List of professional sports teams in Utah
Professional sports teams based in Utah encompass multiple teams including the NBA's Utah Jazz and Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake. Utah is the least populous U.S. state to have major professional sports league franchises.
Utah has several minor league baseball teams. The Ogden Raptors (who play at Lindquist Field) and the Orem Owlz (who play at Brent Brown Ballpark) compete in the Pioneer League, which is a rookie league (the fifth and lowest level of the "affiliated minor leagues"—i.e., leagues that are part of Major League Baseball's official development system). The St. George RoadRunners play in the independent Golden Baseball League.
The use of the letter "Z"
The professionals sports team nicknames are often noted for the unusual frequency of the letter Z appearing in team nicknames (such as the Utah Jazz). This phenomenon reached the peak of its popularity during the 1990s; however, several Utah teams continue to make use of the letter Z. At least ten Utah-based professional sports franchises have used team names that include the letter Z, some of which are intentionally spelled incorrectly, using the Z unnecessarily or as a replacement for another letter. Commenting on the proliferation of such team names, New York Times sportswriter Alan Schwarz called Utah "the state where sports fans go to get their Z's."
Early Utah -zz teams
The popularity of the Z in Utah sports was likely inspired in part by the unusual nickname of the Utah Jazz NBA team, which in 1979 relocated from New Orleans —which is noted for jazz music— to Salt Lake City, which is not. Up until the early 1990s, Utah's other professional teams used somewhat conventional nicknames (such as the Stars, Golden Eagles, and Trappers).
With the arrival of the Salt Lake Buzz in 1994, the similarity of the nicknames "Buzz" and "Jazz" was unmistakable (although the name "Buzz" was really a play on the name of owner Joe Buzas, as well as a nod to Utah's "Beehive State" moniker). The following year, the Utah Grizzlies minor league hockey team also entered the market.
Utah becomes a -zz market
The announcement of the Utah Starzz WNBA franchise in 1996 cemented the state's propensity for using the letter Z in its team names.  The peculiar "Starzz" nickname was an homage to the Jazz (as well as to the old Utah Stars ABA team). The precedent firmly set, several -zz teams entered the Utah market in subsequent years, to include the Utah Catzz, Utah Freezz, and Utah Blitzz.
From 1994 to 1999, at least seven professional sports teams in the state adopted nicknames containing a double Z (see table below). All of these team names ended in -zz, except the Utah Grizzlies (which are also commonly called "the Grizz"). With the exception of the Jazz and Grizzlies, none of the -zz teams remain in Utah today, each having relocated, folded, or renamed the franchise.
The Ogden Raptors (1994–present) were the only notable Utah pro franchise to forgo use of the letter Z when entering the Utah market during the 1990s. The Raptors offered this as a selling point, using the slogan "All the fun without the ZZs!" Since 2000, new and renamed franchises have tended to steer away from the Z naming fad, opting instead for names such as Salt Lake Bees, Utah Flash and Real Salt Lake. However, the creation of the Orem Owlz in 2005 and the Utah Blaze in 2006 provide some indication that Utah's Z nicknaming trend continues.
|Selected Utah Professional sports teams|
|Team Name||Sport (League)||Nickname still in use||Years used|
|Utah Jazz||Basketball (NBA)||Yes||1979–present|
|Salt Lake Buzz||Baseball (PCL)||No – Renamed||1994–2001|
|Utah Grizzlies||Hockey (IHL/AHL/ECHL)||Yes||1995–present (two franchises)|
|Utah Starzz||Basketball (WNBA)||No – Relocated||1997–2002|
|Utah Catzz||Indoor football (PIFL)||No – Folded||1997–1998|
|Utah Freezz||Indoor soccer (WISL)||No – Folded||1999–2001|
|Utah Blitzz||Soccer (USL-2)||No – Folded||1999–2004|
|St. George Pioneerzz||Baseball (WBL)||No – Folded||1999–2001|
|Other Z teams|
|Orem Owlz||Baseball (Pioneer League)||Yes||2005–present|
|Utah Blaze||Arena football (AFL I and AFL II||Yes||2006–present|
|Notable non-Z teams introduced since 1990|
|Ogden Raptors||Baseball (Pioneer League)||Yes||1994–present|
|Utah Rattlers||Indoor football (NIFL)||No – Folded||2001|
|Salt Lake Stingers/Bees||Baseball (PCL)||Yes||2002–present|
|Utah Warriors||Indoor football (NIFL)||No – Folded||2003–2004|
|Real Salt Lake||Soccer (MLS)||Yes||2004–present|
|Utah Snowbears||Basketball (new ABA)||No – Folded||2004–2005|
|Utah Eagles||Basketball (CBA)||No – Folded||2006–2007|
|St. George RoadRunners||Baseball (GBL)||No – Relocated||2006–2010|
|Utah Flash||Basketball (NBA D-League)||Yes||2007–present|
|Utah Saints||Indoor football (AIFA)||No – Folded||2008–2008|
- Ogden Raptors previously played as Salt Lake City Trappers from 1985 to 1992.
- Orem Owlz previously played as Provo Angels from 2001–2004, taking its name from the parent Anaheim Angels franchise.
- The Salt Lake Buzz, Stingers, and Bees are various names for the same Pacific Coast League team.
- Schwarz, Alan. "Go, Banana Slugs! Beat The Burn!", New York Times, 19 July 1998.
- Lange, Scott. "Mascot lawsuits drain Buzz Fund", Georgia Tech Technique, accessed 12 May 2008.
- Dicou, Natalie. "Salt Lake Buzz…er, Stingers…er, I forget", Utah Daily Chronicle, 24 May 2006, retrieved 18 May 2008.
- For example, see: Jorgensen, Loren. "Utah's WNBA Team Dubbed the 'Starzz'", Deseret News, 29 January 1997, pg D1 (accessible at Deseret News archives).
- Hollis, Randy. "Starzz starting to shine bright as Jazz fade into history", Ogden Standard-Examiner, 2 June 2002 (republished by realgm.com).
- For example, see: Hamilton, Linda. "Grizz Excited To See Wirll Skate", Deseret News (hosted by Utah Grizzlies), accessed 12 May 2008.
- Wadsworth, Reuben. "I'm gonna miss the ZZZs and the Buzz," The Utah Statesman, 2 February 2001, retrieved 19 May 2008. See also archived Ogden Raptors website.