How do the Cougars stack up? Ranking the best nicknames in the Canada West
By Zach Worden, Sports Editor
With university sports in Canada on hold until (hopefully) the fall of 2021, athletics programs across the country have had to find a way to get by until their eventual return to play. One program took the opportunity to change its nickname. McGill University announced in April 2019 it would change the name of its men’s varsity sports teams. In November, they announced the new name would be the Redbirds.
This doesn’t dramatically change anything for any other teams across the country, but without any action going on right now, what better time to rank the 17 nicknames in the Canada West conference and see who comes out on top?
1. UBC Thunderbirds
Have you ever heard of a thunderbird? Us neither. The folks over at the University of British Columbia decided to combine a classic nickname — some type of bird — with the intimidation factor drawn from thunder. This earns them the top spot in our rankings.
2. Alberta Golden Bears/Pandas
Bonus points to the University of Alberta for having nicknames for both their men’s and women’s sports teams. Both Golden Bears and Pandas would have fared well in the rankings individually, but together they make a powerful combo, coming in at number two.
3. Calgary Dinos
What’s more intimidating than a Dino? The University of Calgary appeals to Alberta’s claim to fame in Drumheller with their mascot — creating a unique name that you won’t find a lot of sports teams repping across the world.
4. Saskatchewan Huskies
One of two Huskies in U SPORTS, the University of Saskatchewan earns the number four spot in the rankings. Everyone loves dogs and if you’re going to name a sports team after a specific breed, you can’t miss by going with Huskies.
5. MacEwan Griffins
Maybe a bit of a sleeper pick at number five; MacEwan University uses a classic nickname for their athletics program and it works. A Griffin combines the attributes of an eagle and a lion, and that in itself can intimidate those with the strongest of wills.
6. Mount Royal Cougars and Regina Cougars
Does the fact that two universities use the same nickname help or hurt the Cougars’ case? Hard to say, but obviously the name resonates with two campuses in the conference. So, despite making for a confusing broadcast when Mount Royal University and the University of Regina face off, Cougars come in at number six in the rankings.
7. TRU WolfPack
The WolfPack from Thompson Rivers University are ranked number seven because of the feeling of togetherness that the idea of a pack brings. One wolf on its own is scary enough; imagine facing a whole pack.
8. Victoria Vikes
I wish they were the Vikings, but Vikes is a unique name that fits well with the University of Victoria. The Vikes also have one of the longest track records in the whole conference, so they are deservedly in the top eight.
9. UNBC Timberwolves
Timberwolves may be a little overused in sports but the nickname from the University of Northern British Columbia comes in at number nine because of the intimidation factor. For me, Timberwolves is the nickname I’d want to match up with the least in any sport out of the remaining names.
10. UBCO Heat
The Heat capitalize on being located in one of the warmest cities in Canada with their nickname. When student-athletes are deciding where to play, they imagine getting to play in the heat. This makes the name a good selling point for the University of British Columbia Okanagan.
11. UFV Cascades
The University of Fraser Valley drew inspiration from the surrounding landscape when naming their sports teams. The Cascades come in at number 11 with a unique name, but not so unique that I’d want to play for a team called the Cascades.
12. Lethbridge Pronghorns
Another unique nickname that doesn’t quite fit the ‘cool’ category of some of the earlier names on the list. I can’t decide if the University of Lethbridge going by the “Horns” makes this name better or not.
13. TWU Spartans
Spartans from Trinity Western University comes in at number 13 because it’s a fairly common name, which doesn’t generate a lot of excitement one way or the other.
14. Brandon Bobcats
The Bobcats from Brandon University are essentially small cougars, so this nickname had to fall down in the ranking. As Brandon is known as ‘The Wheat City’, I wish they had played a bit more with the city’s tie to agriculture.
15. Manitoba Bisons
The Bisons from the University of Manitoba come in at 15 for a couple of reasons. It bugs me that they go by the “Bisons” when the plural of the animal bison doesn’t have an “s” at the end. Also, I couldn’t imagine wanting to refer to yourself as a Bison when someone asked who you play for.
16. Winnipeg Wesmen
Upon a Google search, you can find out that Wesmen is a combination of Wesley College and Manitoba College, which came together to form the University of Winnipeg. If you knew that, props to you, but Wesmen earns the 16th and final spot in our rankings thanks to the nickname’s overall ambiguity.