SEATTLE — A presentation was taking place inside a conference room at the Seattle Kraken’s practice facility when one of the doors began to slowly open.
Panic began to form at that moment.
This forced a 6-foot tall, hairy, blue troll with an anchor ring hanging from his left side and a blue tentacle hanging from his right ear to find a hiding place. It made everyone else in the room burst into laughter, right after the person trying to enter the room was told it wasn’t a good time.
Now you know the lengths the Kraken is willing to go to keep a secret.
At that time, less than 50 people on the planet had even seen Buoy. That changed Saturday, when the Kraken introduced their mascot to the rest of the world, having him rappel off the Climate Pledge Arena roof before a preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks.
It was no secret that Kraken would have a mascot. Everything else, however, was a mystery. No one knew what name they would choose or what the mascot would even look like, until now.
Hundreds of ideas and names were submitted in the Kraken’s search for a mascot. From everything came Boo. His backstory is that he is the nephew of the Fremont Troll, the iconic Seattle sculpture that inspired his creation. The name was chosen because the Kraken kept returning to what it sounded like for a mascot.
“We looked at all the characters in this area and we wanted to make sure that what we brought was going to be unique. We didn’t want to be like anyone else,” said Kraken vice president of entertainment experience and production Lamont Buford. “When you look at a lot of mascots in sports, you can tell which mascots were spawned by looking at another mascot. We wanted to make sure we avoided that.”
Creating a mascot comes with obstacles — especially in the post-Gritty era, in which already high expectations are even higher for what is often a subjective task. The goal for the Kraken was to find a mascot that felt local. But that request also came with limitations. They didn’t want to have an octopus for a mascot because that already belongs to the Detroit Red Wings.
They didn’t want to use a kraken either. The argument is that no one knows what a kraken looks like. And because of that, they wanted to continue that mystery but still have a mascot that could strike the right tone.
“We talk about the kraken as living in the theater of the mind. It’s a mysterious animal. We don’t want to be a cartoon brand, that’s why we didn’t reveal the full kraken,” Kraken senior vice president of marketing and communications. Katie Townsend said. “It was a pretty obvious choice that we wouldn’t go with a kraken, but take a deep dive led by Lamont and team to examine what is the right mascot for the city, for the fans and for the brand.”
Buford said Buoy’s blue fur matches the hue of the team’s color scheme. His hair is a nod to hockey hair, while also paying homage to the long hair famously associated with Squatch, the longtime mascot of the Seattle SuperSonics. The tentacle hanging from the ear is a way to let fans know that Buoy “had an encounter with a kraken”, while his earring is the same anchor used as the team’s shoulder patch.
To Buford’s knowledge, the only team that has a troll for a mascot is Trinity Christian College, an NAIA school in Illinois.
Going with something that was unique meant the Kraken wanted to test Buoy with different focus groups to make sure his look was both family- and adult-friendly. That way, the team could send an inviting presence out into the community for events like birthday parties or festivals.
One of the ways to do this was to make Buoy have a squeaky nose. He also has a removable tooth so he can look like a hockey player, and a dance called the “Buoy Boogie” that he will do at various times.
It even extends to how Buoy signs his name. The B is designed to look like a buoy with flashing lights, while the tail of the Y continues to go under its name in a wave-like pattern.
The process started in 2020 with the organization asking if they needed a mascot. Buford and Townsend said the Kraken kept hearing from fans that they wanted one. So they accepted the challenge, talked to different stakeholders within the organization and started brainstorming.
Eventually, the team narrowed it down to nine ideas, with Buoy being the final winner.
“Some of them are things you could imagine what they would be,” Townsend said. “There were some that were abstract like Squatch. We looked at marine life. We looked at things associated with a kraken. It was never going to be Squatch. We hope the Sonics come back one day, and that’s the mascot of the Sonics.”
Of course, as all this was being discussed, Buford and Townsend were also watching the door to make sure no one else knew about the mascot. Secrecy has become a significant part of the Kraken’s operation. It was like that when it came to their logo and uniform design, and no one knew for sure that they hired coach Dave Hakstol until they issued a release saying that they hired the former Philadelphia Flyers coach to be the first in team history.
Buford’s team designed Buoy, so they were in constant contact. Townsend’s team didn’t see it until May. The Kraken’s executive ownership team saw Buoy in September, while the Kraken’s players met the mascot about a week before the release.
There were several questions the Kraken had to answer before the introduction of Buoy. Perhaps one of the most important was how would he be received by fans and the hockey world in general?
Mascots can often be a polarizing topic. Some people love them. Others might go without them for a number of reasons. Everything from the name to how they look, along with other nuances, can become social media fodder for at least a few days.
How does a team that spends years working on a mascot prepare for the possible criticism that might come their way?
“I think with a mascot, I almost expect it to be 50-50,” Townsend said. “It’s very divisive. People feel very passionate. Not everyone is a mascot, and that’s fine too. I think what we’re doing is doing our due diligence with our focus groups … and we feel like we’ve created a mascot that is fun. and fits our brand, then we’ll go ahead with the launch.”