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Nothing Lost in Translation: ¿Qué hay en un (Nuevo) Nombre?

Spanish-speaking platforms christen Coyotes with new monikers

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

His name is Phil Kessel, but some fans call him "Felipe."

For Conor Garland, there's "El Gato" and "El Tornado."

Some are referring to Jakob Chychrun as "Pollito."

Those are a few of the nicknames inspired by "Los Yotes," the Coyotes' official Spanish-speaking social media platforms, which play a prominent role in attracting fans in the Greater Phoenix region, in which 42 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.

Fans first recommended the name for Kessel, and Patty Vicente, the administrator for "Los Yotes", ran with it. 

"It's a common name in Latin American countries," Vicente said. "But it's nothing too special, beside the fact that it's a similar Spanish name to "Phil." 

The Los Yotes accounts are still developing, so Vicente is keeping things simple and encouraging input, imagination and creativity from its followers.

"It's really helped fans feel like they have a voice with our team as well," Vicente said. "I go based off of what they recommend. I don't give out my ideas. So, it's the fans that are recommending the nicknames. Some stick naturally. I let the fans have a lot of control, like what names they suggest."

Now, about those names.

Garland is slick like a cat -- "Gato" in Spanish -- but he also is like a tornado flying by opposing teams quickly and leaving defenders in his wake. Both nicknames are still in competition, Vicente said.

Jakob Chychrun is commonly referred to as "Chych," pronounced "chick." Los Yotes followers quickly picked up on that, dubbing Chychrun "Pollito," which means "chick" in Spanish.

Darcy Kuemper is "La Muralla" -- The Wall -- for his often impenetrable goaltending abilities. Antti Raanta, known as the "Scorpion King" for his famous "scorpion save" last season, has been tabbed "Rey Alacrán." Adin Hill is "Cerro," which translates to "Hill."

The nicknames are just one aspect of Vicente's approach to better engage Spanish-speaking fans.

Vicente was born and raised in Pomona, California, in a Spanish-speaking household. Her parents hail from Mexico; her father is from Toluca; her mother is from Mexicali Baja. Vicente wasn't fluent in English until the Fifth Grade. She and her siblings were raised soccer fans, through her father's love for his hometown team, Toluca FC. Vicente attended the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she majored in sports journalism. She minored in Spanish so she could best use her natural language in a professional setting.

Vicente developed a love for hockey as a high schooler in 2015 spurred by the presence of two NHL teams in Southern California. She tried talking hockey with her father, but noticed a bit of a sports culture barrier.

"(Hockey) was the first time I got into a sport without my parents' help," Vicente said. "I tried to talk about it with my dad, who didn't know anything about hockey. He asked, 'Are there any games or any accounts on social media or YouTube that I can watch in Spanish?' 'No,' I said. 'You're going to have to trust me and let me explain it to you while we watch it together.'

"I think he felt a little helpless. There were no resources in Spanish for him to learn the sport or learn about more teams."

The NHL since has established "NHL Español," which includes a website and social media accounts providing news, highlights and updates in Spanish. The Coyotes launched "Los Yotes" last season. Arizona is one of a handful of teams employing Spanish-speaking media channels.

"I think having an everyday Spanish voice can be extremely powerful and influential," Vicente said. "You feel like you're not alone. I like to take the approach that I'm talking to my dad. 'How am I going to explain the sport? How am I going to generate interest? What's exciting?' I feel like when you have someone talking to you like a friend, it just makes it a lot better, and it makes you feel a lot more comfortable."

Vicente is working on the same approach with the team's visual media, such as making goal "Gol" graphics, player birthday "Feliz Cumpleaños" graphics, and promoting community events and initiatives in Spanish.

And for Vincente, it's not only about the planning. She creates Spanish subtitles in real time for highlight clips.

Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez believes establishing a consistent and authentic Spanish voice is extremely important and powerful.

"Here, we have such a large Latino population and such a large community," Gutierrez said. "And many really consume their sports and content in Spanish."

Gutierrez says it's just the start of the organization's plan to implement a strong, daily Spanish voice. "I think this off-season is going to give us a real chance to really focus on it and emphasize it," he said.

Despite this focus on language, Gutierrez reiterated the organization's attention to demographics.

"And not all of that is in regard to language," Gutierrez said. "It could be in the English language, but something to which everyone can relate."

Gutierrez believes it is ultimately important that fans feel a personal connection with the organization: "You're speaking to me. You're capturing me and my experience. You're capturing the fact that maybe I haven't been to a hockey game, maybe I've never been on skates. But you're coming to me and you're talking to me."

So, as Los Yotes say to everyone, "ven con nosotros. Y ¡vamos Coyotes!"

Follow Los Yotes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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