Vegas Golden Knights: The Worst Team Nickname in the NHL
Yesterday, it became official.
The “Vegas Golden Knights” will join the National Hockey League as an expansion franchise. The first puck drops during the 2017-18 season, about eight months from now.
As a transplanted Las Vegan (15 years here, and counting) and a dedicated sports fan, this is exciting news. Aside from gambling, I’m a big believer in professional sports as a conduit of unity. When managed well and integrated smartly into urban landscapes, sports teams can be a wonderful force to enliven the spirit of communities. Sports brings people together.
Unfortunately, the first major decision made by this new franchise was a colossal mistake. Cringe worthy, even.
New team owner Bill Foley decided to call his franchise the “Vegas Golden Knights.” Not the Las Vegas Golden Knights, mind you — which would have been only half as bad. Just plain old “Vegas,” like the hopelessly dated television show back during the disco era, starring feather-haired Dan Tanna. V-E-G-A-S, baby. That name is about as thrilling as a brown leisure suit with a pair of bell bottoms.
When asked to explain why he insists on calling his new team “Vegas” for short, Foley’s reply was jaw-dropping.
“People that live here call themselves Vegas,” Foley said at a press conference held last November when the official team name was first announced. ” ‘Where you from? Vegas.’ They don’t say ‘Las Vegas.”
Um, yes we do. We say Las Vegas.
Given my own experience, combined with lots of travel over the past ten years, I’ve come into direct contact with as many people who actually live in Las Vegas as anyone who’s engaged in a public role. I also encounter hundreds of visitors from other places who come to Las Vegas. By an overwhelming margin, those of us who live here consistently refer to our city as “LAS VEGAS.”
Want know who refers to us simply as “Vegas?” Here’s your answer: Tourists. Punks who get off discounted flights at McCarran with $1,500 in their pocket along with a can’t-lose craps system. Pretenders. Suckers about to get fleeced. Guys (and girls) who act like they fit into the local scene, but who wouldn’t know the Golden Knights from the Golden Nugget, or even the Golden Coral. Oh, and Bill Foley too, who reportedly lives full-time — not here in Las Vegas — but in that hockey haven Jacksonville, Florida but still insists he knows how we all talk out here.
Look at it this way. No one would dare call an NHL team the York Rangers, or the Jose Sharks, or the Angeles Kings. So, why would we allow our city’s name to be lacerated? Try calling the major league baseball team based in Northern California the “Frisco Giants,” and see the response you’d get from the locals.
As bad as that decision was to downsize our city’s proper name, the team nickname is even worse. Question — what’s the first thing you think of that’s associated with Las Vegas? Obviously, the correct answer is casinos and gambling. We could have been called the “Aces.” In an online poll, 42 percent of those who responded favored the name “Aces” — which was double the popularity of any other nickname. Another option would have been to select an animal native to this region, which is quite common with many sports franchises.
Aside from Aces, the ideal animal team name would have been the Las Vegas Scorpions. That name is perfect. First, the creature is native to our area. Second, the scorpion is an aggressive and masculine predator, quite fitting for a feisty hockey team. And, the tail of the scorpion is an artist’s dream-come-true from a logo and marketing standpoint. Who doesn’t see a hockey stick within the long tail of a scorpion ready to fire off a slap shot? One can see the future dream headline now: “Scorpions Sting Penguins and Win Stanley Cup”
So, what was Foley’s reaction to “Scorpions” when it was proposed?
“A lot of people like Scorpions, but the scorpion is a defensive animal,” Foley said last year. “We’re not going to be defensive. So I didn’t want that.”
Scorpion….a defensive animal?
So please tell us, what in the hell is a golden knight? A guy wearing a face guard standing and guarding a castle surrounded by a moat — sounds like a defensive posture to me. Bobby Orr must be rolling his eyes somewhere.
Call me cynical, but the name that was ultimately selected sounds awfully close to “Black Knight Financial Services,” the private company of which Foley is the proud Chairman and CEO. Gee, isn’t that grand? Dishing out the team name to a corporation based 2,500 miles away that has no connection whatsoever to Las Vegas or its citizens, unless Foley’s company just so happens to be gobbling up properties at a foreclosure. Sorry if I don’t get all excited about a team name that seems so dubiously linked to the owner’s mortgage and real estate company.
Oh, and then there’s the subjugation of Nevada to California. Since they’ll play within the same conference, a natural rivalry is likely to develop between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The trouble is — aren’t knights under the command of kings? Another thing — isn’t Nevada the SILVER state? What’s California? Oh, that’s right — the GOLDEN state.
This team name makes no sense at all.
Of course, no one should be surprised by this. Bonehead owners are to professional sports what peanut butter is to jelly. One naturally attracts the other. Unfortunately in professional sports — stubborn ownership, gross mismanagement, and indifference to fans’ expectations portends both on- and off-the-ice disaster.
Let’s hope this doesn’t happen with the NHL’s new franchise, which will play all of its home games here in LAS Vegas.
Move aside, “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.” When it comes to the worst team name in all of professional sports, you’ve now moved one spot up from the bottom.
Note 1: The NHL team changed their official name to the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.
Note 2: Foley reportedly wanted to name his team the “Black Knights,” after his Alma mater, Army (West Point). However, there were copyright concerns. However, explanation exists that I’ve seen that accounts for Las Vegas usurping the team nickname of the University of Central Florida, which has been Knights and Golden Knights.