Next year, the National Hockey League will undergo its first expansion since the 2000-01 season when a team takes to the ice in Las Vegas, bringing hockey to an unlikely locale in the Mojave Desert. The 2017-18 NHL season, which will mark one century since the league’s founding in 1917, will be the first time that a major professional sports team will make its home in America’s casino paradise.
There are many unknowns surrounding the Las Vegas NHL team, from the players on the roster to the number of fans that the team is likely to attract. As of mid-September, most people are also unaware of the team name and logo which will adorn player jerseys, promotional material and a wide array of memorabilia.
The Las Vegas NHL franchise expected to release its nickname during September and there has been plenty of speculation as to what that name will be. As of early August, media outlets were reporting that a variety of names were in consideration, including Red Hawks, Desert Hawks and Nighthawks. As of September 14th, the Las Vegas franchise announced that a name had been selected and would be unveiled at an official press announcement.
A series of 12 trademark applications filed by Black Knight Sports and Entertainment, LLC, the consortium which owns the new NHL franchise, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gives us a good idea of the three team nicknames which have made it to the final round of consideration. According to these trademark applications, the NHL team in Las Vegas will take one of the following names: Silver Knights, Golden Knights or Desert Knights. Interestingly, the Las Vegas franchise cannot use Knights by itself as the team will play in Canada and the Canadian rights to that name are held by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
An interview with Bill Foley, the owner of the Black Knight consortium, with sports media in early September confirmed that the team’s nickname would include the word “Knights.” These trademark applications further narrow down the list of potential names while also showing where the franchise expects to use its eventual nickname. For example, U.S. Trademark Application No. 87147274 would protect the use of “Las Vegas Silver Knights” as a standard character mark for entertainment services, namely professional ice hockey exhibitions. U.S. Trademark Application No. 87147273, on the other hand, would protect the use of the same Silver Knights standard character mark on a variety of clothing items, including bandannas, boxer shorts, hosiery, leotards, pajamas, T-shirts, sweatpants and toques, which are the brimless, tight-fitting woolen skull caps worn by hockey fans in colder climates. Another two standard character mark applications protect the same usages of the shortened team nickname “Vegas Silver Knights.” Black Knight also filed four trademark applications each for similar uses of the Desert Knights and Golden Knights monikers.
A search of trademarks held by other NHL teams shows that the Las Vegas franchise will likely apply for many more trademark protections after a team nickname is officially announced. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the NHL’s reigning Stanley Cup Champions, have filed 64 trademark applications with the USPTO, 41 of which have resulted in registered trademarks and 40 of which are still live whether they’re registered or still in the application phase. U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4775026 is live on the Principal Register and it protects a standard character mark for the use of “Project Power Play” on youth initiative campaigns using hockey for physical fitness programs as well as education and entertainment services in health and physical fitness for youth in hockey. Hockey fans in the Pittsburgh area may recognize Project Power Play as the Penguins’ youth hockey initiative committed to building 12 local rinks within three years. PensPoints, the fan loyalty program offering rewards to Penguins fans for attending games, purchasing team merchandise and more, is protected by a series of three registered trademarks. One of these, U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4675778, protects a design plus words mark consisting of the PensPoints logo and the use of that design in the administration of a customer loyalty program that provides rewards in the form of merchandise and coupons based on participant activity. It would not be surprising, therefore, to see the Las Vegas NHL franchise protecting a wide array of trademarks as the fan experience and team programs develop.
Anyone who might think that putting an ice hockey team in the Mojave Desert might seem incongruous should know that Las Vegas has accrued an interesting hockey history over the past few decades. In 1991, the city actually hosted an outdoor hockey game during the NHL’s preseason outside of Caesar’s Palace between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. The game took place in 85° Fahrenheit weather and featured a horde of grasshoppers and insects descending on the ice. The city also hosted a pair of minor league hockey teams since the early 1990s. Las Vegas will be the second NHL team to play in desert climate after the Arizona Coyotes, which makes its home in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale situated in the Sonoran Desert.