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How Bill Foley and his staff picked Vegas Golden Knights as NHL team name

Golden Knights kept under wraps until Tuesday night’s announcement party

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John Locher / AP

Confetti streams above an excited crowd as the name of Las Vegas’ National Hockey League franchise — the Vegas Golden Knights — is unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, outside T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas Golden Knights Unveiled

The logo for the Las Vegas NHL franchise is unveiled during a ceremony in the Toshiba Plaza at T-Mobile Arena Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The team name is the Vegas Golden Knights. Launch slideshow »

Beneath a Vegas Golden Knights hat so new that price stickers were still attached, local NHL expansion franchise owner Bill Foley gushed over his team’s finally announced name Tuesday night at Toshiba Plaza.

Golden Knights was on Foley’s list of finalists since this summer and remained the choice he fancied the most throughout.

“Silver Knights was an option because this is the Silver State, but Nevada is the largest gold producer in the country,” Foley said. “Gold is a precious metal, the No. 1 metal versus silver. I didn’t feel Desert Knights had character to it.”

Desert Knights and Silver Knights seemingly had more community support out of the rumored finalists. Even the long-shuttered Black Knights beat Golden Knights in a fan poll the franchise put out on social media.

But Golden Knights had the votes that mattered, as approximately 5,000 fans who attended Tuesday night’s public ceremony discovered after Foley led a countdown that revealed the name and logo on the T-Mobile Arena outdoor video board.

“When we pushed names around in meetings, they asked me what I thought of Golden Knights, and I said, ‘That’s my favorite,’” General Manager George McPhee reminisced. “It was almost unanimous. It was almost everyone’s favorite.”

Foley said the team had received the NHL’s clearance and decided to go with the Golden Knights in September, fulfilling the initial timeline to choose a name he detailed upon officially landing the team in June. The delay came from preparing and refining the logo.

The primary symbol was first a knight in armor before briefly switching to a knight on a horse until Foley settled on the black and golden seal with a helmet presented at Tuesday’s announcement. A “V” is outlined in the middle to symbolize “Vegas” while the gold is also supposed to represent the color of the local terrain.

A secondary logo features crossing swords that create a star from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. The star is a metallic red to embody the Las Vegas skyline and Red Rock canyons.

The Golden Knights’ primary color will be steel gray meant to signify strength and durability.

“It will represent your team and your city well,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the logos.

There was one major hiccup with the announcement. Foley’s team had prepared a video to show before illuminating the logo, but it twice failed to play and left fans chanting, “say the name.”

Although it made for an awkward moment, neither Foley nor McPhee was concerned with the malfunction afterward. They thought the excitement generated by the logo outweighed it.

“It feels like you were part of U2 or the Rolling Stones or something,” McPhee said.

Foley added, “I thought people were going crazy. I wanted to have a successful name and a successful logo, and we’ve done it.”

The scramble for official Golden Knights merchandise — including T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts manufactured by Adidas — may have proven it. An hour after the announcement was made, a line still stretched out to the street.

The on-site pop-up shop expected to sell out of everything before the end of the night.

“Hopefully there’s some left,” said Brian McLeod, a 39-year-old local season-ticket holder originally from Spokane, Wash. “There are several hundred people ahead of us in line. I’m hoping to get a couple shirts, a hat and maybe some stuff for the folks back home.”

If fans were unhappy with the name, they weren’t showing it after the event as they reveled in gathering handfuls of gear.

“I liked the Knight but I thought it might have been better if they would have done something other than Knight because of the whole L.A. Kings thing,” said David Thummel, a 27-year-old local planning to purchase a hoodie.

A wrinkle that generated much discussion was using “Vegas” instead of “Las Vegas” for the city name. Foley cited two reasons.

“The local people refer to Vegas, not Las Vegas,” he said. “The people from out of town refer to, ‘Las Vegas.’ It’s, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Oh, I’m from Vegas.”

“I thought Las Vegas Golden Knights, four words, too much. Three words is kind of the limit.”

With the logo circulating on social media a couple of hours before the announcement, Vegas Golden Knights quickly surpassed Las Vegas Desert Knights as the most heavily rumored name. But Foley regarded it as “amazing” that the name never officially leaked.

The franchise went to extraordinary lengths to protect its secret. McPhee didn’t even tell his wife or children the name in the two months since he learned it.

“My rationale was twofold,” McPhee said. “One, it’s a great lesson for your kids. If someone tells you something, you don’t tell anyone else and you don’t have anything to worry about. But we wanted to keep it quiet.”

Foley mentioned Nighthawks, Desert Hawks and Sidewinders as a few of his runners-up. He could never shake a desire to incorporate Knights, however, in an ode to his West Point alma mater.

Golden Knights is the name of Army's parachuting team, which further drew in Foley. But it was only a small part of the appeal of Golden Knights.

“It exudes everything I’m proud of and everything I believe in as far as creating this team and the culture we’re going to have around this team,” he said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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