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Will the Palm Springs Firebirds be NHL Seattle’s AHL affiliate’s name?

By Andy Eide

Could the Palm Springs Firebirds be coming to the American Hockey League in 2021?

According to a report by Detroit Hockey Net, the Oak View Group filed a trademark application on August 9th for the name ‘Firebirds’, apparently to be considered for Seattle’s AHL franchise, which if approved by the league will begin play in 2021.

OVG and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians announced in July that they are partnering to build a privately funded, 300,000 square foot arena in Palm Springs. At the same time, NHL Seattle applied to the AHL for a Palm Springs expansion team.

Firebirds would make sense for a hockey team located in the California desert but would not be a unique name to the world of hockey as the Flint Firebirds joined the Ontario Hockey League in 2015.

Having an AHL team and a major junior franchise with the same nickname is not without precedent. In 2016, the Florida Panthers moved their AHL affiliate to Springfield, Mass. and named them the Thunderbirds. The Seattle Thunderbirds did not object.

AHL affiliates often feature nicknames that are similar, or accentuate, their NHL parent clubs.

The AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds share a name with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

The San Diego Gulls and the Anaheim Ducks are an example, so are the Stockton Heat and Calgary Flames, or the Ontario Reign and Los Angeles Kings.

Is Firebirds a hint at what name NHL Seattle may land on?

It doesn’t appear so.

New Seattle general manager Ron Francis recently stated that Seattle’s team name and colors wouldn’t be announced until early 2020. He also appeared on KING 5 last week and further added that the team had yet to settle on the name, hence the delay in announcing.

Trademarking a name doesn’t necessarily mean that moniker will end up being the final decision. In January 2018,  OVG registered 13 domains related to team names. The list included Emeralds, Cougars, Kraken, Rainiers and yes, Firebirds.

The AHL has yet to officially approve Palm Springs as its 32nd franchise but the expectation is that it will do so. Naming an affiliate before having a name for the NHL club seems unusual and might suggest that the name was one that intrigued OVG and NHL Seattle enough to file for a trademark.

Seattle, and Palm Springs, hockey fans will have to continue to bide their time while waiting for an official unveiling.

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