Kraken? Sockeyes? Sasquatch? Sonics? What Seattle’s NHL team should be called


Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise doesn’t start playing in the league until 2021-22, but we might only need to wait a little bit longer before we can stop referring to it as “Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise.”

Remember when the Vegas Golden Knights were going to be the Desert Knights? Or the Red Hawks? The same sort of speculation has swirled around Seattle’s nickname over the past few years, as some names have gained traction and others have faded.

Here’s some informed speculation on the name derby, from the best bets to the long shots to the completely delusional hopes and dreams. Maybe the name of the team is here. Or maybe it isn’t!

Tier 1: The favorites

Seattle Kraken

Why it works: Outside of a popular dark rum, Kraken has been rarely used as a nickname inspiration. It’s a mythical behemoth, a tentacled beast rising from the sea to devour those who dare sail past it. The logo possibilities are endless. The mascot will be a cuddly squid. Everyone outside of Seattle seems to love this name the most, and it might be gaining momentum in the city.

Why it doesn’t work: Kraken has more to do with Scandinavia than Seattle. Throwing tentacled sea creatures on the ice is already another team’s gig. And, if you can believe it, there might be backlash against the name from a narcotics perspective. “Do the powers that be not understand that we have a gigantic drug problem in Seattle?” said Dori Monson, afternoon host on KIRO radio. “What will our NHL team’s logo be? A guy lighting up a crack pipe?”

Pun potential: That said … fans called the Krak Heads. Arena called The Krak House. When they win: “Krak addiction.” When they lose: “Krak is whack.” We can get even deeper into the weeds about “Kraken skulls” and other hockey-adjacent silliness. It’s a pun-a-palooza.

Outlook: The name of the team is probably going to be Seattle Kraken. We had heard recently that while Seattle’s brass had initially bristled at the moniker, a marketing presentation late last year centered around Kraken blew them away. In January, John Hoven of was the first to report that it would be Kraken, according to a source. Clark Rasmussen of, the savvy blogger who sleuthed out the Golden Knights name for Vegas before anyone else, tells ESPN that “right now, I’m around 97% certain the name is Seattle Kraken.” Unless, of course, it’s something Kraken-adjacent …

Seattle Kraken HC

Why it works: Rasmussen was grumbling to a friend recently about the nickname drama and said the team should just get it over with and call itself Seattle HC. As in “hockey club,” mimicking the naming convention for some European soccer and hockey teams, as well as MLS teams such as Seattle Sounders FC. That inspired him to look into some registrations with HC suffixes, and what do you know: Seattle Kraken HC was registered privately on Nov. 26, 2019, and just updated on Feb. 20. “That date stuck out to me because it’s the same time that several of the domains confirmed to be owned by the Seattle NHL ownership group were updated,” Rasmussen wrote. “While there is still no apparent pattern, the timing does seem to imply that is also owned by Seattle Hockey Partners, having been updated in a batch with the others.”

Why it doesn’t work: If there’s anything we know about the NHL, it’s that it likes uniformity. Las Vegas Golden Knights would have made them the only team in the league with a four-word name. Seattle Kraken HC would be the only team with an HC at the end. We can’t imagine NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would be a fan of seeing that in the standings.

Pun potential: Same as above, although we shudder to think how HC could be reappropriated during a losing streak.

Outlook: The HC could just be a “covering all the bases” trademarking of the Kraken. Or it could be an official name that gets around those that were squatting on the name Kraken. To that end, Rasmussen believes that “the organization does not seem to currently own, though it’s always possible that they’ve reached a deal to acquire that domain. Naming the team Seattle Kraken HC could help them get around the need for it.”

Seattle Sockeye(s)

Why it works: While you’d struggle to find a kraken in the waters of the northern Pacific Ocean, sockeye salmon are plentiful and, hence, a very Seattle thing. If the team wants to be bold, they’d drop the “s” at the end and become the third countable noun nickname in the NHL, after the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche. (Although Kraken would, in fact, accomplish the same.)

Now, would they be shorted to the Socks or Sox? Would that be an issue, with MLB’s Red Sox and White Sox? It shouldn’t be. I’m pretty sure college football has about 100 teams named the Tigers and they’ve all played each other for the national championship. Or so it seems.

Why it doesn’t work: As we mentioned, it’s a very Seattle thing. There’s the Seattle Sockeye Ultimate Frisbee team. There’s the series of hockey romance novels by author Jami Davenport, who trademarked the name. There are conflicts, but that doesn’t mean the team couldn’t work out deals around these conflicts if it wanted to. For example, Jeff Gibb, owner of, told “To me, I’ve always considered my ownership of it as a way to ‘save’ the name for the team if they choose it down the line.”

Pun potential: A hockey team named the Sockeyes is pretty much the apex of pescatarian puns. “Sock it to ’em!”

Outlook: Quite good. Sockeyes has been at the top of more than a few Seattle fan polls in the past couple of years. There’s a lot of red tape to cut through if this is the choice, but it would be a very popular one — at least for the fans who aren’t on #TeamNoFish.

Tier 2: The contenders

Seattle Sea Lions

Why it works: Sea lions are both native to Seattle and unquestionably adorable, although they can attack if provoked. The Lions is quality shorthand for the nickname. And they might be able to cover their entire payroll with the amount of Sea Lions mascot merch they’d sell; the Beanie Babies alone might pay for a defenseman or two.

Why it doesn’t work: Orcas eat sea lions. Not exactly what you want in a budding rivalry with the Canucks.

Pun potential: The “Lion” vs. “Lyin'” bit in headlines would probably get worn out by their first playoff appearance.

Outlook: No Lion (wink, wink), but this would be a solid name and a quasi tribute to that late, not-at-all great West Coast team, the California Golden Seals.

Seattle Metropolitans

Why it works: Because they’re a part of Seattle’s hockey legacy. The Seattle Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to 1924, and they won the Stanley Cup in 1917. Obviously, this would be a chance to honor the history made by players such as [checks Wikipedia] Frank Foyston and Cully Wilson.

Why it doesn’t work: Bettman has indicated a little hesitancy in allowing an NHL team to have the same name as one of its four divisions, for clarity’s sake.

Pun potential: By sports nickname law, Metropolitans is shortened to Mets. And you really, really, really, really don’t want to be the Mets.

Outlook: An interesting option, given the history. Plus it seems to occupy that lane between the “never Kraken” and “anything but fish” camps.

Seattle Steelheads

Why it works: It’s a cool fish name like Sockeyes, without the whole “punching someone in the face” imagery.

Why it doesn’t work: Because it’s far less forward-thinking and inclusive than using the freshwater-only version of the fish, the Seattle Rainbow Trout.

Pun potential: “Steeling” a victory. Also, the “Blades of Steelheads” parodies would be like catnip for NES-playing Gen Xers.

Outlook: Not great. The Seattle NHL franchise was talking with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL about an AHL affiliation before setting up its affiliate team in Palm Springs, California. That probably sealed the fate of the Steelheads name for Seattle.

Tier 3: The pretenders

Seattle Renegades

Why it works: It’s a pretty awesome nickname for an expansion team, as it makes its insurgent entrance into an established league. The Jeep sponsorship sells itself.

Also, if you can capture 10% of the kids doing the “Renegade” dance on TikTok with this name, you probably have the most popular franchise in the NHL. Which is perhaps a sad commentary on the relative popularity of TikTok and the NHL.

Why it doesn’t work: Sorry, but there’s only one “Renegade,” and that’s the Lorenzo Lamas syndicated vigilante biker series of the 1990s.

Pun potential: “Renegades of Puck” is obviously the parody Afrika Bambaataa had in mind when he wrote “Renegades of Funk” in 1983.

Outlook: Renegades was an early option out of the gate, but a source said it was “not a real option and more of a swerve tactic” in the end.

Seattle Totems

Why it works: From 1943 to 1975, the Totems played in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which became the Western Hockey League. There’s an undeniable hockey legacy here, and local ties are rumored to be important to the Seattle owners. Plus, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped a “Seattle Totems” reference in 2018 when talking about the expansion team.

Why it doesn’t work: Because there’s a lot to unpack here. Native American iconography with pro sports teams isn’t exactly smiled upon these days, although the NHL does continue to support the Blackhawks name and logo. Totem poles are actually non-native to the local tribes.

Pun potential: “Tote-ally awesome” and “tote-al domination” come to mind.

Outlook: There’s talk that the NHL already put the kibosh on this name internally, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that — while popular — it might be more trouble than it’s worth today.

Tier 4: The wild cards

Seattle Thunderbirds/Firebirds

Why it works: The Seattle Seahawks are the most popular sports franchise in town, and Seattle NHL CEO Tod Leiweke served in the same capacity with that franchise. Both names would be make for great mascots and team monikers, joining the Penguins and Ducks as the NHL’s feathered friends.

Why it doesn’t work: Firebirds was already rejected on trademark grounds for the franchise’s AHL affiliate in Palm Springs. The Seattle Thunderbirds are a WHL team, so some kind of negotiation/trade-off would probably have to take place.

Pun potential: Just use every bird-centric pun made for the Seahawks and apply it to hockey.

Outlook: Did NHL Seattle tip its hand with the Palm Springs filing, that it has birds on the brain?

Seattle Emeralds

Why it works: Seattle is the Emerald City, baby. Also, in a world cluttered with names that are used by teams in every level in every spot, Emeralds would be local and unique.

Why it doesn’t work: It doesn’t really lend itself to a mascot, unless the team intends to have an anthropomorphic gemstone hugging little kids in the concourse. (Ouch, those edges!) And are we going with Emeralds, which is a mouthful, or Ems, which are … already the Mariners (M’s)?

Pun potential: You’re just begging for an endless collection of “Wizard of Oz” jokes here.

Outlook: It’s been a name mentioned in polls for years, to the point where it can’t be ignored. But there are probably better options.

Tier 5: The pipe dreams

Seattle Grunge

Outlook: Yeah, no. The locals would grab their lattes and riot. Which is a shame, because a team with flannel shirts tied around the waist of their jerseys would have been awesome — not to mention the arena playlist.

Seattle NHL Expansion Franchise

Outlook: This would be like the time Dick Cheney was hired to pick George W. Bush’s vice president, and then the vice president ended up being Dick Cheney.

Seattle Sasquatch

Outlook: We’ve lobbied for this name since the first inkling that the city was getting a team, but it doesn’t seem like it has any traction. May the chants of “Let’s go Squatch!” forever echo in KeyArena.

Seattle Starbucks

Outlook: At some point, everything is going to have a title sponsor in the NHL, probably even the Stanley Cup. This is just getting ahead of the game. (Or, if you want to consider the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, it’s an old-school move.) The only mandatory things: The colors match the Starbucks logo, the goal song is an acoustic cover by Jack Johnson and each player’s name is spelled incorrectly on his jersey.

Seattle SuperSonics

Outlook: Look, the NBA might never come back to Seattle. Just do the thing you all want to do and cheer for the Sonics again. Oh, and bring this guy back out of mothballs.

Jersey Fouls

From Smashville:

This Nashville Predators Jersey Foul is a tribute to Filip Forsberg, No. 9 in your programs, No. 1 in your hearts — and No. 11 in the 2012 draft for the Washington Capitals, who then traded him for Martin Erat. It’s a fine Nickname Jersey, but let’s be clear: Forsberg is in that pantheon of hockey names that should never be superseded by a Nickname Jersey. Other names in that tier: Lemieux, Howe and Karlsson.

Listen To ESPN On Ice

One of the biggest stories ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs is how coronavirus might affect them. We speak with Craig Custance of The Athletic (an ESPN alum!) about it — as well as NHL playoff and awards races, the GM meetings and much more. Please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast here!

Winners and losers of the week

Winner: EBUGs

Nice work from the NHL general managers recognizing what we wrote last week: That the emergency backup goaltenders (EBUGs) “problem” was not a problem and therefore did not require a solution. The status quo will remain for all of the accountants, Zamboni drivers and other emergency backups making time to sit around and be on call. “It’s happened three times in 50 years. The system we’ve put into place works,” said Florida GM Dale Tallon.

Loser: Colin Campbell, M.D.

So I think that NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell was being lighthearted when, on the night David Ayres made EBUG history with Carolina, he “called [Hurricanes GM] Don Waddell in the second intermission and said, ‘Can’t one of those two guys please come back?'” But it didn’t read that way for a lot of fans this week, who questioned why an NHL official would be lobbying a team executive to bring back an injured player in order to avoid emergency backup embarrassment. (For the record, once Ayres is in, the other goalies are done. The next goalie for the Hurricanes was going to be a skater; or they could have played the rest of the game with the goalie pulled.)

Winner: The Marleaus

Patrick Marleau‘s large adult sons Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, left for their West Coast trip early so they could spend time with their father figure. That look has probably been on Marleau’s face since he was told the Penguins are going to “Ray Bourque” him a Stanley Cup. You can actually hear Auston Matthews whispering, “One day, my little friend, you too will have a resplendent mustache.” Speaking of which …

Loser: Auston Matthew Mustache Haters

Matthews is chasing the Rocket Richard Trophy this season — as the goal-scoring champ — and some of his teammates, including forward Kasperi Kapanen and goalie Jack Campbell, are showing solidarity by growing their own disturbing lip caterpillars. “I just thought I’d do the muzzy and see how it worked, and he scored the first game with it, so I thought, ‘I’ll just keep ‘er going,'” Campbell said. Matthews scored in the second game too.

Winner: Paul Fenton

While the entire Minnesota Wild could be here thanks to their unlikely surge back to the playoff bubble, Kevin Fiala has been absolutely stellar for them during that surge. He was the NHL’s first star of last week, with four multipoint games (four goals, five assists total), and he added a fifth goal in their win over the Predators. His 51 points are a new career high. But the big winner here isn’t Fiala. It is Fenton, the maligned one-year general manager whose trade of Mikael Granlund for Fiala is finally paying off under successor Bill Guerin’s watch.

The Predators started Rinne in a vital game on Monday night — at home, against the Oilers. He responded by allowing eight goals on 31 shots. It was his ninth loss in 15 appearances, dropping his save percentage to .895 and his goals-against average to 3.17. There was already talk that the torch needed to be passed from Rinne to Juuse Saros, if it hadn’t been already. That’s starting to become sadly undeniable.

Winner: Helping hands

The tornado that hit Nashville on Monday was devastating in every sense. The Predators immediately took action, opening their arena for relief efforts, as the team and players promoted the volunteer programs at Hands on Nashville and the donation opportunities at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Then other NHL teams stepped up: The Wild donated $25,000 to match the donation from Minnesota team owners Craig and Helen Leipold, former owners of the Preds. The NHL then matched that $50,000 donation. The Chicago Blackhawks offered up a portion of their 50/50 raffle on Tuesday night to disaster relief. It’s not the first time the NHL family has come together after one of its fan bases suffered a tragedy, but it’s inspiring every time.

Loser: Our immune systems

When the coronavirus outbreak began, the first impact on hockey was the shuttering of a couple of stick factories in China. Then came news that the Swiss National League would play the end of its regular season in empty arenas due to a government ban on public gatherings, before postponing its playoffs until after March 15. Then the IIHF cancelled several world championship group tournaments. The NHL is already mulling contingency plans. It would appear this is going to get much worse before it gets better.

Puck headlines

An 8-year-old Canadian boy won $200 worth of marijuana edibles and related paraphernalia at a youth hockey tournament raffle. Said his grandfather: “My grandson thought he won a great prize. ‘Dad, I won chocolate!’ ‘No, son, there’s bad drugs in the chocolate.’ How do you explain that to a kid?”

The NHL salary-cap range is going to be between $84 million and $88.2 million for the 2020-21 season, and hopefully teams figure out which part of the range it’ll fall into earlier than last season.

A misogynistic sign at a high school hockey game sparked backlash in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Are the Canadiens making the right call on bringing back Claude Julien?

A Montreal doctor believes his new test could revolutionize how teams assess concussions for athletes. “You’ve got to remove the player from the decision-making process because I know the player can deny their symptoms or the player doesn’t even realize he or she has the symptoms as of yet because they can be delayed by minutes, sometimes even hours or days.”

The NHL is breaking out its “tracking puck” for the playoffs, so get ready for placebo effect complaints of “it just feels different” from losing teams.

Justin Bieber talks about his “hockey butt” with Ellen.

Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)

As Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey tries to work his way back to the NHL, his brother faces a different type of battle. ($)

In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN

Really good piece by Emily Kaplan on how the NHL “groupthink” leads to the same coaching candidates being recycled over and over again.

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