Archives

The Toronto Terriers could have been the city's NBA team

When Toronto's NBA franchise released its top ten list of potential team names, some seemed plausible with the benefit of hindsight. Others, not so much.

2 dinosaur names also made the 1994 shortlist: Raptors and T-Rex

A longlist of names for the new basketball franchise in Toronto was narrowed to ten contenders in 1994. 1:21

Toronto had clinched the NBA franchise, and then came the hard part: choosing a name.

We're used to the Toronto Raptors now, but nine other names were in the running in April 1994.

The team's ownership held a media event for the shortlist of the possibilities they were considering. 

"Beavers: that broad-tailed rodent," said CBC reporter Ken Daniels. "Bobcats, known for keen sight."

He continued, gamely summarizing the chief attribute of each of the name options. 

Hogs? Really?

"Grizzlies" and "Hogs" were just two of the ten possibilities for the team's name. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)

They were, in alphabetical order:

  • Beavers
  • Bobcats
  • Dragons ("the mythical winged monster")
  • Grizzlies
  • Hogs ("Toronto was once affectionately known as Hogtown")
  • Raptors
  • Scorpions
  • T-Rex ("known as the king of the dinosaurs")
  • Tarantulas
  • Terriers ("for dog lovers")

"Raptors: short form for a family of dinosaurs, velociraptor if you're familiar with Jurassic Park," said Daniels.

The Grizzlies name, of course, was later adopted by the NBA franchise awarded to Vancouver.  

The names would then go to a vote by members of the public and kids under 18 were especially encouraged to register their choice.

Claws got respect 

"Mascots are a very important part of the whole thing," said John Bitove, one of the owners of Toronto's yet-unnamed NBA team. (CBLT Newshour/CBC News)

John Bitove, one of the owners of the new team, said there was a reason why all the choices were animal names: merchandise. 

"The animal images, in terms of T-shirts and hats, have by far sold the most," he said, "with the Sharks and the Hornets and the Bulls being the leaders." 

But he wasn't concerned he would regret it if a "trendy" name like Raptors won the contest.

"You have to go with what the people want," he said. "Because it's trendy now ... means we want to be part of the trend."

According to the Globe and Mail, three finalists — Bobcats, Dragons and Raptors — were named before the winner was revealed.

In May 1994, the name Raptors was announced as the top choice and the team logo was unveiled.