The Daily Helmet: Down With Defunct: My Favorite Defunct Sports Teams/Logos

There is just something about teams and logos that no longer exist that triggers nostalgia. Sports teams and logos of yore are comforting and unchanging. They can bring us back to another time and space. They can bring back a long ago forgotten emotion or bring us back to our childhood when our love of sports and teams was in its its infancy. With someone like me the obsession with the past is obvious, but while historical logos are amazing, defunct logos are another level. For the purpose of this article a defunct team/logo is of a team that is no longer active. As much as I love Bucco Bruce, it would obviously not be on this list because the Buccaneers still exist. The Oilers, though would count, because they are no longer an active team and officially retired.

There Have been a lot of NFL Teams

If you go back to the early days of the NFL, you will see a lot of teams come and go. Franchises popped up and disappeared, changed their names or moved. At that time, in the 1920s and 1930s the NFL wasa minor league and teams did not make much money which meant lots of turnover. Just look at the list of defunct NFL franchises. During the 1920s there were around fifty teams that came and went. Some, like the Tonawanda Kardex played one official NFL game. Other great team names like the Muncie Flyers, Louisville Breckenridges, Staten Stapletons and the Evansville Crimson Giants. A lot of the teams were in small cities and towns and as the 1920s gave way to the 1930s the league started to locate their teams in bigger cities where they were more sustainable, with the last “small town” team being the Green Bay Packers. By the 50s, less teams were folding and the final two franchises to fold were the Baltimore Colts in 1950 (a new franchise with same name started play in 1953) and the Dallas Texans of Hershey PA.

The other major leagues has a similar history with baseball going back even further. Most of these teams have been long forgotten and most of the people who live in these towns probably have no idea a NFL team was once called their town home. Even with more stability, the movement of teams hasn’t stopped with two NFL franchises relocating in the past few season and the Raiders scheduled to move in 2020. With that said, there have been some pretty great teams in the modern era that are now defunct. Here are my favorite defunct sports franchises/logos.

Houston/Tennessee Oilers (NFL) 1960-1998

It is no secret I love the Oilers. The logo, the colors. I have previously wrote about it in this site, so no need to rehash. I just think the Oilers has one of the most iconic and perfect logos in the history of sports. Some will say to me, “well it is just an oil derrick, what’s the big deal?”. Well, it might just bean oil derrick, but it is such a perfectly designed logo and was perfect for a football helmet. They can design whatever they want these days, but none of them will compare to the glorious simplicity and perfection that is the Houston Oilers logo.

New England/Hartford Whalers (WHA/NHL) 1972-1996

When it comes to perfect logos, the Whalers is up there with the Oilers. If you were to ask me what is the best logo in sports history, the Whalers would be on my list. The design is just so perfect. It really is a shame that it was mothballed when the franchise was moved to Carolina.

Houston Gamblers (USFL) 1984-1985

I could put a lot of teams from the USFL and WFL on this list with both entire leagues now defunct, but I couldn’t leave the Gamblers logo off this list. With the Whalers and Oilers, I consider the Gamblers one of the best logos ever.

Buffalo Braves (NBA) 1970-1978

This one has a local tie to me, living in the Buffalo area. The team moved a year before I was born, but I often wonder how different my sports life would be had they stayed. I would say my NBA interest is casual, at best, but who knows what it would be like if we still had a team in town. The logo is also fantastic and very similar to the Whalers in its beautiful simplicity.

Houston Colt 45s (MLB) 1962-1964

One of the cooler, yet short lived team names was the Houston 45s. I love the logo and the smoke C. Plus having a gun for your logo is pretty cool, although obviously would never happen today. They would move into the new shiny Astrodome and get their new namesake, the Astros in 1965.

Quebec Nordiques (WHA/NHL) 1972-1995

The Nordiques were another WHA transplant and a team of particular fascination for me as a kid watching the Sabres play up in Quebec and seeing all the French ads and hearing the translations by the PA announcers. The name Nordiques is translated as the “Northmen”, being one of the furthest north teams in the WHA. The igloo and stick logo was amazing and the fleur-de-lis on their jerseys were a nice touch. The team went away when they moved to Colorado in 1995, but if they would have stayed in Quebec they were planning on changing their entire color scheme and logo which would have been a bad decision.


Montreal Expos (MLB) 1969-2004

I will admit that while they existed, the Expos were not of any particular interest to me. I did like their logo, but as far as baseball teams, they were low on my list. Since their relocation though, I and probably a lot of other people have found a renewed excitement for the team and logo. The uniforms and logo were top notch and compared to the rather boring Nationals, were a masterpiece.

California Seals/Cleveland Barons (NHL) 1967-1968

I do love the the Seals colors and logo, but this franchise is of particular interest because it has the dubious distinction of being the last franchise of the four major sports leagues to completely fold.

Colorado Rockies (NHL) 1976-1982

The Rockies began as the Kansas City Scouts in 1972. The Scouts suffered from poor attendance and the ownership group, riddled in debt, sold the team and they moved to Denver. In Denver the team didn’t fair much better and were eventually sold and moved to New Jersey where they became the Devils.

Honorable Mention:

Here a few other defunct logos/teams that I love. What are your favorites?