Seattle Kraken—no joken!

Seattle NHL Team named after Norwegian sea monster; reaction mixed

seattle kraken

Photo courtesy of Seattle Kraken
The Seattle Kraken flag flies high over Seattle atop the city’s iconic landmark, the Space Needle, but in the Emerald City, the reaction to the team’s new name is mixed. Without a doubt, the city’s Norwegian maritime community will love it, but others may have more difficulties understanding it.

MICHAEL KLEINER
The Norwegian American

As the National Hockey League prepared for its restart following the coronavirus pause, a team without a coach, players and not scheduled to play until the 2021-22 season grabbed the headlines, like the huge waves in the promotional video, by announcing its nickname and revealing the logo, jersey, and colors on July 23.

After reviewing more than 1,200 names in 20 months, Seattle’s NHL team will be known as—drum roll—the Kraken. The reaction nationally was, uh, brutally honest.  

Back in Seattle…

On Deposit Day, March 1, 2018, the Kraken received over 32,000 requests for tickets. Fans suggested almost every name considered, including Kraken, through social media, digital channels, or a poll in the Seattle Times. 

Team executives, owners, staff, and consultants mulled the names and whittled them down, using more than 50 sessions with fans. There were 215,000+ fan votes. Other considerations considered included “potential activation on game days and overall broadcast programming, plus merchandise sales and community outreach,” said the website. The name was kept like a National Security Agency-like secret. 

Within a half hour of the announcement an additional 40,000 people followed the team on Twitter. Children were featured in a TV report screaming the slogan, “Release the Kraken!” Seattle’s “loudest fan,” Big Lo, said excitedly, “it’s growing on me,” and was finding room on his arm to have a Kraken tattoo added to his collection of Seattle sports teams.

The name is a nod to Seattle’s Nordic, seafaring and shipping background, as Kraken is a mythical Norwegian sea monster. The name was in lights on a city building. A flag with the logo swirled from the Space Needle. On the first day of sales on Aug. 3, people were lined up for blocks at the Simply Seattle store located across from the famous Pike Place Market to buy the jerseys. At the Kraken website store, “100% of net sales through Aug. 21 were donated to local nonprofits YouthCare, Community Passageways, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, to help end youth homelessness and create positive pathways and opportunities for BIPOC youth in the region.”

Remember, the first puck won’t drop at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena under construction until Oct. 2021.

seattle kraken

Photo courtesy of Seattle Kraken
Tod Leiweke, CEO of Seattle Kraken, left, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, prepare to raise the Seattle Kraken flag with logo above the Space Needle. Lieweke said Kraken was “the mayor’s choice from Day One.”

“We became better listeners,” said CEO Tod Leiweke on the team website. “A great name not only speaks of who you are but also speaks to what you’re not. We were adamant to choose a name born of the fans. I read every name submitted. We took every single name to heart. Every name has a nuance. Our job is to think through the nuances. Sometimes the best intended names can mean one thing to one group and another thing to another group. We were thorough and determined to get down to the right final five and, ultimately, seize our identity. It was always vital the name reflects the values of the Pacific Northwest.”

The team spared no dramatics with the announcement. Maybe that’s because TV and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a minority owner. The video starts with darkened colors with scenes of the Seattle port, the city skyline, huge waves of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, pictures of old ships, the last Seattle hockey team, the Metropolitans— the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, in 1917—and lightning, interspersed with photos of hockey rinks and players. The images flash quickly with dramatic music. Then, a beveled “S” appears, and like a snake or eel, a tentacle squirms through the middle of the letter to the top. Another line flashes, washing, like waves, over the “S.” A red dot flashes under the top becoming an eye that then winks. The scene transitions to Seattle Kraken on the backdrop of the colors of the jersey.

As of Aug. 3, the clip had 14,000 views and 3,800 comments on Facebook. Over 89,000 are following the team, while the Twitter account has over 214,000, with 5 million views of the video.

The front of the sweater is deep sea blue down to above the elbows. A red alert band is at the bottom and ice blue at the shirtwaist. Around the elbow is a band of ice blue, shadow blue, deep sea blue, and red alert red, then deep sea blue down to the wrists.

While the “S” is a tribute to the Metropolitans, the sea in the history of Seattle, and the Kraken sea creature, the curvature—at least to me—looks like the dragon head of a Viking ship, making it even more symbolic.

Matty Merrill, design director at adidas Hockey told Ross Fletcher on the website, “There were thousands of names and there were also thousands of logo ideas and dozens for Kraken. We needed to add that mysterious element and initially that was the negative space of the tentacle in the ‘S.’ A lot of times the black letter has a lot of messy elements. We could turn that negative space into an actual object. While you’re seeing the S and thinking about the Metropolitans, thinking about the colors, that negative space tentacle is hiding there, wrapping around your ankles, ready to pull you down. For a long time, it was just the S, the bevel, the black letter form, and the negative space. At one of the last meetings, when we were trying to nail down final approval on the logo, (majority owner) David Bonderman pointed up at the S and with a singular movement said, ‘There should be an eye right there. Why don’t you try that?’”

There are anchors on the sleeve with the shank representing the Space Needle.

The language to describe the qualities of the Kraken that will parallel the culture of the team to be and the fans at the arena was just as dramatic.

seattle kraken

Photo courtesy of Seattle Kraken
Rendering of what will be the Kraken home port, Climate Edge Arena. On Deposit Day, March 1, 2018, the Kraken received 32,000 requests for tickets. “I dream about opening night,” says CEO Tod Leiweke. “I dream about a brilliant arena filled with our passionate fans wearing the S across their chests. I dream about those fans knowing the Seattle Kraken will never back down, the Seattle Kraken never gives up.”

“It honors the Puget Sound waters that surround and inspire Seattleites. It gives notice to NHL opponents that our region’s team will draw strength and fury from the powerful sea. Playing as a visiting team at Climate Pledge Arena will be uncharted waters. Legend has it the Kraken can never be vanquished. Sure, all professional sports teams lose games, but the successful squads never allow their spirit to be extinguished.

“A telling element in the Kraken name is the mystery of the legendary beast. No one quite knows or agrees on the physical description… no one knows the unnerving whole of what awaits opponents on the ice.

“…The eye of the beast. If you’ve seen it, it’s already too late. The eye of the Kraken has been affixed on its prey for some time. Its strike will be swift and devastating. Its opposition overwhelmed and unwary. It will all be over soon…

“Our maritime city with a proud history of exploration and adventure is deserving of a name that incarnates the might of the sea. The Kraken represents the fiercest beast in all the world. Too large and indomitable to be contained … Now, we breathe new life into a legend. An ancient and powerful force reawakens in the heart of the great Pacific Northwest… The peril is in what you don’t see.”

The Kraken are not the only Kraken in Seattle, but Kraken Black Spice Rum is now a partner of the team.

Now, the task is to create the team that will wear the uniforms. The expansion draft isn’t until June 2021. General Manager Ron Francis, a Hall of Fame player, is tasked with heading that assignment, hired in July 2019. The naming of Dave Baseggio as Director of Pro Scouting and hiring three new scouts on July 30 drew far less attention than the release of the Kraken.

“I was in favor of a more classic style-looking mark that works in the present-day too,” said Francis on the website. “I think we were able to accomplish it. I think the colors are cool and the blues tie into the Pacific Northwest. NHL players who play for the Kraken will be proud to wear the mark and colors. Players care more about the jersey than people think.”

Leiweke is excited for the opening night 13 months from now.

“I dream about opening night,” says Leiweke. “I dream about a brilliant arena filled with our passionate fans wearing the S across their chests. I dream about those fans knowing the Seattle Kraken will never back down. The Seattle Kraken never gives up.”

No joken!

Visit the official website of Seattle Kraken at www.nhl.com/kraken.

Read more about the kraken myth: “Kraken—sailors’ superstition survivor,” by M. Michael Brady, The Norwegian American, Sept. 4, 2020.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

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