After years of discussion and consideration, hockey is coming to Seattle. As with any new franchise, the name of the future team has been fiercely debated since the announcement that the city was invited to apply for an expansion franchise in December 2017. The new squad will bring the NHL back to an even number of teams (32) after the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017-2018 season. I thought it would be interesting to take a deep dive into some of the reported potential names for the team. In January of 2018, reports surfaced and were soon after verified that thirteen different team names comprising 38 website domains were being registered for potential use as the team’s website. The domains were all variants of one of the following thirteen team names: Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Kraken, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems, and Whales. However, speculation remains about whether the team name will even be one of the reported names or something different entirely. That being said, today I want to look at five (plus one honorable mention that was strangely not part of the thirteen registered names) of the more popular potential team names for the NHL’s newest franchise.
In recognition of Seattle’s official nickname as the “Emerald City,” which the city earned because of the abundance of evergreen forests throughout the region, this team name would certainly follow the branding patterns of other teams in the region. Many of the current, as well as no longer active, professional sports franchises in the area share similar colors schemes for uniforms, emblems, and other marketing representations of their respective organizations. For example, the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Storm, and now defunct Sonics, all feature or featured green in their jerseys, emblems and marketing.
As one of eight potential names that reflects animals, fictional or otherwise, the Kraken is arguably one of the most intriguing from a fan’s perspective. Located on the Puget Sound, the Seattle metropolitan area is steeped in connections to the maritime, making marine animals such as the Kraken, potentially stronger team names. Despite great potential for their team logo and fan support of a team called the Krakens, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman responded, “I’m going to reserve judgment,” when asked about the name.
While a strong name for a sports team that will be operating in the shadow of the more than fourteen thousand foot tall Mount Rainier, the Tacoma Rainiers, Triple A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, already have the name. With plenty of other options for the team name, it does not make sense to duplicate a name of an existing local franchise, despite the difference in sport. Because of this, I find it hard to believe that the hockey team will chose this name, and even more unlikely that they will negotiate with the Tacoma Rainiers for the exclusive naming rights.
The Sockeye is a species of salmon unique to the northern Pacfic Ocean, including Washington State and the rest of the Pacific Northwest. As a much more regionally unique name than the cougars or whales, the sockeyes is more easily identifiable as a Pacific Northwest team. Holding stronger connections to a team’s fan base is critical for a young team, as Seattle’s hockey franchise will be. Additionally, it is especially important to maintain these allegiances once some of the initial hype of having a new organization in the area dies down in order to maintain a strong and devoted fan base. Interestingly, updated Vegas odds show the Sockeyes to be the favorite, after overtaking the Totems (see next), among the ten plus team names, as of April this year (2019).
The original Vegas betting favorite, the Totems would harken back to the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League which played in the city from 1944 to 1975. However, attempts at an expansion organization failed with the Totems, and years later, during the 1990s, another effort to bring the NHL to the region failed as. While the name may be an attempt to honor the rich hockey history of the Pacific Northwest and provide a clear connection to the region, it risks appropriation of the local indigenous cultures.
Seattle Metropolitans (Honorable mention)
Looking at the list of the 13 team names that comprised the registered domains, there is one somewhat surprising name that seems to be missing – The Seattle Metropolitans. Historically, the Metropolitans were Seattle’s hockey team from 1915 to 1924. However, most notable is the fact that they were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup when they did so in 1917. Going back to the start of professional hockey in Seattle would be a fitting way to celebrate the arrival of a long awaited NHL team in Seattle.
Between these six names I have looked at, everyone will have aspects of one or another that they are drawn to, however, the potential for rallying behind a team named the Kraken stands out as one of the most intriguing ideas. The only way to describe having a hockey team named the Seattle Kraken is that it would be amazing. Maybe it is not on the same level as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp or the Richmond Flying Squirrels, both minor league baseball affiliates, but the Kraken would still be a strong contender in a contest of best sports team names. Despite being my personal favorite, commissioner Bettman’s apparent hesitation when asked about the name makes me skeptical about the feasibility of the name in the eyes of the league.