Seattle – There was a presentation going on inside a conference room at the Seattle Kraken training facility when one of the doors slowly began to open.
Panic began to form at that moment.
He forced this 6-foot-tall, 6-foot-tall blue elf, with an anchor earring dangling on his left side and a blue tentacle dangling from his right ear, to find a hiding place. He made everyone else inside the room laugh, right after telling the person who tried to enter the room that it wasn’t a good time.
Now you know how far the Kraken is willing to go to keep the secret.
At that time, less than 50 people on this planet had seen Buoy. That changed on Saturday when Team Kraken introduced their mascot to the rest of the world by having him land from the beams of Climate Pledge Arena prior to their pre-season game against the Vancouver Canucks.
It was no secret that the Kraken would have a spell. But everything else was a mystery. No one knew what name they would choose or what the amulet would look like until now.
Hundreds of ideas and names have been submitted in Kraken’s search for the amulet. From it all came the blackjack. His background is that he is the nephew of Fremont Troll, the iconic Seattle statue that inspired his creation. The name was chosen because Kraken kept going back to how it looked as an amulet.
“We looked at all the characters in this region and wanted to make sure what we brought in was going to be unique. We didn’t want to be like everyone else,” said Lamont Buford, Kraken Vice President of Entertainment Experience and Production. “When you look at a lot of mascots in sports, you can tell which mascots were created by looking at another mascot. We wanted to make sure we avoided that.”
Creating a spell comes with hurdles – especially in the post-Gritty era where already high expectations are higher for what is often a subjective task. The goal of the Kraken was to find the mascot that felt local. But this request also came with limitations. They didn’t want to have an octopus for the mascot because this already belonged to the Detroit Red Wings.
They also don’t want to use kraken. The argument is that no one knows what the kraken looks like. Because of that, they wanted to keep this mystery going but still have a spell that could hit the right tune.
“We talk about the Kraken as living in the theater of the mind. It’s a mysterious beast. We don’t want to be an animation brand which is why we haven’t fully revealed the Kraken,” Kraken Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Katie Townsend said. “It was a fairly obvious choice that we wouldn’t go with the kraken, but rather we’d be taking a deep dive led by Lamont and his team to examine what the right mascot for the city, the fans and the brand would be.”
Buford said Buoy’s blue fur matches the shade of the team’s color scheme. His hair is a nod to hockey hair, while also honoring the long hair famously associated with Squatch, the ancient mascot of the Seattle Super Sonics. The tentacle dangling from the ear is a way of letting fans know that Buoy “had an encounter with a kraken,” while his ring is the same anchor used as the team’s shoulder patch.
As far as Buford is aware, the only team that has a dwarf for the mascot’s mascot is Trinity Christian College, the NAIA school in Illinois.
Using something unique meant that Kraken wanted to test Buoy with different focus groups to make sure his look was family and adult friendly. In this way, the team can send an attractive presence to the community for events such as birthday parties or festivals.
One way to do this was to make Buoy’s nose sharp. He also has a removable tooth so he can look like a hockey player, and a dance called “Buoy Boogie” he does at various times.
It even extends to how Buoy signed his name. The letter B is designed to look like a float with flashing lights, while the tail of the Y continues to move under its name in a wave pattern.
The process began in 2020, with the organization asking if they needed a spell. Buford and Townsend said the Kraken team kept hearing from fans that they wanted one. So they accepted the challenge, talked to various stakeholders within the organization and started brainstorming.
In the end, the team narrowed it down to nine ideas, and Buoy was the ultimate winner.
“Some of them are things you could have imagined,” Townsend said. “There were some abstract things like Squatch. We looked at marine life. We looked at things associated with the kraken. Squatch would never be. Hopefully the Sonics will come back one day, and this is the Sonics mascot.”
Of course, while discussing all this, Buford and Townsend also watched the door to make sure no one else knew about the amulet. Secrecy has become an important part of Operation Kraken. It was so when it came to their logo and uniform design, no one knew for sure they were going to hire coach Dave Haxtool until they released a statement saying they had hired the former Philadelphia Flyers coach as the first in the team’s history.
The Buford team built Buoy, so they were in constant contact. Townsend’s team didn’t see him until May. The executive property team saw Kraken Buoy in September, while Kraken players met the mascot about a week before the release.
There were many questions the Kraken had to answer before introducing Buoy. Perhaps one of the most important was how fans and the hockey world in general would receive him?
Amulets can often be a polarizing subject. Some people love them. Others can go without them for a number of reasons. Everything from the name to the 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 spell prepare for the potential cash that might come its way?
“I think with the mascot on, I would expect it to be 50-50,” Townsend said. “It’s divisive. People get a lot of passion. Not everyone is an amulet, and that’s fine either. I think what we do is do our due diligence with our focus groups… and we feel like we’ve created a fun mascot that fits our brand, so we’ll go ahead with the launch.”