Two years ago we got a first look at what names might be considered for the NHL’s Seattle expansion franchise when a set of domain registrations were made by lawyers working on behalf of Oak View Group, the team’s owners.
Since then, things have been relatively quiet on the team name front.
In July, Seattle Times NHL beat writer Geoff Baker stated that the team was down to four names in an interview on Sportsnet 590, specifically ruling out fan favorites Seattle Kraken and Seattle Totems. Oak View Group spent some time in August pursuing names for their American Hockey League team in Palm Springs (later having one of those trademark applications denied). Then, in October, the organization placed a list of their final five names in a time capsule at Seattle’s Space Needle without making that list public.
Now, I believe it’s possible to look back at the original set of domains and cut the list of probable team names down from 13 to the following five:
Seattle Sea Lions
To get the above list, I’m admittedly working off of a set of assumptions. These assumptions may or may not be safe to make.
First off, I’m using only the original list of names from January 2018. I’ve been monitoring domain registrations since then and nothing jumped out at me as related to the new team but it’s always possible that I missed something.
It’s also possible that they’ve added a name to their list that wasn’t in the original set, regardless of domain ownership. I’m assuming they haven’t. This might be the biggest reach, especially as Seattle Steelheads has been showing up in some online polls while seemingly nothing indicates that OVG has made a move to secure that name. Baker specifically ruled out Steelheads in a mailbag column last week but, nonetheless, that doesn’t mean another name hasn’t entered contention.
I’m taking quality of domain name into account, with the best domain name being one in the form of SeattleTeamname.com, with no extra words or characters. So seattlefirebirds.com is better than seattle-firebirds.com, for example. This is subjective so it’s possible that the team is okay with something like SeattleTeamnameHockey.com.
Finally, I’m working off the assumption that the organization would only let one of their domains expire if they had either decided against the team name it represented or if they had found (or determined they could acquire) a better domain name for that team name. OVG wouldn’t spend over half a billion dollars on an expansion franchise and then accidentally not renew their $13 domain if that domain actually mattered to them going forward.
Taking all of that into consideration…
The 38 domain names from January 2018 were each registered for a two year period. On Saturday, for a few hours, they all expired.
It should be noted that, relatively quickly after expiration, all of the domains were renewed. The fact that OVG let them expire in the first place, however, leads me to believe that the domains aren’t the important piece of property that they might have been two years ago.
With those assumptions in place, we can eliminate the six team names that OVG already had domains in the form of SeattleTeamname.com registered for, adding them to the two that Baker previously stated were no longer options.
Domains in the form of SeattleTeamname.com are already registered for all five of the remaining names. All of the registrations pre-date OVG’s set of registrations two years ago. None of them are confirmed to have been registered by Oak View Group, though private domain registration makes it impossible to know for certain.
Of the remaining five, seattlesockeyes.com and seattlesealions.com are registered publicly.
Jeff Gibb – owner of seattlesockeyes.com, a lifelong hockey player and fan, and son of former Detroit Red Wings draft pick Ken Gibb – registered the name following a Seattle adult league hockey game in 2012. “[M]y friend Chris and I thought it would be the perfect name for an NHL team.” he noted via email, adding that, while he has received offers to buy the domain, “None of these offers (to my knowledge) have been in a official capacity from the NHL or the Seattle ownership group, and most seem to come in after press picks up the name as a favorite.”
Meanwhile seattlesealions.com was originally purchased for another Seattle sports team, the rugby side that would become the Seattle Seawolves of Major League Rugby. Seawolves owner Shane Skinner revealed that he simply held onto the domain even after choosing not to use that name for his team.
While this makes it clear that OVG does not own either of those domains, the fact that neither domain owner would rule out the possibility of making a deal for them in the future means both names should be considered available.
“To me, I’ve always considered my ownership of it as a way to ‘save’ the name for the team if they choose it down the line,” Gibb said.
It’s also worth noting that these are the five that my set of assumptions can’t eliminate. We know there was a list of five in October. Along with the possibility of new names being added to the list, it’s entirely possible that some of these have been removed from contention since then.
Of course, domain registrations aren’t the only way to see what names a team might be considering.
Social media is much less reliable method, given the ease of setting up a Twitter or Instagram account. That said, there are some interesting Facebook pages out there that might show a little more of what Oak View Group is planning.
Most NHL teams tend to use Facebook groups with a name in the form of LocationTeamname, NHLTeamname, TeamnameNHL, or TeamnameHockey. With the five team names from above, that gives us 20 possible combinations to check.
Most of those aren’t assigned to anyone. Some are legitimate groups unrelated to Seattle’s NHL franchise. Two, however, are private pages, which would be a good way for an organization to reserve a Facebook page name without opening themselves up to communication from fans before they’re ready. Of course, that doesn’t mean that’s what’s happening here.
Those two names are the Seattle Sea Lions and Seattle Sockeyes.
As noted above, one of Oak View Group’s trademark applications for their AHL affiliate in Palm Springs was denied in December, with the US Patent and Trademark Office determining that “Palm Springs Firebirds” (which I believed to be their top choice) infringed upon the trademark of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. Interestingly, “Palm Springs Eagles” was accepted and is currently published for opposition, despite a trademark in place for the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.