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Ranking the top 5 minor league mascots: Part 2

By Ryan Williamson, SportsEngine, 01/23/21, 5:00PM MST


Hub exclusive: A week ago we presented some of the top mascots in minor league hockey. This week, we searched the United States Hockey League and the North American Hockey League to complete our list.

The Lone Star Brahmas are part of the North American Hockey League and have held this namesake since 2013. See which other NAHL and USHL made our top mascots list below.

The Lone Star Brahmas are part of the North American Hockey League and have held this namesake since 2013. See which other NAHL and USHL made our top mascots list below.

There are just 24 NHL teams based in the United States — at least until next fall, when the Seattle Kraken join the fold to become the country's 25th franchise. Though each team has a rabid fanbase which covers a large geographic area, there are plenty of spots where hockey fans don't have easy access to attend a local game. 

Enter junior hockey.

USA Hockey currently sanctions two leagues: the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and the United States Hockey League (USHL). These teams are home to some of the country's brightest young hockey talent with the USHL serving as a Tier 1 league while the NAHL is considered Tier 2.

Play on the ice improves as more players with professional hockey aspirations join these respective leagues. Teams get to compete, and their fans have some fun while watching what happens on the ice, taking part in fun promotions and traditions which, in some cases, include unique nicknames, logos and mascots.

With that in mind, we decided to do our best at ranking the top mascots in the USHL and NAHL, which you can read below.

(Click here if you'd like to see what we came up with for top mascots in the AHL, ECHL, SPHL and FPHL a week ago.)

5. Muskegon Lumberjacks

The current iteration of the Muskegon Lumberjacks has only been in Michigan since 2010 but the name has been a mainstay in the area since the 1980s.

Since 1984, the Muskegon Lumberjacks have been a part of different leagues, such as the now-defunct International Hockey League. But in 2010, the team's owners purchased a USHL franchise and kept the Lumberjack name alive in Muskegon.

The fun name highlights the wooded nature of this Great Lakes region-based team and is further puntcuated by its logo and colors. The team itself has found success since being revitalized in 2010. Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes is a player who passed through Muskegon and went on to be the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

4. Shreveport Mudbugs

As a team based near the bayou in Louisiana, the Mudbugs name seems quite fitting. A mudbug, or a freshwater crayfish, is a fun nickname for a hockey team to embrace.

Much like the Lumberjacks, this namesake has been around Shreveport since before its current iteration as a NAHL squad. The original Mudbugs were a minor league organization that bounced from league to league from 1997 to 2011. 

Then the Mudbug legacy was reborn as a group decided to launch the current team in 2016 as a new NAHL franchise. 

Though the current version of the Mudbugs is still relatively new, the team has already found success as Shreveport won the 2018 Robertson Cup, the championship trophy given to the winner of the NAHL each year.

3. Youngstown Phantoms

The Youngstown Phantoms of Ohio are one of the rare franchises that has appeared in both the NAHL and the USHL.

From 2003-09, the Phantoms was part of the NAHL. Then, a nearby franchise folded, opening the door for the purple, orange and black Phantoms to move into the USHL and keep the namesake that has been a part of hockey in the area for more than 15 years. It comes from the team owners, who also own the Phantom Fireworks company.

The Phantoms have certainly made a bang over the years with successful alumni such as Kyle Connor, a former first-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets, and former coach John Wroblewski, who now serves as the head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program's Under-17 team.

2. Odessa Jackalopes

Like some of the other teams on this list, the Jackalopes name goes back a stretch. This one dates to 1997 in Odessa, but the current Jackalopes didn't become what they are today until 2011. 

The team, which features SlapJack the Jackalope, a mythical animal that's part jackrabbit and part antelope, plays in the heart of Texas. This NAHL squad embraces its state roots with its use of the jackalope and other imagery which shows the state's rich history with oil.

As for talent produced on the ice, a few NHLers once called Odessa home, including Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

1. Lone Star Brahmas

What are Brahmas?

Apparently, this team is named after Brahman cattle, a type of beef cattle native to Texas (though Brahma is also known for being the Hindu god of creation). It's certainly a name many of those outside of the Lone Star State (and South Asia) may not be familiar with, but it likely provokes some pride for many fans of this NAHL team that's based in North Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth.

This team has held this name since 2013 when a change in ownership brought the team to town with its unique namesake (the franchise was previously the Texas Tornado, based in Frisco). Though the team doesn't have a lengthy local history yet, the Brahmas did win the Robertson Cup in 2017.

It's safe to say that all five names on this list are unique. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a name like this anywhere else in junior hockey.

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