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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Retail-Level Politics: Utah’s New NHL Team Owner Engages Fans Early On

  • A series of potential team names center on Utah’s status as a haven for winter sports.
  • Other initiatives include a planned community component for the team’s forthcoming training center.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Smith (above, left), the owner of the NHL’s newly relocated Utah franchise, repeatedly has pledged to involve local fans in the establishment of the franchise. A series of recent moves show he is making good on that, indicating the significant level of retail-level politics at play in the team’s early days in its new home. 

Following prior promises to develop a fan survey to help select the team’s new name, Smith released late Wednesday a poll with 20 possibilities for that forthcoming moniker. In keeping with Utah’s status as a haven for skiing and other winter sports, as well its nickname as the “Beehive State,” many of the listed options tracked along those core areas and were initially compiled from a prior social media survey Smith issued. 

Chill or Thrill: Nickname Themes

The latest options of names being presented include: 

  • Skiing and snow: Black Diamonds, Blizzard, Powder, Squall
  • More winter-oriented: Blast, Freeze, Frost, Glaciers, Ice, Yeti
  • Bee-related: Hive, Swarm
  • Various Western-oriented: Canyons, Mountaineers, Outlaws
  • Other: Caribou, Fury, HC (for Hockey Club), Mammoth, Venom

The poll—developed with the aid of Smith’s feedback and experience management company, Qualtrics—will be open until May 22, with further voting rounds and other steps in that renaming process to be detailed this summer. For the 2024–25 season, the franchise will be known simply as “Utah,” with the rebranding going into full effect the following year. Branding agency Doubleday & Cartwright, which has worked with teams such as the NBA’s Bucks and Inter Miami in MLS, is aiding in that process.

Just the Start

Smith’s outreach to solicit feedback for the franchise name is just one part of a larger-scale push to root the team in Utah. On April 24, he hosted a free fan celebration at the Delta Center, attended by more than 12,000, in which fans meet team players and coaches. Also the owner of the NBA’s Jazz and two local pro soccer teams, Smith has been on an extended run of national interviews, including with Pat McAfee, Canada’s Sportsnet, and the NHL Network—to discuss the NHL franchise. 

A newly announced plan for a permanent training and headquarters site, to be located at the site of a shopping mall in suburban Sandy, will include a community center and plans include a regular presence on the facility’s rinks for local youth and amateur leagues. 

More than 29,000 season-ticket deposits were received just in the first week after the April 18 announcement of the team’s move from Arizona. 

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