How the Seattle NHL team became the Kraken

When NHL Seattle first installed signage at its downtown office in 2018, employees arrived at work the next morning in surprise.

Attached to the door was a sticky note with a handwritten message: “Drop the Kraken.”

“That may have been the first time I heard or thought about Kraken,” said Heidi Dettmer, the team’s vice president of marketing. “But throughout this whole process, it has been a rallying cry for fans. We hear it everywhere. It’s what kept coming up again and again.”

The NHL awarded Seattle an expansion franchise in 2018, and since then, fans have been obsessed with the name, color, logo, and branding, even though the team won’t debut until the 2021-22 season. Since Seattle has had enough time, the process has been meticulous, but it must also be reserved (think of shadow web domains, using a Hawaiian company to make domain registrations to mislead the smell and many confidentiality agreements).

“We were careful about where we met. We were careful about the material we printed. And when we had these meetings, we drew the shadows with paranoia,” said Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, ​​co-owner of the team.

Jassy said the team examined more than 1,200 names and did a “real scan” on more than 100. The franchise was decided by five finalists, who were sealed in an envelope and placed in a time capsule at the Seattle Space Needle. , along with Nirvana’s records. , a Twinkie and part of Amazon, to be revealed in 2062, on Needle’s 100th anniversary.

For now, here’s an exclusive look at the process of how the Seattle Kraken launched, and its combination of deep ocean and icy blue colors, plus “red alert” accents.

Choose the name

Seattle considered the Metropolitans, the name of the city’s original professional hockey team, which won a Stanley Cup in 1917, though there was a setback from the league. The NHL has the Metropolitan Division, and Commissioner Gary Bettman declined to change it for the sake of the new franchise.

“That was one [the league office] expressed reluctance for, for the reason mentioned, “Jassy said.” But they were always very supportive; I thought they always gave good and honest comments. They had some of their own ideas too. When Kraken was the main name we were thinking of, and we sought her opinion, they always liked that name very much. “

Team president Tod Leiweke is obsessed with running a fan-driven franchise: “Fans will be involved in every decision,” he told ESPN in 2019, which is why the team launched an interactive portal in May 2019 where anyone could offer suggestions. The team leaders would also periodically sit down with a group of fans, show them some margins, and ask for comments.

Dettmer said the team monitored a Seattle Times reader survey that garnered more than 146,144 votes. Although the Seattle Times poll narrowed it down to Sockeyes and Totems as finalists, Kraken had a great performance.

The most intriguing: stalking on Twitter. If you’ve had a say about the Seattle team name on that platform at some point in the past two years, the Seattle NHL probably read about it.

“We saw what was happening on social media: how often potential names were mentioned, what was the sentiment, the reactions,” Dettmer said. “That was pretty regular. We would have updates on a weekly cadence on that.”

It is unclear who Kraken first suggested internally, though film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another co-owner of the team, has used the mythical sea creature in his Pirates of the Caribbean films. The fans caught on. So did the Seattle brand committee. Around Christmas 2019, the group was already decided.

“It is a unique and unusual name in sports, because almost all sports franchises end with an ‘s’,” Jassy said. “There are many obvious connections to Seattle, in part because of our maritime history, in part because we have a lot of water around us, but there is longstanding folklore in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest of this mystical Kraken creature that lives only below from 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. “

Logo and colors

The team’s general manager, Ron Francis, was a member of the brand committee. According to Dettmer, “his opinion carried a lot of weight in this process from the hockey point of view.” Francis offered a guiding principle: “This must be a sweater, which when players wear it, they feel really proud. It has to be iconic. It has to be noble.”

Another key player: Adidas, the official partner of the NHL uniform. Adidas NHL Director Nic Corbett and Design Director Matty Merrill recall attending a meeting at Bruckheimer’s Los Angeles office about 18 months ago to explain why they should be sitting at the table.

“Many people assume that when opportunities like Seattle arise, it is an obligation or a right for us to participate because of our relationship with the NHL,” said Corbett. “But we had to ask for it; we had to fight for it.”

Bruckheimer invited Adidas to collaborate, and the company played an important role in logo shaping and color refinement. The broad strokes were easy to fill.

“During the discovery and listening period, we heard from fans loud and clear that they loved the colors blue and green,” said Dettmer.

Seattle wanted to invoke the city’s unique landscape: water, trees, mountains, precipitation, but also deviate from what was expected.

“We didn’t feel like the colors had to be exactly the same as the other professional teams here,” said Jassy. “I think it ended up being a good balance of things that resonate in our environment but also reflect the sport of hockey. It was something that we thought looked really attractive.”

Of the 31 existing NHL teams, 16 have a blue hue to their logo, making Seattle unique.

“People called it baby blue, people called it Columbia blue, people called it powder blue, but it’s not; it’s actually quite bright, almost a neon blue that looks like ice sheets at the Olympics and the white caps on the Puget sound, “said Merrill. “So the navy is so dark it’s almost black. We call it deep sea. The entire uniform has no white, no white, and it’s actually just these complementary blues. The way they present their brand will be like this: these two blues , and not white, without giving up at all. “

For the logo, Merrill desperately wanted to prevent the Kraken from becoming a cartoon.

“We had to make sure it wasn’t a cartoon character or something silly,” said Merrill. “Also, it is the tradition of the sea; do not go into the sea. If you go into the ocean, they suck you and you die. It is something serious, what we knew we had to hit.” “

And the last ingredient: mystery.

In one meeting, Leiweke said: “There is nothing more terrifying than theater and the mystery of the mind.” Merrill’s mental gears began to spin, thinking of the Alfred Hitchcock movies where you don’t see the killer, but you know he’s out there.

The S as the main brand is a tribute to the original uniforms of the Seattle metropolitans.

“But while you look at the S, and you think about the Metropolitans, you think about the colors, that tentacle of negative space hides there, wraps around your ankles, ready to pull down,” Merrill explained.

The logo was almost finished, but Merrill knew he needed something more. Then came the “uh-huh” moment, provided by majority owner David Bonderman.

“Bonderman said, ‘You should put your eye right there,’ and pointed to the top of the S,” said Merrill. “I thought it was going to be terrible, actually. But we tried it and it looks pretty good.”

The designers always wanted to incorporate red on the palate, to differentiate the Kraken from all the other blue teams in the NHL, and the other blue teams in Seattle.

“We wanted to represent the Kraken in some way,” said Merrill. “Red represents danger; red represents threat. It was the perfect accent at all times.”

The exact shade they chose? It is called a “red alert.”

Unleashing the Kraken

Because the process was so long, the team was paranoid about the leaks. In the past few weeks, employees who need to know have used “Seattle Cascades” as a keyword, or have sometimes written “Seattle K” in emails. Dettmer maintains a worksheet of names of people who work for NHL Seattle, agencies and Adidas employees, detailing what type of NDA they have signed and what level of access they had: Do they know the name? Have you seen the logo? Have the surcharges been held?

Seattle NHL introduced three trademarks: Kraken, Sockeyes and Breakers, and registered five domain names: Kraken Hockey, Sockeyes Hockey, Evergreen Hockey, Renegades, and Seattle, so they could use some as decoys. The team also worked with a company in Hawaii to make a record and consulted with a company in London to divert attention.

The final trademark was approved exactly a week ago, at which point they were ready to go full steam ahead.

A common way of leaking a name or logo is through the production process; many logos or uniform presentations have been spoiled that way. Seattle didn’t want to give sellers profit margins too soon and have someone see it at a factory or shipping center. As a result, it will take some time to bring official merchandise and shirts to fans.

For now, the team has launched a website that sells t-shirts that says “Release the Kraken,” with 100% of net proceeds going to local YouthCare, Community Passageways, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. The team says the goal of this is to help end youth homelessness and create positive avenues and opportunities for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] youth in the region.

As for what’s next for this team … maybe a pet?

“I don’t know,” said Jassy. “We haven’t reached a pet. We only have our name and colors. The pet is on another level.”