go with the name Sabres or play off the Buffalo from their home town? The buffalo became the primary logo twice, first in the late 90s when the Sabres went all hardcore on us by going red and black. This buffalo didn't just look mad, he looked possessed (and albino), with glowing red eyes ready to kick some ass -- kind of like when the cows on The Simpsons got addicted to tomaco (half tomato, half tobacco).

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Yes, this logo was full of menace, which made the infamous buffa-slug incarnation afterward kind of puzzling. It didn't even look like a buffalo, but more like Conan O'Brien's hair came alive and grew horns. If you saw this coming at you, I think you'd be more confused trying to figure out what it was than run away in fear.

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Florida Panthers
What's that? It's a freakin' panther FLYING RIGHT AT YOU with claws stretched out -- and in some cases, it's carrying a hockey stick it just broke in half. Yes, these panthers mean business, and they'll jump out of the tarps covering empty seats at home games.  Now Dale Tallon just has to put together a hockey team that can make that a reality.

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Nashville Predators
Ok, when your team name is Predator, you'd think the logo would be naturally menacing, and this is. It's a sabretooth tiger drawn angularly so it looks like it's moving toward you with those giant teeth. Even the font is italicized to go with the feeling of being chased, either by a giant prehistoric cat or at least Barry Trotz.

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The Preds have broken into alternate logos twice, most recently with a skeletal version of the sabretooth. This takes the menace out of the logo and turns it into a science project -- or as Indiana Jones would say, it belongs in a museum.

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However, what takes the cake is cartoon version of the sabretooth tiger. Yes, it's come alive from being a logo into a drawing, and here he's coming at you, complete with a Rolling Stones tongue. Yet, I can't help but look at that and think he looks like the I Can Has Cheezburger cat with bigger teeth. Definitely more cuddly than menacing.

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Phoenix Coyotes
Ah, the Phoenix Coyotes. How can we even explain their original logo? It's like you took some bad LSD and went shopping for Teddy Ruxpin dolls. It's avant-garde to say the least, what with the half-goalie mask head, moon jersey, green pants and hockey stick. Its third-jersey form was even more frightening, as it was just the head of the monstrosity coming at you. Menacing? I'm not sure about that, but it was bizarre, and if your goal is to confuse the enemy so you can surprise attack them, then this worked.

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Then the Coyotes woke up from their bad acid trip and went to a more traditional logo with a coyote that, you know, actually looks like a howling coyote. The menace factor returns a bit here, and it's good to see the designers didn't go with the insanity route of that yellow/black Boston Bruins nuthouse bear.

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Oh, and as for this guy? Just take a look.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins aren't very threatening, they're chubby and adorable. Throw them on skates with a stick -- with or without a scarf -- and they're even more cute. For a team everyone loves to hate, they've got a logo that could sell Popsicles to kids on any continent.

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The Penguins dipped into the more logo-style design in the 90s with the penguin that looked like he was trying to fly or at least imitate a pigeon. Alas, just like in real life, penguins don't fly, so this guy went away and his cartoon brother returned. Yeah, it's cute, but at least it's not a bunny.

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San Jose Sharks
When I was in college, one of my roommates told me that he had an old Sharks hat while growing up in San Diego, despite the fact that the only hockey he'd seen had been the occasional San Diego Gulls game. Why the Sharks? "It was a shark biting into a hockey stick -- it was cool!"

Sound logic, and fortunately, I proselytized the religion of hockey to him so much that he now plays the game we love. As for the Sharks logo? Yes, it's a shark, and yes he's biting down on a hockey stick. He's not somehow using his fins to hold it up, he's saying that he's so mad about losing in the playoffs ONCE AGAIN that he's biting through the damn stick and coming right at you with the appropriate level of menace.

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Now, his recent transformation into a more colorful version ups the cartoon factor, making it seem like the Sharks outsourced their logo design to an anime company in Japan. Of course, maybe that makes it even more menacing -- this shark might just transform into a giant robot or a schoolgirl in a skimpy outfit; either way, laser blasts would most likely be involved.

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Vancouver Canucks
When the Phoenix Coyotes came into existence, the Vancouver Canucks saw their LSD-influenced logo and came up with a great idea -- what about a similarly avant-garde whale breaking out of a C? And since they'd already went nuts and signed Mark Messier to a ridiculous contract, everyone agreed. Messier went away, but unfortunately the alphabet-breaking orca stayed. With his bugged-out eyes and gritted teeth, he's a little more menacing than his Arizona buddy, so maybe this guy's not on acid; rather, he's done some PCP in his time and just really, really, really wants some tacos.

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Now that we've looked at the NHL's animal logos, I think it's fair to say that they could all either beat up or escape the Connecticut Whale. Yes, even the penguin with the scarf -- he could skate away while the whale is stuck in his giant green C. But in the end, like the Whale's press release said, it's all family friendly, right?

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