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The ancestry of the Newfoundland Growlers nickname

Gabe, a nine-year-old Newfoundland dog, was a featured guest at this week’s introduction of the Newfoundland Growlers’ name, colour and logo at The Rooms in St. John’s. But there was a time when the St. John’s water dog, considered an ancestor of the Newfoundland breed, was up for consideration during deliberations for a nickname for the ECHL team. — Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons
Gabe, a nine-year-old Newfoundland dog, was a featured guest at this week’s introduction of the Newfoundland Growlers’ name, colour and logo at The Rooms in St. John’s. But there was a time when the St. John’s water dog, considered an ancestor of the Newfoundland breed, was up for consideration during deliberations for a nickname for the ECHL team. — Newfoundland Growlers photo/Jeff Parsons

For a while, ‘St. John’s Water Dogs’ was kicked around as a moniker choice for ECHL team; they decided on something else, but sort of kept with the theme

The expiry date on discussion about the logo, colours and nickname of the Newfoundland Growlers has probably not yet been reached. The buzz factor on these things usually has a about a week-long shelf life, but according to the people in the Growlers front office, the reaction to Tuesday’s official revelation of the nickname for the new ECHL team and of a logo based on a Newfoundland dog has been heavily skewed towards the positive.

Mind you, there have been critics, including those contending that a Newfoundland dog is gentle, not nearly as fierce as depicted in the logo, and does not growl. There are also those who don’t like that the front end doesn’t fully reflect the province’s official name.
And then there are the curious, those wanting to know what other options were considered.
You might have read about some of the would-be names in this corner of the newspaper  during the spring — Shamrocks, Storm and Surge, which all would have been alliterative when attached to St. John’s, were among those known have been in the running, as was Regiment. In those cases, the team went so far as to purchase domain names.
But here is one not heard about before.
Water Dogs.
Team CEO Glen Stanford was bringing in some local history when he began to ponder this one. The St. John’s water dog was classified as a landrace, meaning it was never a formally registered breed, but certainly was distinct to this region, an almost totally black working dog that was often a fisherman’s companion, adept at retrieving lines or nets and known for its intelligence as well as its usefulness.
It existed from at least the 1700s, probably before, but became extinct in the latter part of the last century. It is however, is seen as an ancestor of various retrievers, including Labradors, and the Newfoundland dog itself.
That sort of mirrors what happened with the Growlers’ choice.
Water Dogs was eventually dismissed as a potential nickname — Stanford couldn’t see “water” really working for a team that played on ice — but it proved to be sort of an ancestor of the eventual choice of a logo.
Team primary owner Dean MacDonald said he and Stanford settled on Growlers as the nickname sometime in February, but still struggled with coming up with a logo to accompany the moniker.
A growler can also mean a small iceberg, but MacDonald said after the QMJHL’s St. John’s Fog Devils and AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, they wanted to stay away from logo themes related to the North Atlantic environment. There were obvious animal choices,  but there are already plenty of sports nicknames featuring bears and cats, for example, and they wanted something different.
When Stanford’s mom and Newfoundland entertainer Alan Doyle independently suggested a Newfoundland dog, MacDonald said “It all clicked,” with the realization this was something local that could be easily incorporated with Growlers.
The Newfoundland dog has been used in other local sporting circles. It’s part of the logos of the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association and St. John’s Junior Hockey League, for example, and Mount Pearl’s rugby club uses “Dogs” in its name and a canine in its logo. Bit MacDonald said he was a bit surprised the Newfoundland dog wasn’t considered more when deriving the names of previous hockey teams to play out of Mile One Centre, like the Fog Devils and AHL IceCaps.
As for the actual logo, MacDonald said, among other things, there were more than a dozen conception including a full side profile of a dog. But he said nothing worked as well as the simple, front-facing head of an animal that looks like he/she might have some resolve.
MacDonald said the straightforward “Newfoundland Dogs” wasn’t really considered as a nickname, but suggested “Dogs” will probably become an unofficial secondary moniker.
For that matter, we can see where there could be a lot of canine references to the new team — Mile One becoming the “Kennel,” “Pound” or Dog House,” younger players being known as “pups,” etc.
We are certain you can come with many more of your own.

brendan.mccathy@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @telybrendan

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