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Almost 30 Years Since its Creation, Arizona Coyotes Kachina Logo Still Resonates in the Valley

By Sean Shapiro, 11/21/23, 4:15PM MST

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The logo is rooted in the region’s Native American history

Arizona Coyote iconic Kachina jersey

It’s unique and iconic. 

In 2020, a reader poll in the Arizona Republic deemed the Arizona Coyotes “Kachina” logo the greatest in Arizona sports history. 

First introduced in 1996 when the team relocated from Winnipeg, the logo is based on the ancestral spirits of the Pueblo people and depicts a coyote holding a hockey stick. It’s a patchwork of colors including green, red, sand, and purple. The crescent moon makes a C for Coyotes, while the shape of the Coyote is an A frame for Arizona. 

It was wildly popular and one of the iconic looks in the NHL, but it disappeared when the Coyotes re-branded in 2003 to a more generic-looking howling coyote. 

Over the past four years, since Alex Meruelo bought the team, the Coyotes have rebranded back to the iconic logo in an effort to better connect with the community. The Kachina first re-surfaced as a throwback jersey during the 2018-19 season and became the team’s primary logo before the 2021-22 season. 

The original designer of the logo, Greg Fisher, is happy to see the kachina back in its proper place. 

“It’s great to see, I’ve been part of building and had lots of opportunities to build brands over the years,” Fisher said. “The Coyotes Kachina is one of those that took on life of its own, really had a cult following, and it’s great to see it back as the main logo for the team.”

While the Kachina logo was first unveiled to the public in 1996, Fisher says the design work and brand building started in 1994 with then Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, who was instrumental in helping get an NHL team to Arizona. 

Looking back, Fisher remembers working with David Haney, a creative director with the NHL at the time, and getting an oddly specific requirement. 

No angry animals. 

“The NHL told us no angry animals because, I think, there had been a trend of angry animals as primary logos, the San Jose Sharks, the Florida Panthers, they were newer to the league and were angry animals,” Fisher said. “So, the NHL wanted something different for the Coyotes.”

Easier said than done, right?

“For sure, it could have gone many different ways, but there were some Kachina dolls in Colangelo’s office and we used those as a motivation for a design, we started to build a brand and story around that.”

Kachina dolls are traditional Native American art that originates from the Hopi people, who primarily live in the Southwestern United States. The dolls are typically carved from cottonwood root and painted. The term itself, kachina, refers to the spiritual beings of Hopi religious beliefs. 

Fisher said he remembers Colangelo calling and getting approval from the native tribes in the area to use the kachina in this fashion. 

Fisher also remembers the logo going down several possible paths, and while the NHL liked the design, there were constant requests to simplify the logo. For example, at one point the logo featured the Coyote wearing sunglasses, which were removed in the process. 

The logo possesses a wow factor and stands out when sitting side-by-side with other NHL logos, which made it an easy choice to be brought back into use and undo the 2003 rebrand. 

Bringing back the team’s original logo is also a way for the Coyotes to show their dedication to staying in Arizona and tying the team to the culture and heritage of the state. 

“It’s part of the fabric of Arizona and the southwest and I think the logo does that,” Fisher said. “Again, I’m happy to see it back.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

National Native American Heritage Month is observed in November and calls attention to the culture, traditions, and achievements of the nation's original inhabitants and of their descendants. To learn more about Native American Heritage Month visit www.nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov

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