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This article was published 7/6/2021 (353 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dave McIntosh knows his Neepawa hockey history.
By his count, he owns 37 jerseys chronicling every incarnation worn by the Neepawa Natives since the team entered the MJHL in 1989-89.
On Monday, the franchise made its biggest change yet, ending almost a year of wrangling over a new nickname by announcing the club has been renamed the Titans.
McIntosh, a longtime board member who served as club president between 2010 and 2015, was sorry to see the old name go but was ready to embrace the future.
But would he plunk down his own hard-earned cash for a new jersey?
"You know what, why stop now?" said a chuckling McIntosh by phone. "I'm glad that they've done a good job with the logo-ing, et cetera. I think that it'll be fine. For me, it's no regrets."
The name, part of franchise history since its inception, had roots in the community going back to at least the 1960s. Last August, head coach and general manager Ken Pearson sparked a move to have the name changed in a response to suggestions the name was racially insensitive.
A 10-month naming and rebranding process, which included a name-the-team contest and online polling, had whittled the suggestions to a number of finalists including Salt Miners, Bulls, Valour, Generals, Thunder and Salt Dogs.
Valour was eliminated from final consideration, due to the connection to Winnipeg's Canadian Premier League team of the same name and it left the board of the community-owned club with three options — Salt Miners, Generals and Titans.
Titans was added to the conversation when an early fan favourite, Knights, was dismissed because of potential copyright infringement with the OHL's London Knights.
"The Knights was kind of the name that everyone wanted by there was the copyright (issue) and everything else," said Pearson. "So, it was something that kind of suggested as a nice way — if it couldn't be the Knights, what about the Titans? And it kinda gained momentum from there."
Once a name was chosen, Pearson already had a designer in mind. He reached out to Virden artist Brooks Freeman, who had recently redesigned logos for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings and MJHL's Dauphin Kings, among others.
"He's a great guy to work with," said Pearson of Freeman. "We went back and forth for a number of months on everything from the colours to the way things should match up in the different designs and made a few changes (along the way)."
The result — home and away jerseys featuring a sword forming a 'T' behind Titans lettering and an alternate uniform emblazoned with a knight’s helmet.
Pearson believes the new name and design are a culturally appropriate response to the times. Neepawa's move follows a number of recent name changes, including Edmonton’s CFL franchise replacing Eskimos with 'Elks' and Washington's NFL team dropping Redskins.
"More than anything, with everything that's going on it just gives us a fresh start," said Pearson. "And then the other stuff just kind of comes with it, the merchandising and all that other stuff."
Amanda Naughton-Gale, a long-time proponent of a name change, chafed a little when she saw the medieval imagery in the rebranding.
"It seems to be OK," said Naughton-Gale, who serves as community ministries director at the local Salvation Army. "I'm not super impressed, not super overwhelmed but you know, I think it's good. It's a good change."
By Monday afternoon, the team was already experiencing economic spinoff with some merchandise being sold at the team's downtown store.
Merchandising will be a significant factor for the Titans, who struggle to balance the books each season like most Junior A franchises.
"It's been really good so far and already people have been reaching out and asking when they can purchase and when they can see what's available and whatnot," said Pearson. "We didn't go out and bring in a great deal of inventory. We brought in kind of your basic stuff in low numbers to get it out there. Obviously, if demand is higher, than we'll continue to bring stuff in."
The new colour scheme combines some old and new, including the black and grey of the 1990s with the addition of gold trim, representing canola fields.
"It's looks like a fun logo and a good way of taking things away from the past," said Naughton-Gale. "By incorporating the black and gold, that's the Neepawa school colours. So it's very easy to kind of rally around (that)."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.