NHL team might have Nevada in its name

Las Vegas or Nevada?

Bill Foley, the Florida billionaire pushing for an NHL team at the new arena being built on the Strip, said Tuesday he prefers Nevada over Las Vegas in the team’s official name.

But Foley, partnering with the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas on the NHL team deal, said that before he commits to the geography of his franchise’s official name, he wants to consult with his public relations and social media agencies, R&R Partners of Las Vegas and Digital Royalty in downtown Las Vegas.

Nevada “has a good catch to it. It’s more inclusive,” Foley said.

“I’ll follow up on that. It has a lot of merit. I prefer it. We want to include everyone,” Foley said. “All we need now is to sell the tickets and get the team.”

The hometown in a team’s name was simple in the old days when major-league clubs played in city downtowns and were based clearly within city limits.

But expansion in major-league sports, the explosive suburban growth of metropolitan areas outside city limits and stadiums built with public money from various government levels helped create teams with state names such as the NHL Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils and the NFL Arizona Cardinals. There are also unconventional place names such as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Foley is working with the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas on the bid to bring the NHL to the $375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built by MGM Resorts International and Anschutz Entertainment Group behind New York-New York on the Strip. The Maloofs are the former owners of the NBA Sacramento Kings and built the Palms.

The Foley-Maloof combo plans to launch a season ticket deposit drive on Feb. 10 to show NHL brass that the Las Vegas market is a viable big-league hockey market. They are shooting for at least 10,000 deposits.

The issue of Las Vegas vs. Nevada in the team name surfaced on Twitter, where a San Francisco Bay area resident, Melissa Farley, posted that Nevada was better because Las Vegas conjured up images of gambling, adult entertainment and drinking.

Farley’s father, Robert Farley, a retired Secret Service agent living in Henderson and a diehard hockey fan who plans to pay for a ticket deposit, said that Nevada in the official team name “takes the gambling connotation right off.”

The senior Farley noted, “It might make it more comfortable for the NHL. You think Las Vegas, you think gambling. The word, ‘Nevada,’ would be a lot softer.”

Sometimes, expansion teams change the geography of their names years after they are born. For example, when the MLB Florida Marlins moved from a suburban-style area of northwest Miami-Dade County into its new home in urban Miami in 2012, the baseball club changed to the Miami Marlins.

In the West, the NHL Phoenix Coyotes became the Arizona Coyotes starting for the 2014-15 season because the city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, is a partner of the hockey club.

“Becoming the Arizona Coyotes makes sense for us since we play our games in Glendale and the city is such a great partner of ours. We also want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest,” Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said at the time of the name change announcement in January 2014. The name officially changed in June.

“We hope that the name ‘Arizona’ will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the valley, to embrace and support our team,” he said.

Technically, the new MGM-AEG arena, scheduled to open in April 2016, is outside the city limits of Las Vegas. Clark County governs the Strip. The new venue will have about 18,000 seats for hockey. Foley said he has an arena lease agreement in place if the NHL awards a franchise to Las Vegas.

The NHL is intrigued by the Las Vegas market and Commissioner Gary Bettman gave Foley the green light in December to pursue the ticket deposit drive. But the league has not yet officially decided to expand to Sin City.

Foley, a West Point graduate, likes the Black Knights as the team name. But he also said other names such as Scorpions could be considered and there will be a contest to determine the moniker to go along with the place name.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel

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