No new name in works for Whitecaps MLS - The Province


Out there in cyberspace, there are all kinds of theories regarding the reason for the name Whitecaps being left out of the announcement that Vancouver had been awarded a Major League Soccer franchise for 2011.

The most repeated one seems to suggest that the MLS brass doesn't want the tarnish of the demise of the North American Soccer League to stain it and so requested a new nickname.

That, of course, is ridiculous. The already wildly successful MLS team from Seattle is going to be called the Sounders and the Timbers are going to live on as the name for the Portland entry in the MLS, too. Together with the Whitecaps, those three will anchor the Pacific Northwest region.

"What it is," said a pleased-as-punch Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi on Monday, "is another indicator in the interest in what we are doing."

While conspiracy theories with a dash of skulduggery thrown in are great, it's more straightforward and less interesting than that. The Whitecaps simply needed to separate the MLS business from the present team, which will defend its United Soccer Leagues title and play in the USL for two more seasons.

(Readers wanting more information should go online to

vancouvermls2011.com)

That wasn't explained when the big announcement was made March 18, when it was noticed by the eagle-eyed media there was no Whitecaps in any of the information. While it may be accidental, it's turned out to be a near-genius marketing decision to gauge the reception the missing name might have on the ticket-buying public.

And the willing sports-talk media has stirred it into an issue. It's a modern twist to the old adage that "any news is good news."

So far it's working like a charm. The Whitecaps are fully subscribed on the initial 5,000 depositors for season tickets for 2011 at B.C. Place Stadium and interest in the 2009 USL Whitecaps team is at an all-time high for the upcoming season at Swangard Stadium -- to the point they are considering capping season tickets. They only have 5,200 seats, after all.

"If we were to scrap the name, the most devastated guy would be yours truly," said Lenarduzzi, who was an original 1974 Whitecap player and whose future father-in-law was general manager Denny Veitch.

Veitch just happened to be the one who dreamed up the Whitecaps name.

"He was driving into Vancouver over the Lions Gate Bridge and looked at the snow-capped mountains and the sea below and thought, 'whitecaps,' " said Lenarduzzi. "Herb [owner Capozzi] said they got the name from the caps on his teeth.

"I've used that line myself."

Besides, if someone is willing to pony up a $30-40 million franchise fee in this economic time, would the league really try and dictate what the investors called their team?

But the reaction they have been getting to leaving out the Whitecaps, as well as the attendant conspiracy theories, has been what they expected. Almost everyone who has contacted the team's offices has emphatically stated: "They better be called the Whitecaps!" -- though some have put it more colourfully than that.

The Whitecaps plan another MLS season-ticket offering soon. B.C. Place is being configured for soccer with 20,000 seats with a limit of 16,500 alloted to season ticket holders.

"I think that a lot of buyers are people who went to Whitecaps games with their parents and now they want to take their own kids," said Lenarduzzi. "It proves the interest from the late 1970s has been rekindled."

And the happiest guy around is Lenarduzzi. hkgilchrist@yahoo.com

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