Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Name For Its Team

Let's be upfront in this article: the delays in announcing Las Vegas' NHL team name annoyed me. For months, we're heard teasers and seen Bill Foley's group register umpteen trademarks for numerous fake team names with the promise that one of these names would be the final choice for the NHL's newest team. Tonight, the stage was set for the major announcement, five months to the day that the NHL delivered the news to Bill Foley that his beloved city of Las Vegas would be the NHL's 31st home. We finally arrived at this "historic" day, as it was described, where Las Vegas would finally have a professional sports team to call its own. Ladies and gentlemen, the NHL would like to present the 31st NHL team known as the Vegas Golden Knights!

Ok, maybe I got a little too excited in announcing that. I'm not sure how the name even relates to the city when it comes to the logo and Knights imagery. Apparently, Bill Foley thinks it's a great name for Vegas' NHL entry, and he explained how they arrived at the Golden Knights name to ESPN's Scott Burnside.
"We are now the Golden Knights," he said. "My whole idea was to create a logo and a name that was powerful, that would epitomize the warrior class. The knights are the epitome of the warrior class, the top of the line in terms of defending the realm, defending the unprotected. This is all part of the culture we want to create with the hockey team. And hockey players are warriors and they're team players, they're not individuals, they're playing together."
Even Tom Cruise is confused by Foley's statement, and we all know some of the crazy things Mr. Cruise has said in his time. To quote James Downey, the actor who played the principal from Billy Madison, "At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Foley never actually explained the "Golden" part of the Golden Knights. He never made it clear where the city of Las Vegas and knights cross paths when it comes to representing the city unless he's suggesting that the entire city's population is "the unprotected". And his explanation of the team name is actually a definition of what a knight is, not an explanation of how the team came to be named. As we know, he was set on naming this team the Black Knights in honour of Army, Foley's alma mater, but the school took issue with that. So this is the next best thing in his mind?

During his speech on-stage during the unveiling of the name and logo, Foley stated, "We want our team to be known for dedication, honor, strength, courage and a commitment to never give up - both on the ice and off. We want our team to be committed to teamwork, service to this great city and integrity in all things - and we wanted a name and logo that represented all of this and was unique to Las Vegas and our community. Vegas Golden Knights is that name."

Is it just me, or is "dedication, honor, strength, courage and a commitment to never give up - both on the ice and off. We want our team to be committed to teamwork, service to this great city and integrity in all things" the mandate for every single professional sports franchise on the planet? Again, there is no explanation for how "Golden Knights" even remotely represents Las Vegas other than they call the city home.

Of course, social media blew up once the name was announced.

@ESPN_NHL @LasVegasLocally @VegasHockeyNHL for locals, the "Las" not in the city name is off-putting. Only tourists call our city "Vegas".

— Chris Gotch(@chrisgotch) November 22, 2016

@ESPN_NHL Tourists go to Vegas. People live in Las Vegas. NV is the Silver State. CA is the Golden State. #nevervegas

— Trevor Hayes (@iamthayes) November 22, 2016

@ESPN_NHL @BringBackSonics @VegasHockeyNHL Just asking, how do the "GoldenKnights" reflect the culture or spirit of the region?

— Mike Barbre(@MikeBarbre) November 22, 2016

Ok, so the name could be better suited for both the city and the team. I agree with that. I think Foley and his team missed the mark entirely, but he spent the $500 million to call it whatever he wanted. That was an expensive price tag for a name that kids assign to their Create-A-Team option in the EASports' NHL video game series. The logo, however, looks good from the outset until you really start looking at it and realize that a number of cultures and fictional characters have worn a variation of the helmet chosen.
From left to right, that's Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Boba Fett (Star Wars), Magneto (X-Men series), and King Leonidas (300). Two of those characters come from ancient times while technically Magneto could represent the present day and Boba Fett is obviously from the future as we know it. The one bond all these men have in common? They all lost at some point in their movies. Now, I'm not foreshadowing anything, but I'm just stating a fact. Of all the helmets shown above, though, doesn't the Vegas logo look an awful lot like King Leonidas' helmet?

Fictional characters aside, the style of helmet depicted in the Golden Knights' logo has been used throughout history. There have always been modifications made to it - a shorter nosepiece, more cheekbone protection, the fusing of nosepiece to face protection - but this style of helmet is pretty generic throughout history. Knights in medieval times may have worn them, but they traditionally wore helms that featured greater face and head protection. For the most part, it was horsemen, not wanting to be weighed down by bulky armour, who wore the style of helmet depicted in medieval times. If there is one positive, the negative space created by the nosepiece and face protection does give the "V" for Vegas. It's not as good as the "H" created in the Hartford Whalers' logo, but it gets some kudos for that design feature.

Quibbles over the historical accuracy of the logo aside, the colour scheme also seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. According to the official release, the team colours are "steel grey, gold, red and black". According to the release, "[s]teel grey represents strength and durability", "Nevada is the largest producer of gold in the United States, it is a highly-valued precious metal and is a color seen in the Las Vegas terrain", "Red is from the Vegas skyline, the desert and the beauty of the Red Rock canyons; red is also a color associated with the readiness to serve", and "[b]lack represents power and intensity". There's a lot of marketing jargon in there, but that's how they arrived at those colours. Well, except for the red.
Thumbing through a book that displays the jersey color schemes for home and away, Foley pointed out the changes that had been undertaken even since September, including a band of red on both the jerseys and socks that was initially white. That was the brainchild of McPhee.

"George McPhee colored it in and said, 'What do you think about that?'" Foley said. "And it looked perfect. It makes the gray look more powerful."
Right. Forget the environmental damage that open-pit heap leach gold mines do in and around Nevada, red wasn't even a colour in the original design! To tag that with the marketing wet dream of "the Vegas skyline, the desert and the beauty of the Red Rock canyons" is nothing more than horse doody.

Look, I really wanted to like the Las Vegas team. I thought they missed a glorious opportunity in getting the trademarks for the CFL's Posse branding and transforming this team into an Old West-themed franchise that played in the "Wild, Wild West"-ern Conference. The in-arena concession stands could all be outfitted with Old West signs and themes, the penalty box could have had screen-printed bars across them as a little fun on the theme of an Old West lock-up, and the ushers and arena workers could have been dressed in Old West outfits as they did their jobs. I don't know if this idea had any legs when it came to the process that Mr. Foley took to arrive at the Golden Knights name, but it would seemingly fit the area, the city, and the team much better.

As it stands, I'm not sold on the name, especially with respect to how it represents the city in which the team plays. It seems that residents of Las Vegas aren't too thrilled either, but it will be up to them to make this venture work in the Nevada desert. For a team that couldn't get its debut video to play on two different attempts, though, it's off to a somewhat-rocky start as an NHL franchise.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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