On NHL Salt Lake City and Domain Name Registrations

DetroitHockey.Net

If you’ve been following this space for long enough, you know that I have an interest in sports branding and, historically, have been able to get some ideas of what new teams might be called by monitoring domain name and trademark registrations.

I had predicted that Vegas would probably be the Golden Knights months before the team announced it (though I assumed they’d be “Las Vegas” instead of just “Vegas”) and I had Kraken as an option for Seattle before they’d even been granted an expansion team, only ruling it out along the way because one of the Seattle beat writers explicitly said it was out of the running.

With yesterday’s news that the Arizona Coyotes seem close to relocating to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 2024-25 season, I’ve started looking into domains and trademarks and my initial gut feeling is that things are going to be very different this time around, if anything even comes of the rumored relocation.

When the initial batch of Seattle-related names came out of a domain name search in 2018, it was sheer luck that they were (at least initially) registered publicly.  In the years since then, private domain registration has become much more prevalent.  This means that even monitoring domain registrations in real-time may not tell us anything as it will be harder to tell which registrations are legitimate and which are domain squatters attempting to guess the name and hold the associated domain for ransom.

The Seattle organization then held off on registering any trademarks until just before they announced the team name.  While there was risk in that as, theoretically, someone else could have registered a mark for the chosen name in the meantime, it also meant that the name didn’t appear in the USPTO’s public database until after it had already been announced.

My initial look into possible names for a relocated Coyotes team did find some options, all registered privately.  Thus far, they all look like squatters, but I can’t be certain.  Yesterday, for example, there were registrations for domains related to the names Utah Frost and Utah Fury.  Neither of them look like other domains owned by potential Salt Lake City NHL owner Ryan Smith or his organization.  In fact, the Fury-related domains actually include some .hockey domains and the NHL has left those alone since the gTLD launched in 2015.

My expectation is that, should the Coyotes relocate, valid domain registrations will slip through, masked by squatting attempts.  We won’t be able to learn anything the way we have in the past.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping an eye on it.

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