Portland Sports Teams: An Incomplete History
Rip City, Soccer City USA, Rose City Till We Die—Portland might not have every major league, but this place has enough fan energy to launch rockets into space, or at least to launch a few threes à la Damian Lillard or headers like Simone Charley.
Even as we've dealt with the upheavals of the past few years—shortened seasons, games with no spectators, bubble tournaments, closed sports bars, COVID forfeits, the ongoing MLB what-ifs, a Blazer offseason derailed by a bizarre head coach search and new-hire announcement, the Winterhawks finally ditching the racist imagery in their logo but failing to foreground the harm it had caused or involve the local Native community in its replacement—the city's sports passions haven't dimmed.
And it's nothing new. Portland has been a sports-mad city for a while. Here's a look at a few of the teams that have made us root, root, root over the past century-plus.
A partial history of Portland sports teams
Beavers Established in 1903 and known briefly as the Browns and then the Giants (and following local teams called the Pioneers, the Webfeet, the Webfoots, the Green Gages, and more), our Pacific Coast League team adopted the Beavers name in 1906. Various teams would use the name until 2010, after which the then-Beavers left town before their stadium was renovated for soccer.
Rosebuds The former New Westminster Royals became our first pro hockey team in 1914, playing in the Ice Hippodrome in Northwest. The team didn’t stay long, but the name was used for a new team in the ’20s (above) that would also be known as the Buckaroos in the ’30s and the Eagles in the ’40s.
Fuji This wasn’t the only local Japanese club to ply the West Coast in the years before World War II and the internment of Americans of Japanese descent, but nearly a century later it’s the most famous, thanks to a retro apparel line from Seattle’s Ebbets Field Flannels.
Rosebuds Also called the Roses and owned by sprinter Jesse Owens, this team played in the short-lived all-Black West Coast Baseball Association.
Buckaroos While there were Buckaroo teams in the early 20th century, too, it was the 1960s Western Hockey League version, promoted by future Blazers impresario Harry Glickman, that had the best logo of a cowboy in ice skates atop a horse also wearing ice skates. Playing in the then-new Memorial Coliseum , the Bucks were league champs three times in their 1960–1974 run.
Trail Blazers Our NBA expansion team was born in 1970 and became league champs in 1977, the year we became Rip City. Since then, we’ve somehow made it through the Drexler era, the Roy era, and the Lillard era without a repeat—but it's only the 10th-longest title drought in the league.
Mavericks Subject of the 2014 documentary The Battered Bastards of Baseball, Bing Russell’s indie team attracted crowds with fun promotions and major personality.
Storm Part of the very short-lived World Football League, the Civic Stadium–based football team changed its name to the Thunder in its second and final year.
Timbers This expansion team in the North American Soccer League team lasted till 1982, but the name and ax logo would be resurrected in 1985 and again in 2001 in the United Soccer Leagues, before reaching Major League Soccer status in 2011. The current version won the MLS Cup in 2015.
Winterhawks The former Edmonton Oil Kings junior hockey team came to town in 1976 and remain Portland’s winningest current franchise, with three championships.
Rockies This Class A baseball team came from Bend to play six seasons before heading to the Tri-Cities to make way for a return of the Beavers.
Power Beginning play the year before the WNBA, the Power and its American Basketball League lasted only two seasons.
Forest Dragons Portland’s first Arena Football League team relocated from Memphis (the Pharaohs) and moved to Oklahoma City (the Wranglers) after three seasons.
Fire The WNBA team would showcase Sylvia Crawley and 2001 Rookie of the Year Jackie Stiles in its three seasons at the Rose Garden.
LumberJax This indoor lacrosse team played four seasons in the Philly-based National Lacrosse League.
Thorns One of eight founding teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (and one of only two that hasn’t moved or rebranded, but that doesn't mean there haven't been some serious problems), the Thorns have won the championship twice, as well as the 2020 Fall Series and the 2021 Challenge Cup.
Thunder Our second Arena Football League team, which made its home in the Moda Center, also played just three seasons (it was known as the Steel in 2016). The league itself folded in 2019.
Pickles It's not officially a pro team, but we just can't resist a pickle. This collegiate wood-bat summer team, based at Walker Stadium in Lents Park (with a new team store downtown), has fermented spinoffs the Gherkins and the Rosebuds, an homage to the Negro Leagues team of 1946.