The Born Again Franchise

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October 18, 2011

The October 3rd print edition of the Canadian Mennonite contans two articles related to the return of professional hockey to the city of Winnipeg.  They can be read here and here.

The news was great this summer that the city would once again get an NHL team to cheer for and call their own, but they would also be called the Winnipeg Jets, even though the franchise that left the city and technically owned the rights to that name was still operating in another city (for now).  Things took a suspicious turn when the new logo was released, at least in peace loving circles.  Some people were troubled at the needless militarism of the logo when previous logs emphasized the speed of jets, not their bomb dropping and missile firing capacity.

This entire argument would likely not be happening had this franchised been relocated to Quebec City, or any of the other non-Mennonite Mecca destinations also hoping for a franchise.  The discussion will continue, and the print edition also lists conversation questions for group study.  That kind of academic and spiritual analysis is great, but I bring another perspective.

I was also initially concerned about the new logo, but some careful self-reflection removed any right I had to critique what others were doing.

Let`s say for a moment that the "Jets" franchise does represent military machinery and should not be endorsed as such.  Do other teams stand up to the same critique?

Personally, I cheer for the Ottawa Senators.  Yes, yes, I know.  Whatever joke you're saying about my team's chances this year or past performances, I've heard it before, and I have no regrets.  But what does this team's mascot represent?  Although the Canadian Senate is based out of Ottawa, there is nobody there that believes the team is representative of the "house of sober second thought."  All of the imagery is based on the Roman style Senator, the Roman style colloseum and other Roman military and empire symbolism.  The arena even has a restaurant called "Nero's Fire."  Should I spend my money at a restaurant named after the man who is famous for slaughtering Christians in a public demonstration of gruesome violence?  Isn't my team just as military as the Jets?

Three other Canadian teams, the Canadiens, the Maple Leafs and the Canucks borrow heavily patriotic imagery.  Our Mennonite/Anabaptist convictions around the separation of church and state should bring into question our blind allegiance to national, patriotic state-based images.  (Goshen College, a Mennonite post-secondary institution in the US gets away with being called the Maple Leafs, because they are not in Canada.)

One can hardly imagine cheering for the OIlers and Flames without wholing endorsing the oil and gas industry in Canada and the environmental impact they leave on this earth.

So what are Canadian Mennonite hockey fans to do?  Looking state-side there are a number of American cities hosting large Mennonite populations that have likely had to deal with these issues.  Our friends around Fresno, California may be tempted to cheer for the Los Angeles Kings, but it is clear from scripture that we shouldn't give our allegiance to earthly kings, only to the King of Kings.  Philadelphia has a high Mennonite population, but a team named the Flyers is on a slippery slope toward the same military language plaguing our Winnipeg friends.  I would like to suggest that the solution lies in reaching out to our friends in Columbus, Ohio.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  The Blue Jackets name comes from old American Civil War imagery.  One of the former logos even included a hornet (yellow jacket/blue jacket) wearing an old army uniform.  Their third jersey has an old fashioned cannon on it.  The current logo is as pro-American as you could imagine.  You may now be calling me a 'puke' or a 'hypocrite' as Don Cherry recently called some of his friends (he later issued a full apology for those statements), but hear me out.

If we translate their team name to German, you will see what I'm talking about.  'Blue' easily translates to 'blau'.  There are a number of words we could use as a translation for the word 'jacket' but let me suggest 'rock'.  Then, if we were to switch our allegiances there, we would be cheering for the Columbus Blaurocks.  One of the central figures of the Radical Reformation was a man by the name of George Cajacob, nicknamed Blaurock because of the blue scholars robe he wore constantly.  He was there to baptize Conrad Grebel in 1525, and there is reason to believe he attended the Schleitheim Confession in 1527.  What greater model can we have to name a hockey team after?

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