The wait is finally over. Sure, the ‘Vegas Placeholders’ was an embarrassing way to start the NHL’s expansion team name unveiling Tuesday night. But that shouldn’t detract from the end result: the Vegas Golden Knights. A bit gimmicky to drop the ‘Las’ in Vegas? Sure. Will everyone start calling this team the Knights in no time? Probably. But, hey, the logo ain’t half bad.
The NHL has produced 10 expansion teams since the San Jose Sharks joined up for the 1991-92 season 25 years ago. Let’s call it the modern expansion era. Which new team fielded the best inaugural logo over that span? I took a crack at ranking them below, using logos from Chris Creamer’s sportslogos.net.
A couple rules:
- Expansion teams only, as in teams that arrived from scratch. The Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets are disqualified.
- These rankings don’t factor in jerseys and uniforms, as the Knights (see? Already dropping the Golden) haven’t yet revealed theirs. We’re judging teams only by their logos here.
10. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS, 2000-01
Likes: Um, what?
Dislikes: This Jackets crest gave us a tutorial on how not to build a logo. Spelling out a team’s name is a crutch and a faux pas in my opinion. The team called the Blue Jackets had 0.0 Blue Jackets depicted in its logo. The lime yellow-green stick, which formed a ‘J,’ clashed horribly with the rest of the colors. The red ribbon, which depicted the 13 Colonies, formed a ‘C’ and a ‘B” which were barely legible. Columbus redeemed itself with an alternate logo and adopted the current one for 2007-08, but the original was an abomination. My colleague Ryan Kennedy calls it “the cribbage board.”
9. ATLANTA THRASHERS, 1999-00
Likes: Kudos for featuring a thrasher. It may sound like a tacky “x-treme” late-millennium nickname, but the brown thrasher is actually Georgia’s state bird.
Dislikes: I used to refer to the logo as the Butterscotch Pudding Bird. It looked like some poor thrasher landed in the bowl right as someone was mixing the ingredients. The attempt was abstract, but the result was ugly. And how was the bird gripping the stick? Was that a talon coming out of a wing? Poor thing had some weird genes.
8. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, 1992-93
Likes: The Bolts had the major advantage of, you know, a Lightning bolt for a logo. They’ve learned in recent years that show, don’t tell is the best way to feature something so awesome and elemental. Scrawling ‘Tampa Bay’ in cursive and ‘Lightning’ in block letters on the inaugural design softened the logo’s impact significantly. The Lightning emblem had humble beginnings indeed.
7. MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM, 1993-94
Likes: There was a nice synergy between the duck-billed logo and team mascot Wild Wing. The duck’s cartoonish appearance tied in nicely to Disney ownership at the time, and the triangular background was fashion-appropriate for trends in the early 1990s. The duck itself looked fierce.
Dislikes: It was just so loud and cheesy. The ventilation holes in the mask looked like bullet holes, too.
6. NASHVILLE PREDATORS, 1998-99
Likes: The sabretoothed cat looked mean, sleek and aerodynamic. While the ‘Predator’ moniker felt a bit forced, the image was not. It referred to a smilodon floridanus skeleton discovered in Nashville in 1971.
Dislikes: Too many colors. Too busy. It wasn’t built to transcend its era. The cat almost looked exhausted, like it had bags under its eyes.
5. FLORIDA PANTHERS, 1993-94
Likes: Artistically, there was a ton to like about this Panther logo. The big cat itself had tremendous detail to it, and it appeared to be leaping at you. It’s an impressive design.
Dislikes: It was just too much. A colleague of mine, Ryan Kennedy again, says a great way to test a logo’s universal appeal is to ask a kid to draw it. No non-gifted child had any hope of replicating Florida’s logo. It was far too intricate, with so many patterns and color variations. It blitzed the senses. It missed out on becoming iconic. It gave the eyes too much to process.
4. OTTAWA SENATORS, 1992-93
Likes: it was darned elegant, wasn’t it? A nice crest with a Centurion-like solider, complete with a red cape. It was the type of stoic figure one could picture guarding a capital city like Ottawa in an alternate universe. The color scheme of red, gold, black and white was classy.
Dislikes: Did it really depict a Senator? It was a Centurion or Roman general, which only loosely connected to the term Senator. Did that make the logo a cheat? Why not just be the Ottawa Centurions?
3. MINNESOTA WILD. 2000-01
Likes: It remains one of the league’s most beautiful designs, featuring everything that embodies the concept of “wild,” from Minnesota’s North Star to a forest to a sunset to a stream. The entire nature scene also forms the head of a wild beast.
Dislikes: The knock is the beast itself, as no one knows what it is. Why not commit to an existing earthly creature? The team did not, inviting criticism over the years.
2. SAN JOSE SHARKS, 1991-92
Likes: San Jose simply couldn’t go wrong with a shark logo. It was a tap-in one-timer. True story: the fan vote winner was actually the San Jose Blades, but ownership overruled that lame choice on the grounds a Blade sounded too much like a weapon and had gang connotations. A Shark biting through a hockey stick was a fun idea, and the triangle in the background represented the Bay Area cities San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. For anyone wondering if the Shark actually fits San Jose: yes, it does. Sharks frequent the Bay Area’s Red Triangle.
Dislikes: We aren’t ranking the Sharks’ current logo. The old one is pretty crudely drawn, like a rough sketch. The designers deliberately avoided realism as they didn’t want to frighten children. That’s a noble thought, but it did detract from the finished image a bit.
1. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS, 2017-18
Likes: It’s a simple, strong image, easy to recreate. It’s not so simple that it’s crude, however. The gladiator-style helmet exudes class and a sense of camaraderie. Not only does the black shadow almost create the effect of an intimidating, invisible presence wearing it, but it also forms a ‘V’ for Vegas. The gold represents ‘Golden Knights,’ which is a stretch, but not as much as one may think. The gold represents Nevada, which produces more gold than any other U.S. State.
Dislikes: None, really. It’s a great logo. The only negative might be a lack of originality. Thousands of hockey teams from the beer leagues to major junior have knights or medieval warriors for logos.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin