The Hibbing Memorial Building Arena is a historic, well-kept and beautiful place to watch hockey. It has a massive arched ceiling, black art deco doorways and concrete block corridors beneath the bleachers. But there’s something odd planted in the middle of its ice sheet.
A big blue anchor with an attached rope and the letter “H” is painted into center ice. The anchor serves as a logo for the Hibbing High School Bluejackets.
“So why are the Hibbing sports teams called the Bluejackets?” asked Jen as we sat through a lopsided boys hockey game between Hibbing and the Warriors from Warroad.
“That’s a good question,” I said. “It really makes no sense. You’d think it would be miner or something.”
Yes, a pick-ax or a hard-hat with a lamp mount. A steam shovel. A giant dump truck. These are all images that pop into mind as great sports logos for the Hibbing High Miners. But that’s not their name.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the Bluejackets or a huge anchor and rope logo. The Bluejacket nickname has sailing or maritime connotations and the anchor logo projects strength and durability – plus any good anchor has to be forged in iron, right?
Still many high schools choose nicknames and mascots that represent something unique about their community. For example: the Bemidji Lumberjacks, the St. Paul Johnson Governors or the Proctor Rails.
The next day Jen and I stopped in the Hibbing visitors center. A woman was working behind a counter next to a shelf with tourist pamphlets. Old downtown Hibbing photos, historic maps and nature posters lined the walls. A large display showed off minerals found in the area and an entryway was filled with typical souvenir items like t-shirts, key chains and refrigerator magnets. The place bustled with people as a craft show was underway in an adjacent room.
I asked the woman if Hibbing High School was open for tours. Built in 1920, the school is an architectural marvel and the place where Bob Dylan learned to write poetry. Alas, tours were unavailable until summer.
“I’ve got another question for you,” I said. “Why is the school team called the Bluejackets?
The woman said she had no idea.
“I’ve got the answer to that one,” said a man standing nearby. He was wearing a black winter coat and holding a toddler close to his chest. Perhaps he was idling in the visitor’s center while his wife shopped the nearby craft show.
“You’ve heard of the Duluth East Greyhounds, right?” he said. “And you know that the Greyhound bus company was founded in Hibbing?”
“Right,” I said. A Greyhound bus museum is a city tourist attraction.
According to the man holding the toddler, Decades ago, Duluth East wanted to be called the “Bluejackets” because of its proximity to Lake Superior boating. Hibbing wanted to be called the “Greyhounds” for its successful, local bus company.
“But there was a mix up down in St. Paul,” said the man. “Whoever was in charge put Duluth down for the Greyhounds and Hibbing down for the Bluejackets. No one complained and that’s the way it’s always been.”
“Wow,” I said. “Mystery solved.”
The man said the story was not an “official” explanation but that it was common knowledge around town. “Take it for what it’s worth,” he said.
A quick Google search on the Bluejackets/Greyhounds name mix-up shows the Hibbing Tribune investigated the matter back in 2014. The newspaper concluded the mix-up story was a myth.
In its investigation, the newspaper also tried to determine the true origin of the Bluejacket name. There were plenty of theories: Early yearbooks were called “The Submarine” leading to a maritime theme. Football players in the 1930’s had a fondness for blue coats. Navy blue basketball warm-ups in the 1950’s came with sailor collars and anchor logos.
The investigation only proved no one really knows the origin of the Hibbing High School sports nickname and logo.
Maybe that’s what makes it such a good one.