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First a team, now an identity for Las Vegas’ NHL expansion entry

Having already acknowledged its existence, Las Vegas’s NHL expansion team finally gets its identity Tuesday.

A celebration for the announcement of the team’s nickname, colors and logo will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Toshiba Plaza. For fans who can’t make it to the event, the announcement is being televised throughout North America on the NHL Network and streamed on ReviewJournal.com and NHL.com.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is in town for the announcement which comes exactly five months from the day he announced on June 22 that Las Vegas was joining the NHL as its 31st franchise effective 2017-18.

Speculation has it that the team will be officially named the Desert Knights, though Silver Knights and Golden Knights are also possibilities. Team majority owner Bill Foley has tried to keep the name secret and so far word hasn’t leaked out. But by the time the official name is announced just after 6 p.m. it’s likely the nickname will be well known.

“It’s the birth of a brand,” said Nehme Abouzeid, the team’s vice president and chief marketing officer. “With the name, we’ll officially be a team.”

In anticipation of the news, the team plans a big party at Toshiba Plaza. There’ll be music, entertainment from Cirque Du Soleil, a hockey rink with local youth players skating and former NHL players attending to lend their presence to the event. Admission to the event is free as is parking in the New York-New York and Monte Carlo garages.

“We worked with the NHL and we believe we have come up with something very creative,” Abouzeid said. “It’s no different than putting on a show on the Strip. A lot of work has gone into this.”

The other anticipated opportunity to come from Tuesday’s announcement is the first chance to purchase official team merchandise. The team’s store at T-Mobile Arena will open its doors following the conclusion of the ceremony and there will be other retail locations set up at the plaza.

The team is expecting a large crowd and Abouzeid said it will be ready to handle the expected rush of fans who want to be the first to own a piece of merchandise, be it a T-shirt, a hat or a sweatshirt. Jerseys, though, will not be available Tuesday and it may not be until late spring that they’ll be sold as adidas takes over from Reebok as the official supplier of NHL uniforms and it is not yet set up to manufacture jerseys.


“We’re hoping a few thousand people show up,” Abouzeid said. “We feel like we ordered enough gear to get us through the announcement.”

Whether the fans will like the name and logo remains to be seen. Many have been openly critical of having the team called the “Knights” and don’t believe it connects enough with Las Vegas and its history. But Foley said the name embodies what he wants his hockey team to represent as does the logo and the team’s colors.

Even before Foley was granted his franchise, he envisioned a grand announcement of the team name, logo and colors. The process took far longer than he anticipated but he wanted to wait until everything was in place so he could see his vision come to life.

He had been inundated with hundreds of suggestions for a nickname. His personal favorite was the Black Knights, in honor of his alma mater, West Point. But as Foley quickly learned, naming a sports team in 2016 is a lot tougher than branding a bottle of wine or a restaurant chain. There were copyright, trademark and domain name issues to overcome and he wasn’t willing to take on the Pentagon in order to call his team the Black Knights.

He had been patient while waiting for the NHL to grant him his franchise and he has remained patient through the naming process. The naming process has taken about four months, getting the NHL to sign off and for adidas to agree that it could produce everything to the team’s and the league’s specifications.

Now that the product is established, the team will have a name and a brand and the marketing will begin.

“We want to be the world’s (NHL) team,” Foley said.

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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