G Love: The Story Behind the Gwinnett Gladiators – SportsLogos.Net News

G Love: The Story Behind the Gwinnett Gladiators


Longtime hockey guy Jeff Pyle has done a lot in his career. He played professional hockey from 1981 to 1993, including being named the International Hockey League’s most valuable player in 1986-87 as a member of the Saginaw Generals. Then he coached several teams in the ECHL and AHL from 1988 until 2014, including the Mobile Mysticks, Gwinnett Gladiators, Texas Stars, and Evansville IceMen. Perhaps his most surprising achievement is that he actually named one of the teams he coached.

okqcx5c6oobjcfidhqz1The Mobile Mysticks (get it?) played from 1995 to 2002 with a logo that featured a green, purple, and yellow dragon because of the city’s association with Mardi Gras. When the Mysticks shut down operations in 2002 because of poor attendance, Pyle, head coach at the time, moved with the team to its new home in Duluth, Georgia, about half an hour from Atlanta in the county of Gwinnett. Per custom, the franchise held a name-the-team contest in their new home.

“There were a few possibilities that came out of the contest, as well as some suggestions made by staffers, but nothing that was a clear-cut winner,” said Christi Johnson, the team’s director of media, game operations, and merchandising, who has been with the team since its inaugural season in Georgia.

The contest generated alliterative names like Gwinnett Glaciers and Gwinnett Grey Ghosts, and others with local significance, like Gwinnett Beavers. (In case you’re wondering, according to a Beaver Fact Sheet provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “Beavers are thriving statewide…. Present in most areas with a year-round water flow, beavers are found in streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and low lying land or swamps along flood-prone creek and river bottoms.”)

One of the name suggestions of the alliterative variety came from a source close to the team, their aforementioned head coach: “Jeff Pyle was actually the person who offered up Gladiators as a choice,” Johnson said.

roqot5o6kaee0lk8hcf5bpxch“Once we’d narrowed it down a bit, we did a round of online fan voting, and the two leaders became clear: Gladiators and Beavers,” Johnson said.

I should point out that while some people laugh at the idea of Beavers as a mascot, it’s been done to great effect, most notably with minor league baseball’s sadly defunct Portland Beavers. Eventually, though, the allure of alliteration took the day, the name Gladiators won out, and the franchise has never looked back.

Early concepts for the logo, designed by the prolific sports brand firm Joe Bosack & Co., featured futuristic, blue tones. But the team’s president and general manager Steve Chapman suggested a more traditional Roman red and gold look, and the brand that has remained basically unchanged for more than a decade was born.

Fans took to the team and the logo early on, according to Johnson, and the Gladiators rank among the leaders in the ECHL’s attendance figures. “I think they really felt a strong connection to what we were working on here in the Gwinnett community,” she said.

A strong, traditional logo is something fans have embraced. “I have ticket holders that constantly update me with how many piece of Gladiators merchandise they own,” Johnson said. “I mean, they have rooms dedicated to it. That’s sometimes harder to achieve with more unconventional logos or coloring.”

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The brand includes five logos, including the primary (at the top of this post), a wordmark, two versions that feature their primary gladiator at different levels of detail, and an alternate that features a sword intertwined with a capital G. “I’d dare say that’s our most popular logo out of the five,” Johnson said.

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The Gladiators also just this year introduced a completely different alternate identity based on Atlanta’s onetime NHL franchise, the Flames. (We wrote about that in detail here.)

The team has no plans to change their look any time soon, and that’s just fine with Johnson, who is responsible for designing the team’s merchandise. “The logos are timeless; the palette easy to work with,” she said. “Having the option of five different logos (not including the new alternate option) gives me the opportunity to keep things pretty fresh.”

The Gladiators are an interesting study in minor league sports branding, in that most teams find success in adopting nicknames with a connection to the local community, while the strongest connection between actual gladiators and Gwinnett appears to be the letter G. (Actual gladiators were found in the Roman empire up until about 1,500 years ago, and as far as I can tell, were not a thing in Georgia.) But the team has made it work through consistency and strong branding, and the Gladiators are firmly entrenched as one of the ECHL’s more stable teams.

All of that said, I think we’d all agree that it’s time for the Gladiators to roll out some Beavers uniforms on a “What Might Have Been” promotional night as soon as possible.