What’s in a name?

University athletes discuss how they feel about the newly-named McGill Redbirds

Since he came to McGill in 2017, Dimitri Sinodinos has given his all as a student and a varsity athlete. Now in his fourth year of Electrical and Computer Engineering, he is the starting quarterback on the newly named McGill Redbirds football team.

Dimitri Sinodinos

In each of his first three years at university, Sinodinos was an Academic All-Canadian and was also named to the Principal’s Student-Athlete Honour Roll. He was on track for a fourth-straight year in both distinctions before COVID-19 scuttled the season. In 2018, the native of Laval won the football team’s Dr. Strachan Hartley Memorial Trophy as the player who best combines academic excellence with football prowess.

“McGill offered the best balance of football and academics,” says Sinodinos when asked why he chose to come to McGill. “Academically speaking, it’s one of the best in the country, and even the world… Overall, I felt McGill had the highest ceiling for achieving excellence in both academics and athletics.”

Having poured his heart and soul into the team, Sinodinos admits some initial trepidation when he first heard that McGill was going to change the name of men’s varsity team. But that trepidation was short lived.

“Many athletes take pride in their team name, so once I heard the news, I was disappointed at first,” he says. “However, as a progressive, I understood why we needed to move on.

“I can’t wait to put on the Redbirds jersey. I’m also excited because we finally have a name, and the name that can unite the McGill community as we move forward in this new era.”

Although Sinodinos didn’t make any submissions for a new name during the public consultation process, he says he is already a big fan of the new one. “[Redbirds] was actually one of my favorite choices in the shortlist provided by the naming committee,” he says. “After reading the press release that outlined the historical links and overall reasoning behind the name choice, I became even happier with the decision.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 football season, Sinodinos says the news hasn’t been all bad.

“A silver lining in this pandemic for me is that I will be able to graduate this winter and then pursue a master’s degree upon my return in the Fall 2021. Therefore, I will have at least one and maybe two more seasons to play as a Redbird while pursuing another degree at McGill.”

A different perspective

Nikki van Noord comes at the renaming issue from a very different perspective. For the past four years, van Noord has been a proud member of the McGill Martlets swim team.

“I absolutely love being a member on this team. We have an amazing group dynamic, not only amongst the athletes but with the coaching staff as well,” says the fourth-year year Materials Engineering student. “I would definitely consider it as the core of my McGill experience.”

Nikki van Noord

She admits that initially, she wasn’t all that concerned with the renaming of the men’s varsity teams. “At first, I was indifferent about the renaming process considering I was on a women’s team and our name wasn’t a concern,” says van Noord. “However, once it was announced that the name might be new for both teams, it definitely caught our [the women’s team’s] attention.”

During the consultation process, it was suggested that one option might be to have the men’s teams adopt the Martlets name. When the Men’s Varsity Teams Naming Committee issued its Summary of Proceedings on November 17, it noted that “several men’s varsity teams expressed that they were against the idea of choosing Martlets, citing a respect for and admiration of the Martlets’ history, and a desire not to encroach on that legacy.”

“On one hand, the teams would be united under one name which ultimately would be great,” says van Noord. “On the other hand, the men’s teams would be adopting a name that already has so much significance and legacy connected to the past and present women’s varsity teams. I don’t think a lot of athletes [on both the men’s and women’s teams] were comfortable with that option.”

In the end, van Noord – who submitted a name during the consultation process – thinks Redbirds is a solid choice.

“It’s a way of uniting the two teams without having the same name,” she says. “I think that all things considered, the renaming committee did a really good job at finding a name that stays true to the history of athletics at McGill, while also indirectly linking the women’s and men’s teams.”

“Having this name announced now gives the men’s varsity teams almost a full year before they will be representing it,” says van Noord. “It will give everyone the chance to get used to it, come up with some new cheers and build towards creating a new legacy under that name.”


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3 years ago

It’s great to see the student-athlete community unite under the new name! Go Redbirds Go!

Alex Simonelis
3 years ago

Poor name.
But all the best to McGill’s men!

Wayne McFarlane
3 years ago

With the McGill Redbirds and the Montreal Alouettes having a home at the great old Molson Stadium, you could say the stadium is for the birds.

Desmond McLaughlin
3 years ago

I have always been proud of the “Redmen” name. Will all the “progressives” want to now remove and change the “McGill” name when they hear that James McGill was a slave owner?
How far to go? How much is enough?