Starting in 2021, the city of Seattle, WA, USA will host a National Hockey League team, the Seattle Kraken. This will be the first time Seattle has had an NHL team in over a century. There are many who will look at the name as something epic. Something legendary. Normally, the portrayal of a kraken is a giant octopus. What is a kraken?
Kraken does not refer to a real animal at all. Kraken refers to a sea monster of epic proportions in Nordic mythology. In Nordic mythology, the kraken has a cephalopod-like body, hence its portrayal as a giant octopus or giant squid.
The kraken is mentioned in sagas, collections of stories and Norse mythology literature. According to Norse mythology, the kraken lives off the coasts of Greenland and Iceland. The kraken is known for haunting and going after sailors in the region, according to legend.
The Pacific Northwest, particularly the Seattle area, received large numbers of Scandinavian immigrants during the late 19th century/early 20th century. In 1910, Scandinavian immigrants made up 1/5 of Washington state’s foreign-born population. Minnesota is often associated with Scandinavian immigrants, and rightly so. At the same time, many also went to the Pacific Northwest.
The town of Poulsbo, across the Puget Sound from Seattle, was founded by Norwegian immigrants. The Norwegian language was retained by many residents up through World War II. Its nickname is “Viking City” and still has elements of Norwegian culture. The Ballard neighborhood in Seattle was home to a large Swedish community. The Ballard neighborhood is home to the National Nordic Museum. People of Scandinavian descent make up 12.5% of Washington’s population (ranking 7th in the USA) and 10% of Oregon’s population (ranking 9th in the USA). The Ballard neighborhood celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day.
Another influence on the region is the maritime nature of it. Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, port cities of the Seattle metropolitan area. Seattle itself is surrounded by Puget Sound to the west, and Lake Washington to the east. It is a city defined by water. Seattle is home to one of the busiest ports in the United States of America. There is a reason MLB’s Seattle Mariners have the name they do. Mariner is another word for sailor, which goes along with lay of the land for Seattle.
Kraken is a fitting name for Seattle’s new hockey team. Physical geography and cultural geography both play a role. A sea monster of Norse mythology. A city with historical Scandinavian cultural influences, and being a maritime city. Cultural and physical geography can manifest themselves very well in sports. Geography is in the details.