I decided to do some sleuthing Friday afternoon.
Ever since the NHL announced in December that it was awarding an expansion franchise to Seattle, the biggest question on everyone’s mind has been: What will the team’s nickname be?
Speculation ran rampant in the days following the announcement. A list of 13 names trademarked by the ownership group was uncovered. Betting odds were set. Media outlets (including ours) ran polls soliciting public opinion.
But while all that is fun, we didn’t have any real information about which direction the team was leaning with regards to a nickname.
Last month the NHL Seattle group launched its fan website for the purpose of providing information about the team and receiving input from the public. The site is awash in answers to frequently asked questions, polls about fan preferences, and a place to submit comments.
When the site was first launched, I realized at quick glance that one may be able to glean some hints about the team’s possible nickname by examining the site. However, with high school spring sports on the verge of beginning their postseasons, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm preparing for their Everett debut, and the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament on the horizon, I didn’t have the opportunity to pore over the site the way I wanted.
I finally got around to it Friday. Here’s what my detective work revealed:
First, there’s the question of when the team name will be revealed. I heard some speculation that the announcement may be timed to coincide with the NHL draft that takes place later this month. However, that is one of the site’s frequently asked questions, and the answer is: “Potentially fall 2019.” That rules out the time around the NHL draft, and it means area hockey fans won’t be getting nickname satisfaction any time soon.
Of course, the bigger question is what the team’s name will be, and the site wasn’t answering that one. However, the site did pose that question to the fans, and information can be gleaned from the manner in which the question was asked.
When the site went live, one of the poll questions asked: “What type of team names do you prefer?” It gave four voting options (voting has since closed). The options were:
1) Mythical creatures. This was an obvious nod to “Kraken,” the mythical sea creature that has a strong and rabid base of support, but has a polarizing effect on hockey fans I’ve spoken to — people either love it or hate it. This option received the most votes at 31 percent.
2) Sea animals. Given Seattle’s location on Puget Sound, there’s plenty of sentiment to stick to the oceanic theme. This applies to “Sockeyes,” which is the betting favorite, as well as others such as “Sea Lions.” It came in second at 28 percent.
3) Historical. Seattle actually has some hockey history. The Seattle Metropolitans were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, and the Seattle Totems have been around in some form or another since 1944 (they’re currently a junior B team based out of Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace). It came in third at 26 percent.
4) Anything that eats Canucks. The obligatory dig at Vancouver. My wife is still of the opinion Seattle should swipe “Orcas” from the Canucks — Vancouver has an Orca as a mascot and has it incorporated into its logo. Why does Vancouver get to hoard two nicknames anyway?
While that poll has been closed, it’s been replaced by a follow-up poll that asks the exact same question, but changes the selections, and this poll is not yet closed. The new options are:
1) Things that fly. This covers some of the less-heralded possibilities such as “Eagles” and “Firebirds.”
2) Things you climb. Mount Rainier is something people climb, so presumably “Rainiers” is still in the running.
3) Things you fear. Let’s be honest, people can be afraid of anything, and the fact the option is accompanied by a small drawing of a clown face suggests that maybe J.P Patches will be the mascot. But of the proposed names, I suppose a sea monster would be the one that would be considered the scariest.
4) Things that swim. More “Sockeyes,” more “Sea Lions,” and of course “Kraken” traverse the waters, too.
So I’d say that while this second stage of name options attempts to include more possibilities, it still holds a place for some of the names suggested by the first poll, and their inclusion in both polls marks them front-runners.
Is it possible these polls are meaningless? Sure. The cynic’s take is that they’re just a way to keep fans engaged during the two-year buildup before the team begins play in October of 2021, and that the results won’t carry any weight at all.
However, management has insisted that it wants fan input and wants to take that into account. In addition to the website polls, the organization has been holding focus groups with fans to discuss the nickname and a host of other questions. So I’m choosing to take them at their word.
Which means, based on what I interpreted from the fan website — both from what the team listed as poll options and how the voting went in the first poll — that those who want Seattle to “unleash the Kraken” are in with a real shot.
And I suspect that elicits a strong reaction from both sides of the discussion.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.