Go Green Go! 10 Endangered Species Sports Team Mascots

Old & busted: the Hartford Whalers. New hotness: the Connecticut Whale! Naming amateur or professional sports teams after endangered species is a cool way to raise environmental awareness while infusing the players, team, school and franchise with an aura of down to earth goodness.

Connecticut Whale

(images via: TBN, ProHockeyTalk and Examiner)

Goodbye Hartford Whalers, hello Connecticut Whale! The city of Hartford may have lost their NHL hockey team when the Whalers moved to Raleigh, NC after the 1996-97 season but they certainly weren’t forgotten.

(image via: Circling The Wagon)

Though the minor-league AHL Hartford Wolf Pack had called Hartford home for decades, the team changed its name to the Connecticut Whale in 2010 in an effort to soothe the broken hearts of Hartford Whaler fans. From Whalers to Whale… you can’t find more of a paradigm shift than that one!

Reno Bighorns

(images via: Reno Tahoe USA and RGJ.com)

Founded in 2008, the Reno Bighorns play in the NBA Development League and their mascot, the Desert Bighorn Sheep, just happens to be the state animal of Nevada. The name “Bighorns” also carries a note of historical resonance for Reno-area basketball fans as the name was first used by the city’s now-defunct Western Basketball Association team in the 1978-79 season.

(image via: Channel APA)

Among the many NBA players who honed their play-making skills with the Reno Bighorns was Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin, now with the Houston Rockets. Lin was sent to the Bighorns by the Golden State Warriors on three different occasions during the 2010-11 season.

Florida Atlantic University Owls

(images via: FAU Sports Informer and Wild4Creatures)

All 18 of Florida Atlantic University’s sports teams are known as the Owls. The Boca Raton, Florida-based school’s campus has (since 1971) been the site of a designated Burrowing Owl sanctuary and “the feisty bird, traditionally associated with wisdom and determination, serves as the University’s mascot.”

(image via: Palm Beach Premier Real Estate)

Florida Atlantic University isn’t the only school to feature owls as their mascot – Rice University comes to mind – but FAU’s birds differ by virtue of their threatened status. The Burrowing Owls at FAU seem to be doing just fine of late, which is saying something as they share accommodations with 26,000 students.

University of Alberta Pandas

(images via: LCNessie, University of Alberta and Edmonton Journal)

Pandas don’t exactly have a reputation for being fierce, persistent, triumphant… insert any other admirable sports team adjective you can think of. That hasn’t stopped Canada’s University of Alberta from naming their hockey and volleyball teams the Pandas, complete with an approximation of what a fiercely competitive panda might look like.

(image via: Purple Summit Photography)

They may be the peaceful symbol of the WWF but pandas can get mighty ornery at times. You’ve heard that pandas eat shoots and leaves? Well add a comma and you’ve got “eats, shoots and leaves.”

Leeds Rhinos

(images via: The Rhinos and The Rhinos)

It’s a mystery why the rhinoceros has been overlooked as a sports team mascot, given the animal’s propensity to both charge predators and hold its ground when under attack. The Leeds Rhinos, however, have taken the rugby ball and have run with it – to the tune of 9 Rugby Football League championships, 11 Challenge Cups and 3 World Club Challenges.

(image via: Facebook/White Rose Shopping Centre)

Ronnie the Rhino is the team’s mascot and his message is clear: you mess with the rhino and you get the horns. Not only has Leeds seized the environmental moment by embracing the endangered rhinoceros, they’re forward-thinking in other ways as well such as putting their players’ Twitter names on the back of their uniform shirts instead of their last names.