As a geographer and as a sport fan, I very much appreciate it when the two comes together inside of a team crest or logo, especially when maps are incorporated into the emblem. I’m not counting league or governing body logos, which regularly include maps in them to demonstrate the area their jurisdictions cover; purely team logos are looked at here. And this doesn’t include flags or landscapes (although those could easily be future articles). Today’s article is specifically intended to look for team logos using maps or cartograms.Of course, any of the above are far better than the awful minor league-looking logos we tend to get nowadays (‘Hey, let’s have an anthropomorphic cartoon figure looking mean with a piece of sporting gear! And if anyone can’t figure out the team name from that, let’s put the team name in big bold block lettering beneath it!’), which can result in entire leagues having a rather awful collection of crests that mostly all look the same somehow for being different. But that’s a rant for another day (those who know me have already been on the receiving end of many a rant about sporting aesthetics and uniform design, and frequent visitors to the site have probably noticed the link to Uni Watch in the sidebar, where I lurk frequently).
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Including a map in your team’s crest usually means that it represents a region rather than a single city or neighbourhood. As a result, there aren’t that many teams that employ a map directly. As well, few regional or subnational jurisdictions have shapes that are immediately recognisable, which is key when putting a map in your logo. Lastly, I was really disappointed to see the lack of clubs outside of the United States that use an actual map. With the hundreds upon hundreds of professional football clubs in Europe alone, I was nothing short of stunned to find just four clubs using maps. Contrast that with the fourteen clubs I found in Texas alone using maps of the state (then again, Texas isn’t exactly known for geocultural modesty). Even in my own country of Canada, I could only find four teams past or present using maps: two of Vancouver Island, and two of Cape Breton Island.
To the results! After searching database after database (you can find them listed at bottom under ‘Further Reading’) and poring through literally thousands of logos from all different levels of types of sport (including leagues so insignificant their existences border on fan fiction), I could only find 64. Just 64? I was taken quite aback by such a low number. Still, those are a lot of images to display in one article, and could also take forever to load on your screen, so I’ll stick to links for the most part while displaying the highlights. This list includes defunct clubs and logos no longer in use.
The most visible map logo in the North American sports scene is almost certainly that of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders, who include the image of Long Island in their logo. The image is so ingrained in the team’s culture that a ill-advised 1995 attempt to change the team crest to this fisherman-based monstrosity prompted a fan revolt and forced the team to revert to the original map logo after only two seasons (not to mention producing the infamous ‘We Want Fishsticks’ chant from fans of the rival New York Rangers). The Isles weren’t the only Long Island-based club to use an image of Long Island in their logo; the former logo of the W-League soccer club Long Island Rough Riders also employed the island’s visage. An odd side effect of the New York Islanders logo was its use by its former farm affiliate in Troy, New York, the Capital District Islanders, whose logo was merely their parent’s logo with the words ‘Capital District’ on top (the Capital District being the region surrounding Albany, New York). This produced the odd effect of a sports team logo featuring the map of a location 250 km to the south.
As mentioned above, two other islands portrayed in team crests exist on opposite coasts of Canada. British Columbia’s Vancouver Island once housed two short-lived 1980s junior hockey teams (the Nanaimo Islanders and Sidney Capitals). Over on the east coast, the Edmonton Oilers’s primary affiliate club from 1988 to 1996 was the Cape Breton Oilers, who used a variant on their parent club’s logo with an image of the island in the background. Later, the island’s image was used by teams from Cape Breton University’s athletic program, the Capers.
Instead of an island, how about a bay? That what the Green Lightnings of Kocaelispor, the city football club of İzmit, Turkey, show off in their shield. The Gulf of İzmit is one of the major bays of the Sea of Marmara separating Europe from Asia. Formerly using an image of their local major water body were Russian Second Division side FC Zvezda Irkutsk, who used this image of the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal, for much of their existence until going under in 2008.
Two rather prominent US sport clubs use abstractions of their region’s borders in their logos. The National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes have an alternate logo that superimposes a hurricane symbol on top of a representation of North Carolina’s Research Triangle (a major centre of university-based scientific research). For this year’s Major League Soccer schedule, the Kansas City Wizards followed the rather corny league trend of trying to give themselves supposed credibility with a faux-European club name by renaming themselves ‘Sporting Kansas City‘ (which, while silly, is nowhere near the inanity of ‘Real Salt Lake‘). To coincide with the rebranding, Sporting adopted a shield that features a stylised version of the border between Kansas and Missouri, reflecting the geographic location of the club. Other clubs in the ‘big four’ US sports leagues that use or have used map-based logos include the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets, Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, and the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, long-forgotten Cleveland Barons, and Dallas Stars.
And speaking of Dallas… The list of map-based logos is dominated by clubs in the US using images of their states. Leading the charge is Texas, with at least sixteen clubs using the Lone Star State’s visage. The city of Dallas alone has six.It’s so pervasive that there are even teams in the same league that have used the state’s image. The trend crosses all sports: hockey (Dallas Stars, Fort Worth Brahmas, Laredo Bucks, Lubbock Cotton Kings, San Angelo Saints), basketball (Dallas Chapparals), soccer (Dallas Sidekicks,), softball (San Antonio Armadillos), college athletic programs (Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks) and the state religion, American football (the AFL Dallas Texans, the WFL Houston Texans, Houston Gamblers, Texas Bandits, Texas Heat, Texas Sidewinders, Texas Storm, East Texas Twisters). The logo of the Houston Gamblers, the city’s entry in the short-lived United States Football League, made ingenious use of negative space in order to represent both the state’s shape and the letter G.
The semi-professional American football team based in South Carolina called the Upstate Cowboys might have one of the vaguest hometowns in sport. “Where ya playin’ tomorrow?” “Uh, upstate.”
There are plenty of other US clubs that got in on the action, listed below by state:
Florida: Miami Floridians (basketball)
Illinois: Illinois Ironmen (Australian football)
Indiana: Indiana State Sycamores (college athletics)
Maine: Maine Lumberjacks (basketball)
Minnesota: Minnesota Strikers (soccer)
Mississippi: Mississippi Braves (baseball)
Missouri: Kansas City Jazz (American football)
Nebraska: Nebraska Trailblazers (American football)
Nevada: Northern Nevada Aces (soccer)
Ohio: Ohio Swarm (American football)
Rhode Island: Rhode Island Rays (soccer)
Regionalist and nationalist sentiments often cross international boundaries, and the logo for Cypriot football club Ethnikos Achnas is a good example, rewriting geography to move the island of Cyprus hundreds of kilometres northwest into the middle of the Aegean Sea into the arms of Greece. Crete gets a little tilted as well in order to fit inside the circle.
There are clubs that take a more worldly view than just their local environs. Continentally speaking, one of the world’s richest football clubs, Mexico City’s Club America displays a map of the Americas in its logo, Premier League side Birmingham City has a map of Europe in its logo, and Klaipeda, Lithuania’s FK Atlantas has an image of the globe naturally centred upon the North Atlantic Ocean in its crest.
There you have it – everything I could find in a day of searching. There HAVE to be more than that (and if there aren’t, there should be). I’m sure there are clubs in Asia and Africa, for example, which I missed. If you see a map-based club logo not listed here, let me know about it in the comment thread.
All Creative World (2011). Brands of the World. Available at http://www.brandsoftheworld.com. Accessed 20 April 2011.
Creamer, C. (2011). Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net. Available at http://www.sportslogos.net/index.php. Accessed 20 April 2011.
Kassies, B. (2011). Clubs participating in UEFA Cup football. UEFA European Cup Football Results and Classifications. Available at http://uefaclubs.com/. Accessed 20 April 2011.
Lukas, P. (2011). Uni Watch. Available at http://www.uniwatchblog.com/. Accessed 20 April 2011.
Pruslin, S. (2006). LogoServer. Available at http://www.logoserver.com/. Accessed 20 April 2011.
Rhodes, S.D. (2011). Bush League Factor. Available at http://www.bushleaguefactor.com/index.asp. Accessed 20 April 2011.