- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
The Kraken has been released.
Seattle’s NHL team, which will make its debut in the 2021-22 season, on Thursday finally announced its name — the Kraken — as well as a color scheme: icy blue and navy blue with sharp red accents.
The NHL officially named Seattle as its 32nd team in 2018 for a $650 million expansion fee.
“It’s a very unique and unusual name in sports, because almost all sport franchises end with an ‘S,'” Andy Jassy, a part-owner of the team, told ESPN. “There are a lot of obvious connections to Seattle — part because of our maritime history; part of because we have so much water around us — but there is longtime folklore in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest of this mystical Kraken creature that lives just below the surface of the sea, which really captivated people for many years. That mystique, that intensity, and that power that people have long talked about with the Kraken is what we expect our NHL team to play with.”
Jassy said the team looked at more than 1,200 names and did a “real exploration” on more than 100. The franchise settled on five finalists, which were sealed into an envelope and put in a time capsule in the Seattle Space Needle — along with Nirvana records, a Twinkie and one share of Amazon — which will be revealed in 2062, on the Needle’s 100th anniversary.
Kraken president Tod Leiweke has been focused on serving the community first, so the team launched an interactive portal in May 2019 where fans could offer suggestions. Team leaders also held informal focus groups and monitored social media to see “how often how often potential names were mentioned, what was the sentiment, the reactions,” Kraken VP of Marketing Heidi Dettmer told ESPN.
According to Dettmer, Kraken — and specifically the slogan, “Release the Kraken” — kept surfacing.
“Throughout this whole process, it’s been a rallying cry for fans,” Dettmar said. “We heard it everywhere. It’s what kept coming up over and over again.”
The logo features an ‘S’ as the primary mark — an homage to the original Seattle Metropolitan uniforms. The Metropolitans were the city’s original pro hockey team from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917. The Kraken’s twisting blue ‘S’ also invokes its mythical sea creature namesake.
“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,” says Matty Merrill, Adidas’ Design Director who worked on the logo. “We had to make sure it wasn’t a cartoon character or something silly.”
Seattle had considered naming the team the Metropolitans, but according to Jassy that choice was met with “reticence” by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who didn’t want to change the name of one of the NHL’s four divisions, the Metropolitan Division.
Of the 31 existing teams in the NHL, 16 have some shade of blue in the logo. Adidas, however, felt that the Kraken’s combination — as well as the red accents — makes it unique both among NHL teams, and other blue-centered teams in the Seattle market.
“It’s actually quite brilliant, almost a neon blue that looks like the ice caps on the Olympics and the white caps on the Puget Sound,” Merrill said. “Then the navy is so dark, it’s almost black. We call it deep sea. The whole uniform has no white — there’s zero white — and it’s really just these complimentary blues. The way they present their brand will be that way — these two blues and no white. No surrender at all.”
Seattle general manager Ron Francis, who had a 23-year-playing career mostly with the Whalers/Hurricanes organization, sat in on the branding committee.
“His opinion held a ton of weight in this process from a hockey standpoint,” Dettmar said.
Francis offered this advice to designers: “This needs to be a sweater, that when the players put on, they feel really proud. It needs to be iconic. It needs to be noble.”
The news comes one month after Amazon secured naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will house the Kraken, as well as the WNBA’s Storm. However the company’s name won’t appear on the building. Instead, the arena will be called Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several green initiatives. Climate Pledge Arena is trying to become the first arena in the world to earn net zero carbon certification by the International Living Future Institute.
The cost of the building has been estimated at more than $900 million. The 18,100-seat venue is expected to host 200 events each year, including concerts and the NHL and WNBA games. The building is under construction on the Seattle Center campus on the site of the former KeyArena that was the primary home of the Seattle SuperSonics.
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