While it is not uncommon for a team to change their identity when they move into a new market or when they switch leagues, but for a team who has been established for five years to change their name with under 60 days to go before the season– it’s bound to raise some eyebrows.
That’s exactly what happened in Greenville today, when the team announced that they will no longer be known as the Road Warriors. Starting this season, the Greenville team will be known as the Swamp Rabbits.
The name could be considered peculiar for those outside of the Greenville, but the name holds a lot of historic value to the area with many local businesses using the “swamp rabbit” moniker in front of their name. The proper name comes from an old railway line that was supposed connected Greenville to the coal fields of Knoxville, Tennessee to get cheaper coal to the Carolinas. Locals would use the “Swamp Rabbit” freight train to have day trips to Greenville. Yet, lack of funds never completed the railways to their full extent and markers still reside around the Greenville area.
When addressing the masses at the Bon Secours Wellness Center, owner Fred Festa explained the re-branding: “Several factors were taken into account when deciding on what that representation would be. Ultimately, we selected the Swamp Rabbits because the name holds dear to a variety of residents, businesses, popular recreational areas and the historic landmark, the Swamp Rabbit railroad, dating back the 1920s in Greenville.”
General Manager Chris Lewis expanded on the name change to Greenville Online: “We really feel that this will be a brand and really an identity that is going to appeal to the most hardcore hockey fan and to the family that comes once or twice a season. It is our goal and our mission to not be a hockey team in Greenville, but to be Greenville’s team, to be a vibrant and valued asset to the community that helps make Greenville a place that wins all these awards and makes all these Top 10 lists.”
As a team goes from a warrior to a rabbit, it certainly got a lot of notices from all aspects of social media. Many wondering what a swamp rabbit was. Rival ECHL teams were chirping at the new name, which included the Orlando Solar Bears already chomping into a carrot awaiting their first game with the Swamp Rabbits. With one person already suggesting some fan interaction which could get a little messy if anyone actually followed through.
Even with it all said and done, the Swamp Rabbits may not be the most unusual name for a hockey team playing in Greenville. From 1998 until 2006, the ECHL team in Greenville was known as the Grrrowl. Three r’s– no more, no less. Despite the name, the Grrrowl were successful in capturing a Kelly Cup in 2002, but would cease operations when they couldn’t attract more investors to the team in 2006. In 2010, the Johnstown Chiefs relocated to Greenville when they local owners couldn’t be found to keep the historically named team in Western Pennsylvania.
The Swamp Rabbits will have to do a lot to catch up with the only other team that used rabbits in their name, as the Seibu Prince Rabbits hold the title for most successful Rabbits team. Seibu won the Asia League title twice, the Japan League 13 times, and the All-Japan Championship 11 times before folding at the end of the 2008-09 season.
Despite the name change, the team will still have the same hunger to get back into the playoff picture, which is something they were not able to do last season. With the return of captain Bretton Cameron, Sean Escobedo, while also adding two-time Kelly Cup champion Nikita Kashirsky to the mix, the Swamp Rabbits will be determined that they’re less Bugs Bunny and more Monty Python’s Killer Rabbit.