This is sad.
The original championship banners for the Rockets and the WNBA’s defunct Comets remain on display at Toyota Center, as do banners saluting both teams’ representatives in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After that, Houston’s legacy of pro sports banners gets a little fuzzy.
The latest collection of banners to depart the city left in 2013 with the Aeros. The minor hockey team was moved by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild to Des Moines, Iowa, when the team could not reach agreement on a new Toyota Center lease with the Rockets.
Team officials said the Aeros’ 2011 banner for winning the American Hockey League’s Western Division title is on display at the Wild’s training center in Des Moines.
As for the other Aeros banners, they are presumed to be in storage in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, although team officials could not provide details on their location. A team spokesman, in fact, was not familiar with any banners that existed other than the 2011 flag.
Regardless, Toyota Center once was home to banners commemorating the 2003 Calder Cup title, the 1999 International Hockey League Turner Cup title, the 1974 and 1975 Avco Cup titles won by the World Hockey Association team, and the retired No. 9 jersey worn by Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, who played for the WHA Aeros.
NRG Park spokeswoman Nina Jackson, asked this week about the location of the Astros memorabilia, said, “Nobody knows anything about any banners.”
There was no indication whether the banners were sold during the Astrodome “garage sale” in 2013 and, if not, whether they still are stored somewhere within the building.
Similar questions surround the Oilers’ championship banners and retired number banners. The Oilers left Houston after the 1996 season for Nashville, Tenn., and a spokesman for the Tennessee Titans said the Oilers banners have not been seen in storage in Nashville.
So thanks to two relocated (and renamed) franchises plus one that changed its home stadium, a lot of tangible pieces of Houston’s sports history are at best in unknown locations. The obvious solution to this would seem to be a local sports museum, whose first task would be to try and track down these things that no one will admit to having at this time. Maybe this story will be a catalyst for someone with the money and the inclination to pursue that. Until then, at least we still have people who remember that these things did once happen.