Las Vegas hockey fans have reason to ring in the New Year with a little more excitement. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced earlier this month that the NHL has selected an ownership group for a potential Vegas club, calling the city and surrounding area a “unique” market. So with arena plans in motion and a season ticket drive soon underway, one important question remains: what will they name the team?
Recent NHL expansions suggest new clubs are shying away from the flashy, arguably corny names, in favour of ones with a punch (think Wild, Thrashers). Nashville didn't opt for a Merle Haggard lyric. Winnipeg threw it back to the Jets (not that the fans would have given them a choice). Finally, Columbus chose a history-rich name referencing the state’s contributions during the Civil War.
If the team name is indeed decided by a fan contest as rumoured, who knows what the final outcome will be. Columbus held a similar naming contest and nearly ended up as the “Justice.” San Jose was close to being named the “Screaming Squids,” New Jersey the “Meadowlarks,” and Minnesota the “Blue Ox.” Perhaps weather will play a role as it did for Tampa Bay founder Phil Esposito, who was struck with the idea of “Lightning” when a thunderstorm rolled through while pondering the team name.
So what could a new NHL club in Las Vegas be named? It may be as effortless as flipping a dictionary open to a random page. But hopefully it will take into account history and culture of Las Vegas—or at very least, a quality reference from The Hangover or Oceans Eleven. For the sake of diversity, here are 10 options for the ownership group to consider—including a few irresistible clichés.
10 The Black Knights
If part-owner Bill Foley has his way, it would be the “Black Knights” facing off under the Vegas lights. But does a medieval moniker really fit in Sin City? (That said, does one really consider the word “wild” when imagining Minnesota?) In an interview with Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada, Foley had the following to say:
“I love the name Black Knights because I was a West Point guy, went to Army, it’s close to my heart. And the black knight, many people don’t know this, is actually the good knight. And I think that Black Knights would be a great name.”
Would Foley just adopt the same logo while he's at it?
9 The Wranglers
The Las Vegas Wranglers is an obvious choice, borrowing from the city’s semi-professional East Coast Hockey League club. The team is on shaky ground at the moment, having to sit out the 2014–15 season in search of a new arena, but are expected to rejoin the league for the start of the 2015 season. If it’s deemed, however, that the city cannot support both an ECHL and NHL club and the team folds, Foley’s group may be able to pick up the name.
Paying tribute to former organizations is a tradition throughout all sports. Nevada, unfortunately, does not have a deep sports history. They could go back to the Las Vegas “Thunder” of the now-defunct International Hockey League, or the short-lived “Locomotives” of the United Football League. And then there’s the even shorter-lived “Flash” of the 1990’s pro roller hockey league. There are no bad ideas, right?
Wrong. Water-cooler talk is dredging up Las Vegas’s doomed club born out of the Canadian Football League’s south-of-the-border expansion experiment, the Posse. It’s already rumoured that the XFL’s “Outlaws” name will make a comeback in 2015 with the city’s new arena football club. This arguably falls under “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas—Way in the Past.”
8 The Battle Born
Nevada’s alternate state nickname lends itself to a pretty awesome sports team name, too. It would be another Civil War reference, this one honouring Nevada’s acceptance into statehood during the war. Just think of the marketing possibilities—Abe Lincoln as the mascot, cannons firing to note the last minute of play, and, of course, Civil War re-enactments with the Blue Jackets. Skipping forward to more recent history, ownership could call the team the “Explosion” —referencing the state’s contribution to the nuclear arms war with its Nevada Test Site.
7 The 21s
We already have the Aces (Reno pro baseball), but there are plenty cheesy, gambling-inspired names to go around. The “21s” is a fresh one, playing off ingenuity and popularity of the Philadelphia 76ers, Ottawa 67’s, and the Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A baseball). Alternative gambling cliché-names include the Jackpot, D’Ice, High-Rollers, or Rounders. “Black Aces” provides a unique spin on the name, and it retains half of Foley’s name of choice, but does the club really want to start out in the league already branded as a bunch of practice players? But is the ownership really all that serious? Should we perhaps call them the “Bluffs” in the meantime? Or set things in stone with the Las Vegas All-in?
6 The Mirage
It could be a trademark issue, but prolific Vegas venues offer naming possibilities. The massive Polynesian casino resort at the heart of the Strip comes to mind as a front-runner. So to does the “Grand,” should MGM allow. Let’s just steer clear of the “Flamingoes” and the “Treasure Islanders.” Should an NHL team in Vegas never come to fruition, perhaps they will go down in the record book as the “Xanadu,” after the would-be epic mega-resort that failed to open its doors during the 1970s.
5 The Mojave
One shouldn't ignore the fact that Nevada is almost entirely canvassed by desert plains. The Las Vegas Cacti may not go over well, but the “Mojave” just might. It has a good ring to it and also adds a cultural element to the name. And let’s face it, if the Vegas expansion club is anything like their recent Minnesota and Nashville counterparts, the first few years of trap-style hockey will be a snooze-fest. We might as well call them the “Tumbleweeds” now.
4 The Wrath
In honour of “Sin City,” it is only proper to suggest a couple (appropriate) sins as team names. The Las Vegas Wrath certainly carries an element of danger. The “Pride” is also a suitable option—although so too is “Greed,” or maybe "Lust", but we’ll shelf that one for now. Singular-word names for sports teams are growing in popularity, as seen in the modern era of the NHL with Avalanche, Lightning, and Wild entering the picture. Expanding leagues like Major League Soccer, the WNBA, and the National Lacrosse League highlight this trend. There is always the Las Vegas Neon as an option, too.
3 The QuickSilvers
Another pop culture reference, but this one honours Nevada’s rich—literally—silver mining history. It is the Silver State, after all. There is buzz surrounding a name like the “Silver Shooters,” or the “Silvertips”—borrowing from Everett of the Western Hockey League. “Bonzanza!”, an exclamation shouted by miners when they struck pay dirt, is another good one, and also references the television show set on a Nevada ranch. This one may be popular with the 50+ crowd, but that’s about it.
2 The Golden Eagles
We can’t get enough bird names in sports, apparently, so why not another? Plus the golden eagle is actually present in Nevada, unlike the surprisingly low population of Penguins present in Pennsylvania. “Goldeneyes” after the duck commonly found around Las Vegas is another avian option. A former military man, Bill Foley may be fond of the “Desert Hawks” as a team name—not an actual bird, but a military-grade drone used regularly in combat today. There is also the option of the “Blue Birds,” after the official state bird, but that doesn’t instill quite as much fear in the opponent.
1 The Wolfpack
Pop culture provides us with a bevy of team name ideas. The Las Vegas Wolfpack would be front runner—referencing The Hangover’s outrageous and taste-for-disaster bachelor-party quad—so long as they can claw the name from the University of Nevada. It also allows for a team name-inspired rivalry with the nearby Phoenix—strike that, Arizona now—Coyotes.
You want other pop culture inspired names? The “Ballistics” would reference the Vegas-situated television crime show CSI, although it would be kick to the gut of Jerry Bruckheimer, who has aspired to own a Vegas hockey club for some time. Other not-so-ideal names born out of pop culture would include the “Vivas” (Elvis Presley shout-out), the “Heist” (Ocean’s Eleven), the “Enforcers” (mob reference to Casino) —oh and of course the “Glitter Shakers,” paying homage to Katy Perry’s hit single “Waking up in Vegas.”