How the Shuswap Totems became the Salmon Arm Silverbacks


(This article was originally published on Oct. 30, 2020.)

We are a couple of months away from the new year and 2021 signals the 20th anniversary of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks joining the BC Hockey League. However, Salmon Arm had a junior A team before anyone knew the Silverbacks. 

Salmon Arm kicked off its BCHL debut back in 1982-83 as the Shuswap Totems. The name stuck for a second season in 1983-84 but eventually switched to the Salmon Arm Totems in the 1984-85 season.

Replicas of the Totems’ jerseys were made back in 2016, and worn by the Silverbacks for a single game before being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The jerseys were bright orange, with the wordmark “Shuswap Totems” stapled across the chest, and a picture of the inaugural South Shuswap totem pole encrusted on the right.

The bright orange could be representative of the many colours depicted on totem poles, but it also gives a very close resemblance to the Philadelphia Flyers’ jersey from back in the day.

The reasoning behind the name stems from Indigenous ties to the land, and the famous South Shuswap totem pole, which looks over the Shuswap Lake. Totems are sacred objects that symbolize a family’s history or significance and preserve the legacy they left for future generations.

Totems are considered sacred not only because of the stories they represent but because they serve as an emblem or crest for families and tribes. It seems fitting for hockey teams that uphold many similar values and can be seen as a family. The name Totems represents that.

This team name is my favourite on this list because of its historical roots to the land and brings the homage of pride and honour that comes with playing for such an organization. 

The Shuswap’s Hunt family totem pole was the inspiration for the Shuswap Totems name back in 1982. For more about the backstory of this family and the famous totem pole, check it out here.

New year, new name

Salmon Arm’s BCHL club changed names for the 1985-86 season and became the Shuswap Blazers. The name only stuck for one season before a quick removal and change to the Salmon Arm Tigers for two seasons from 1987-89. The new name came with a new logo for the team, which tailors a neat design concept, but I’m still swaying towards the Shuswap Totems old logo as a personal favourite. 

The name Tigers doesn’t seem to have much background to it compared to the Totems but the two names still share some similarities.

The bright orange colour could represent Bengal tigers, which are depicted in the wild as having orange and black stripes due to their fur complexity.

Though I may not be a big fan of this name swap and have a slight preference for the Totems, the change in jersey definitely stands out. The only appearance of the Tigers original Jersey online is actually an auction on eBay, where you could obtain the 1987-88 game-worn jersey.

One look at these jerseys screams classic old-time hockey, and once again, the design is similar to the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s also very similar to the present-day Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League since the two teams share a tiger head embedded on the front of the jersey. 

Sadly, the Salmon Arm Tigers ceased operations at the end of the 1987-88 season. This was the last BCHL team Salmon Arm saw until the introduction of the Silverbacks in 2001.

Evolution of the Silverbacks

Even though  Salmon Arm has called its team the Silverbacks since 2001, there have been many jersey and logo swaps since then.

The original primary jerseys set the stage for the current logo, which shows a silverback gorilla standing over the Silverbacks wordmark.

The alternate logo represents a common theme in hockey jerseys with the mascot’s head in front of two crisscrossed hockey sticks, and the name Silverbacks labeled across.

Both of these logos carry a nice retro look to them and I would love to see these back in the action for possible throwback jerseys as well.

Salmon Arm Silverbacks Alternate Logo - British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) - Chris Creamer's Sports Logos Page - SportsLogos.Net

The next change would tie inspiration to the current jerseys that we see the Silverbacks represent today. The logo was altered in 2008 and ran for four seasons.

Ahead of the 2012-13 season, the Silverbacks took inspiration from the silverback head logo and the Los Angeles Kings logo and tailored it into the crisp, classic Salmon Arm Silverbacks logo we know today.

It appears the organization has finally found a name and logo that sticks, and will hopefully carry on for many more generations to come.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are a team that’s built on its history, and will always symbolize what it means to be a group with a common culture working towards a common goal, representing honour, pride, and family.