Team nicknames have been in the news much more than usual lately. In a welcome change, the publicity for the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken, isn’t because of racism, but because it unveiled its new name and logo today. I’ve set out to create a rubric for new team names that I’ll use at least once more in the near future. (Honestly, I think Washington should keep its name as the Washington Football Team. It’s straightforward, something that clearly explains what the organization is; it’s one of those things that gets funnier every time you say it; and it’s not racist. Win-win-win.)
What makes a great team nickname? I’ve tried to delineate a set of criteria for evaluating how good a team’s name is, and I’m glad I can test it out first on Seattle instead of whatever Dan Snyder comes up with. Based on these criteria I’ll rate nicknames on a subjective 10-point scale, as the best reviewers do.
Very relevant. Though the myth of the Kraken is originally Norwegian, the Action Network’s Darren Rovell posted this article from the Seattle Daily Post-Intelligencer that discusses the Kraken in 1884. The Seattle region is home to giant octopuses, and there’s a local legend of a particular giant octopus that resides under a bridge in Tacoma, Washington.
It also maintains the maritime theme of the Mariners and the Seahawks, which along with the similar color scheme integrates it nicely into the city’s professional men’s sports tradition. I know some people wanted it to be the Pilots, after the ill-fated 1969 expansion team that moved to Milwaukee after only a year, but a 64-98 team from 50 years ago is probably not what the team’s management wants to emulate.
Definitely menacing. Sports are competitive and often violent. It’s not enough for the team name to be relevant to your city; you want your team’s name to connote strength, to seem intimidating. Though it would be accurate to the city, it wouldn’t exactly be intimidating to name the team the Seattle Tech Companies or the Seattle Cold Rainy Days (although the NWSL’s Reign, named after the ABL team of the same name, is a clever play on the region’s weather). The Kraken conjures epic maritime struggles, a powerful and mysterious enemy. Very cool stuff.
Cool Mascot/Merch Potential
Extremely high. The team can make basically anything aquatic part of their brand, and the colors of their logo are transferable to plenty of apparel and designs. (The logo is a bit reminiscent of The Cool S, a nice bonus for anyone who was once a child.)
Personally I hope they take Gritty’s recommendation for a mascot.
Is It Racist?
No. No racism going on here.
This is one that seems pretty easy to knock out of the park, but clearly it’s been an issue for several teams in the past.
Here’s where the name Kraken hits a bump in the road, at least for me. Team names that don’t end in S are more common in women’s sports and non-major men’s leagues like MLS and MLR, but of those in the four major US leagues, most are uncountable nouns—Wild, Thunder, Lightning, Heat, etc. (The Avalanche is an exception, but “Avalanches” would be one syllable too many). The idea that the whole team is one single Kraken feels a little weird. It’s like each skater is a tentacle or something; just doesn’t quite sit right.
Add to this the etymology of the word and you’re in a mess of grammatical confusion. In the original Norwegian, the “-n” portion of Kraken actually means “the,” so if you say “the Kraken,” you’re really saying “The the Kraken.” The Norwegian plural would be something like “Krakerna,” and nobody wants that. So “The Seattle Kraken” it is, and I think we can get used to that pretty quickly.
Other Potential Annoyances
The internet, as it is wont to do, has already managed to make plenty of jokes about the name. The most obvious one is that the team’s fans should be called Krakheads or that their arena be called the Krakhouse. Far worse than its making light of a public health crisis is its unoriginality. Ah yes, the first syllable sounds like crack. I’m doubled over with laughter.
The Very Funny Posters have also pointed out that the word looks like Karen. It’s true. This will probably keep people laughing for years.
Obnoxious as this is sure to be, it’s a small price to pay for a cool name.
Kraken is a cool name. Pretty cool logo, appropriate to the coastal city and consistent with its other sports franchises, intimidating and non-racist, far outweighing the potential for unfunny jokes.