No such thing as a fierce fish?
By Jean Godden
What's in a name? Plenty. Naming a kid, a city or a sports team could make a major difference in outcomes. Currently we're wrestling over a name for the NHL team due to start playing here in the 2021-22 season.
Picking a name isn't that easy. Take Seattle itself. The original site was called Duwamps, the name of the native American settlement. Doc Maynard, an early arrival, thought the name awkward and lobbied to change it to Seattle after his business partner, the Squamish chief who was helping him sell smoked salmon.
At first, Chief Seattle declined, fearing he would have no peace if people spoke his name after his passing. However, he relented after the settlers offered to take up a collection and pay the chief for the privilege. Seattle thus has the distinction of being the only U. S. city that bears the name of a native American, one who, by tradition, may still be turning over in his grave.
Doc Maynard also supplied a nickname. He claimed Seattle was destined to become the "Queen City of the Northwest -- Gateway to Alaska." The Queen City handle prevailed from 1869 to 1991 when the Seattle Visitors and Convention Bureau launched a renaming contest. First prize went to Sarah Sterling-Franklin of Carmel, Ca., who favored "The Emerald City." Her prize: a one-week vacation in Seattle and one week in Acapulco. No word on which she liked best.
The folks at the visitors' bureau latched onto the Emerald City moniker as a way to promote tourism. Seattle Post-Intelligencer Ad Manager Ric Trent helped with selection and became a big booster. His super-heated prose: "Seattle the Emerald City, jewel of the Northwest, many faceted city of space, elegance, magic and beauty."
Never mind that Seattle has no emeralds and few ties to Oz's Emerald City. And, although Seattle is green, the city is less electrifying emerald and more the gray-green of Douglas firs and native cedars.
But enough about Seattle's pet names. What's been in contention lately is the critical choice of a name for the city's latest major-league sports franchise. In the past, the city has been inspired by vibrant team names like the Mariners, Seahawks, Storm, Reign, Sounders and Sea Wolves (the city's major league rugby team.)
Last fall, the Seattle Times waded into the naming game and held an unofficial naming tournament. The newspaper offered a selection of a dozen possible monikers, including local names like (heaven help us) Emeralds, Sasquatches, Cascades, Pilots and Fighting Geoducks.
Readers voted through four rounds and awarded top scores to the Sockeyes and Steelheads.
Sockeyes and Steelheads? Sounds fishy to me and I am not alone. The choice also
seemed a travesty to none other than Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan who observed: "There's no such thing as a fierce fish." Well, there are sharks, a species of fish, but then -- not to state the obvious -- the mayor IS a lawyer.
The question of what to call the fledgling team likely isn't up to the public, even though there are many of us who want to weigh in. That decision belongs to the team's ownership, people like majority owner Dave Bonderman, and to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
However, it would be a shame not to consider some appealing outtakes. There's much to be said for Kraken, a Scandinavian sea monster that's a favorite of Seattle's mayor. Nor should we dismiss nautical names such as the Harpoons, Neptunes, Seafarers and the Spinnakers.
Another possibility comes from Gunnar Nordstrom, a Swedish ice hockey writer. He has cousins in Seattle and has authored stories about a fictional hockey team he calls the Seattle Wonders. That's not a bad suggestion, especially since Yaron Varsano, one of the team's minority owners, is married to Gai Gadot, the actress who starred as Wonder Woman.
What matters most, no matter who picks the name, is that it resonates with the public, inspires sportswriters, lends itself to two-syllable chants and delivers a marketable logo. But, as wise men have told us, the one thing for certain is that no matter what the naming decision, it won't make everyone happy.