Bucking the Trend: ECHL’s Iowa Heartlanders Introduce Name and Logos

The buck stops here. Well, not here, but in Iowa at least, which beginning in 2021-22 will be home to the ECHL’s newest expansion team, the Iowa Heartlanders!

This evening, the Heartlanders announced their name (the aforementioned “Iowa Heartlanders”), unveiled their logos, and showed off their colour scheme during a ceremony held at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, IA, where the team will first take the ice this October.

“After months of research and listening to suggestions from thousands of fans, we are proud to call ourselves the Iowa Heartlanders,” said Dean MacDonald, the Chair of Deacon Sports & Entertainment, the group who owns the team (as well as the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers and the yet-to-be named expansion Trois-Rivières franchise). “The Heartlanders are excited to bring pro hockey to Xtream Arena, creating new and exciting traditions both on the ice and in the community as our brand grows this season.”

A heartlander is someone who lives in the heartland, the heartland is usually located, geographically, in the middle of a country and can be considered the glue that binds the two coasts together. Iowa is located about as middle as you can get in the continental United States.

“We put out an open submission to fans to share their suggestions with us,” said Cody MacDonald to SportsLogos.Net, one of two creative directors [along with the similarly-named Chris McDonald] working on this project. “They leaned into elements of local and regional pride and that ended up being the basis of where the Heartlanders name came from. We really liked that name and then it was a matter of finding the right marks to go with it and to tell the whole story.”

The logo goes against what you’d expect for a name like Heartlanders, avoiding the obvious imagery such as an ear of corn or a farm landscape, and instead introduces us to a white-tailed deer, “poised for battle in expression, stance, and thorny detailing”.

“We didn’t want it to be anything that was obvious”, said Chris McDonald. “We wanted to give people something that they weren’t expecting, and we think that creates a really strong affiliation with with the brand, being able to represent people’s connection to the place in the team and in a way that maybe wasn’t so obvious.”

Chatting with their partners in Iowa (the Ma/cDonalds work with Deacon Sports & Entertainment, who are all based out of Newfoundland), they learned that white-tailed deer are a big part of life in the heartland and traditions surrounding the deer are passed down from generation-to-generation.

“The deer is a white-tailed deer, which are very prevalent in Iowa. Iowa is known for their big bucks and the quantity of them, there may even be more white-tailed deer than there are people in Iowa”, McDonald recalled. “In speaking with our contacts down there we learned there’s a long history of hunting and bucks are considered the prize game, they’re very elusive. It’s a family tradition that’s passed down from generations, think of the mounted antlers, so it’s much more than just the deer being plentiful. It’s a very well-respected animal and, with their deep roots in tradition and game hunting, it represented what we thought was a point of pride for people in Iowa.”

The primary mark (as well as the alternate, which we will get to in a second) was designed by Brian Gundell, a Florida-based designer who in recent years has developed the new look of the San Diego Padres, the Sun Belt Conference, and even the new secondary mark for the NHL’s expansion Seattle Kraken.

“The antlered crown, adorned in sunrise gold, makes it known that we are the mighty kings of the heartland”, reads the press release regarding the primary mark. “For victory against foes, a gold crown is earned, not given.”

The primary colour scheme is black, dark gray, light gray, and yellow. An additional colour, coral, is incorporated into the alternate logo, a wild prarie rose, the state flower of Iowa.

For the alternate mark, a wild prarie rose (which we presume will be worn on the shoulder of the jersey) features “heart-shaped, coral pink petals, and a shining sun”. The club notes that the wild prarie rose blooms every June, which just happens to be when the ECHL’s playoff championship, the Kelly Cup, is typically awarded.

No, the uniforms are not quite ready to be revealed yet. Soon, we hope.

The Iowa Heartlanders are the 26th team to join the ECHL, a coast-to-coast professional hockey league which has been in operation since the 1988-89 season. Twenty-five NHL teams currently have player affiliation agreements with ECHL clubs who typically will feed their players to AHL clubs as stop one on the three-stop tour players go on as they traverse their way up to the National Hockey League.

Season tickets for the Heartlanders inaugural season also went on sale today, fans can secure their spot in the “Rose Club” by visiting the team’s official website IowaHeartlanders.com.