Las Vegas NHL team 'close' to name decision

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Owner Bill Foley of the new Las Vegas NHL franchise attends the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Las Vegas NHL owner Bill Foley has grand visions for the image of his team

He sees a situation where many of the 42 million yearly visitors to the city leave town in a jersey with his organization’s colors and crest.

“We want the name to fit our goals and what we’re trying to accomplish and I’m really confident that we’re going to hit it and do really well,” Foley said in a recent phone interview with Puck Daddy. “I want every person from China who comes to Las Vegas to take a jersey and bring it back to Shanghai or Beijing or Hong Kong. I want everyone from Japan that comes in or from Eastern or Western Europe, I want them all to buy jerseys. We’re really trying to develop a team that has an international aspect to it.”

Before Foley’s idea can be realized he needs to officially pick a name. So far this has involved several steps, many meetings and a few legal issues. Foley says he thinks he’s finally settled on a name, but still has a few more hurdles to clear. The name, he said, will probably not be Nighthawks though that remains an option as a backup. Earlier in the summer it was reported Nighthawks could be the front-runner for the Las Vegas team name.

On Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the name could be Desert Knights.

“It’s not like it was maybe 25 years ago where you didn’t have the internet and you didn’t have all the social media and there wasn’t the usage of all these names like there is today. It’s really been complicated. It’s been a big job,” Foley said. “Part of the process we’re going through – every name that we’re interested in we vet with the league so we go through the process with the league and talking to the marketing people and the people involved with (league jersey maker) adidas and talking to the senior management with the league with ‘what do you think with this name?’ and ‘how would this sound?’ It’s a big, elongated process but we’re kind of getting to the point where we’re almost there. We’re close.”

Foley said that he was initially partial to Black Knights based on his military heritage as a West Point graduate. But Foley said he got “pushback” from the army and immediately moved on. Also, Foley noted that Black Knights wasn’t exactly the first choice of the team’s prospective fans.

“I do listen to what the fans are saying. Black Knights is not a popular name generally speaking amongst the fans,” Foley said. “I think they would have loved it because I had a real plan in place about what the Black Knight would be and how we would promote that logo and that name and that culture. But I believe we’ll do the same thing with the names we’re coming down to.”

When the NHL awarded Las Vegas a team, commissioner Gary Bettman noted that this expansion process would be covered differently than past teams thanks in part to the growth of the internet and social media.

Bettman’s words have proved prophetic in regards to the organization’s quest to find a name. From Silver Knights to Red Hawks, Desert Hawks and Nighthawks several different possibilities have been reported.

The London Knights of the OHL released a statement on Aug. 11 saying they “have not thus far been contacted by the Las Vegas franchise” in regards to the usage of the “Knights” name.

“It’s been interesting and some of the issues we’ve had have really related around the usage of names we’re interested in,” Foley said. “There’s prior usage by some other entity and generally speaking I’m really speaking about a college, a particular college or university that has the rights to the name and they have a hockey team. Then one of the names – we were kind of interested in was the Knights but I was never just keen on just Knights. I wanted to have something along with Knights. The London Knights never said no. We never really followed up with them because Knights itself wasn’t a name we felt was quite right for what we were trying to accomplish.”

The ‘Hawk’ variation of the team name seemed to strike a nerve in Chicago where the Chicago Blackhawks play. But Foley said he didn’t believe that team would have had an issue with the name Nighthawks.

“I don’t” think with the Blackhawks organization we would have had a problem with – the preferred name of the three was really Nighthawks because of the F-117 stealth fighter is the Nighthawk,” Foley said. “It was developed and tested around Las Vegas in an area north of Las Vegas and it’s also an indigenous bird to the Southern Nevada location. It’s a beautiful bird. It’s got big, white stripes under its wings. It’s a very unique animal. That’s still a name – we have it reserved. It’s a name we could use. It’s not our preferred name. We have a couple of others that we’re working through that are a little bit different, but it’s kind of our backup plan. I guess you could say that.”

In the past, it was believed Foley was the only person involved in with this step, but recently general manager George McPhee mentioned to aPuck Daddy that Foley has brought him in to help with this situation.

When he was general manager of the Washington Capitals, McPhee was involved with the team’s re-branding of going back to red, white and blue jerseys.

“Bill Foley has been terrific in asking me to be involved in the naming process and our uniforms and he’s smart in knowing a manager has to be involved in that and making sure what the players put on is going to represent Vegas really well and Nevada and something that the players will be proud to wear, so the manager should be involved with that,” McPhee said.

Foley has been open about this process from the get-go, but wouldn’t give any clues when asked on the name moving forward. He’s hoping it can stay secret until the team makes an announcement in late September or early October.

Said Foley, “My goal is to have a name that I can create a culture around and people, the players and the fans will understand the connection and the names of the team and it has to stand for a lot of things that I strongly believe in, perseverance, dedication, honor, never give up, never give in. All these things I’m trying to put together with a name.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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