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Larry Stone: Kraken? NHL Seattle’s team name is bold and distinctive, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it

UPDATED: Sat., July 25, 2020

This artists rendering released Thursday, July 23, 2020, by the Seattle Kraken, shows the NHL hockey team's new logo, left, and name, displayed in what would be their finished arena.  (Associated Press)
This artists rendering released Thursday, July 23, 2020, by the Seattle Kraken, shows the NHL hockey team's new logo, left, and name, displayed in what would be their finished arena. (Associated Press)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The feverishly anticipated unveiling of the team name for the Seattle NHL franchise began inauspiciously Thursday morning, with about three minutes of silence on the feed as CEO Tod Leiweke pontificated about … well, that’s lost to posterity.

The announcement that came a few minutes later, however, rang out loud and clear – and posterity will have lots to talk about. They went with the team name I always assumed was a great tease, something to chuckle about, debate over, and then dismiss as too silly, too preposterous, too theatrical.

Seattle Kraken.

Yes, they really did it. When the name popped on the screen, I did a literal double-take. If I had a glass of water at my mouth, I would have executed an unrehearsed spit take.

The this-isn’t-a-prank, by-gosh Kraken.

Give Leiweke and company credit for one thing: They went big. They went bold. They didn’t take the safe route, which would have been the Steelheads, Sockeyes or Metropolitans. They had the audacity to go with a polarizing name that will inspire great praise from the undeniably large and vocal group of fans who advocated for it – hard – from the beginning.

But it will also inspire great scorn from those who feel like it’s a gimmick akin to naming your minor-league baseball team the Yard Goats, Rumble Ponies or Iron Pigs.

And who points out that, inevitably, the team’s fans will be referred to as the “Krak Heads” and the new arena will be dubbed “The Krak House.” That’s an irresistible force that won’t have an immovable object to stop it.

They knew a backlash of some sort was inevitable and forged ahead anyway. Daring, fearlessness, the courage of one’s convictions – those are the sort of qualities that bode well for an expansion franchise that can’t afford to be risk averse as it tries to make its mark in the NHL.

That doesn’t mean I have to like the name, however. It just seems, well, silly to me (though I love the logo, color scheme and unis). But I don’t want to make this a “get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers” column. While Kraken was not the name I would have chosen – I was a staunch proponent of Metropolitans, as a tribute to Seattle’s hockey past – it is indeed distinctive. It carves out an instant identity for a franchise that, for the previous two years, had none. The buzz is already deafening. The Kraken, which didn’t exist a few hours ago, are (is?) now the talk of the sports world.

I asked my 21-year-old son what he thought of the name, and he replied, “I like it – it’s fun.” I would say that’s the best thing Kraken has (have?) going for it – it’s a name you can have fun with – in imagery, in conversation, even in heated debates over why you think it doesn’t work.

My son had an addendum (and I swear I’m not making this up for narrative purposes): “I’d rather have had something more Seattle-based.”

Therein lies my biggest issue with the name. For me, the No. 1 criterion upon which to judge a team name is a sense of place. And the Kraken (there it is; my first official mention of the Seattle hockey team’s name as a functioning entity) can wax poetic all it wants in its news release about how “this legendary sea creature has natural ties to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest through the region’s deep maritime history.” And how “this name embodies a connection to the sea, and a curiosity with what lurks beneath.”

Well, I suppose, but I’ve never heard anyone in Seattle ever evoke the Kraken name until it somehow became the rallying cry for the NHL a couple of years ago. It is not endemic to the region at all; Wikipedia describes Kraken as “a legendary cephalopod-like sea monster of gigantic size in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse sagas, the kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorizes nearby sailors.”

So yes, it is of the sea, but not necessarily our sea. When I hear “Kraken,” my first reaction is theatrical. I think of the over-the-top “Release the Kraken!” scene from the movie Clash of the Titans. I think of the computer-generated sea creature from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (which ever so coincidentally happened to have been produced by one of the minority owners of the Seattle NHL franchise, Jerry Bruckheimer), that Jack Sparrow referred to as “beastie.”

And now, I think Seattle hockey. It won’t be long, I suspect, until the shock aspect of the name dissipates, and it will roll naturally off the tongue. We’ll eventually get all the “Get Kraken” and “Kraken up” puns out of our system (no promises on that one, however).

And Leiweke and the rest of the hockey brain trust in Seattle will proceed with the aspect of launching a franchise far more important than the name on a uniform: Building a successful team that will wear it.

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