What's in a Name?

Sports fans all over the country are pretty busy. In pro basketball and hockey, teams are wrapping up their second round playoff series. In a matter of weeks, both the NBA and the NHL will crown new champions. The baseball season is kicking into high gear, as teams have more than a month of games behind them and are looking forward to a summer full of line drives, double plays and home runs.

There are a lot of games to follow, and a whole lot of teams. Take a look at Wednesday's sports pages. Some of the team names that pop up include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Denver Nuggets, Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Twins and the Boston Celtics.

Where do all these team names come from?

Teams get their names in a number of different ways. Sometimes, a team just chooses a nickname that sounds fierce, like the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. Other times, teams choose a nickname that reflects their hometown. The Baltimore Orioles are named after the state bird of Maryland, the state where Baltimore is located. Teams even take names from important things that happened in history. The Philadelphia 76'ers are named after the year 1776, when America's founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in that city. The San Francisco 49'ers are named for the year 1849, when lots of people travelled to California looking for gold.

Here's how some of the teams making news this week got their names:

Los Angeles Dodgers - From 1890 to 1957, the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, N.Y. There were lots of trolleys passing through the streets in those days, and people who were walking often had to get out of the way of these trolleys. These people were called "trolley dodgers," and Brooklyn's baseball team became knows as the Dodgers because of them.

Denver Nuggets - Much like in California, lots of people came to Colorado in the 1800's looking for gold in the mountains. Colorado's NBA team is named for these adventurers and the gold nuggets they found.

Vancouver Canucks - This NHL team is named for Johnny Canuck, an old cartoon and Canadian folk figure. Johnny Canuck was similar to Uncle Sam, a cartoon character that represents America.

Minnesota Twins - This is an easy one. The Twins play in Minneapolis. Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul are known as Minnesota's "Twin Cities."

Boston Celtics - "Celtic" is a word that is often used to reference traditional Irish culture. Many Irish immigrants settled in Boston, and the team name references their influence on the city.

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