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Nelson high school changes sports name to part with wartime past

L.V. Rogers students and teachers voted to change from the Bombers to the Grizzlies
The Hanger at Nelson's L.V. Rogers. The gym will need a new name after the school voted to change its team name from Bombers to Grizzlies.

When visiting high school sports teams travel to Nelson next fall, they'll face the new L.V. Rogers Grizzlies.

Students and staff at the Nelson high school have voted to change the name of their teams from the Bombers, which had been in use since the Second World War. The new name Grizzlies was the top choice of three options on a ballot earlier this month.

LVR principal Dan Rude said last fall he was approached by the school's student council who desired moving on from the wartime moniker.

“It was a symbol of war. We are connected across the world more now, so whether it's international students or families that have families in areas that are at war getting bombed, to them it seemed a bit disrespectful and time to change. There's also an interest in reconciliation and some more different symbolism.”

Students were consulted on possibilities, the majority of which Rude said were animals, before three were chosen for the vote: Grizzlies, Ravens and Summits. But the results were clear that Grizzlies was the favourite.

Replacing the name has been in the works on and off at LVR for years.

In 2019, staff began early talks about a change that coincided with a movement across professional and college sports to ditch problematic or outright racist team names. Edmonton's CFL team, for example, changed from the Eskimos to the Elks in 2021. A year later in MLB, the Cleveland Indians became the Guardians, while the NFL's Washington Redskins officially rebranded to the Commanders.

LVR's initiative, Rude said, was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic and several principal changes. But he was also interested in making the change from a name associated with weaponry. He recalled the NBA's Washington Bullets, who played in a city that continues to be known in part for its severe gun violence. The team rebranded to the Wizards in 1997.

"I think the one that's the biggest parallel for me is moving beyond any name like that."

Nelson has a history associated with aerial warfare. Parts for Boeing’s Catalina Bombers were built in the city during the Second World War, and its most famous pilot remains Lt. Robert Hampton Gray who was the last Nelson resident killed in the conflict.

But the Bombers name actually predates the war, even though its origin is murky.

The earliest reference is a basketball team called the Bombers in 1926. The Nelson High School Blue Bombers and Bomberettes played in 1940. The name was shortened to Bombers in 1941 but still predates Boeing's operation out of Nelson's Civic Centre. It was also in use prior to Gray's death in August 1945.

Nelson High School became L.V. Rogers after moving to its current location in 1956 and kept the name, while also renaming its gym The Hangar.

Rude said the next step will be to consider artists for a new logo as well as making changes to the gym, which currently welcomes visitors to the home of the Bombers. The school will also contemplate ways it can honour the Bombers' history.

With files from Greg Nesteroff.

Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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