When we were Kings: naming Seattle’s (hoped-for) NBA and NHL teams

A sign of support for construction of a new pro sports arena during a rally in 2012. Credit: Quin Benzel

As a general rule, it’s best not to count chickens before they’re hatched, let alone give them names. But what the heck — let’s make a grand exception in the case of Seattle’s ever-fluctuating prospects for attracting big-league basketball and hockey to town.

Let’s say our NBA and NHL chickens do come home to roost. What then should we call our new teams?

Sure, the once and future NBA team here ought to be known as the Seattle SuperSonics — eventually. But assuming we steal — excuse me, legally purchase and relocate — the current Sacramento franchise, I say for a year or two we call the team exactly what they’re called today: The Kings. Here’s why:

Kings are a fitting name for a King County squad, a team that might be playing in the Kingdome if only we hadn’t blown it up. (The Sonics played there from 1978 to 1985.)

King salmon are Northwest icons.

The Kings’ purple colors wonderfully evoke our hometown Huskies.

We’d be honoring the man for whom our county is named: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Actually, King County was named after U.S. Vice President-elect William Rufus DeVane King, a slaveholding Alabaman. Our county council renamed it after the slain civil rights hero some years back. But I digress.

A Kings moniker makes sense, which is more than can be said for a lot of other NBA transplants. Take the Minneapolis Lakers: a glorious name for a team born in the land of 10,000 lakes. But in Los Angeles? The Lakers play nowhere near a lake. Or the Jazz. In New Orleans, a great name; in Utah, a head scratcher. Vancouver Grizzlies? Sure! Memphis Grizzlies? Please.

So let the Kings reach their (hopefully) final resting spot in KeyArena. Then, when their fancy new SoDo digs are ready, probably in 2015, let’s have a raucous region-wide, Squatch-hosted party and crown the Kings, once and for all time, by the name that evokes Seattle’s world-champion basketball glory: the Sonics!

Now on to ice hockey. Seattle is my adopted hometown and I love it. But I’m Boston-born and New England-bred; to me, hockey is a religion. Witness the once ubiquitous bumper sticker that featured Bruins star Phil Esposito: “Jesus Saves – Esposito Scores on the Rebound.”  

Seattle could be — should be, will be — a fantastic hockey town. Our city is farther north than Boston or Detroit or any other U.S. city with an NHL franchise. Our long, dark, chilly winter nights cry out for the excitement — and the beer — that make going to an NHL game such a great way to ward off seasonal blues. Our intra-Cascadian rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks could be epic.

Before we name the team, of course, we need to figure where it’s being stolen — er, moved — from. We should certainly raid the Sun Belt, and indeed Phoenix is widely considered our best shot. Hockey in the desert? Ridiculous.  

So what to call our pucksters? Happily, there’s a terrific name waiting, one that also happens to be the answer to one of my all-time favorite sports trivia questions: Which U.S. team won the first ever Stanley Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize? Answer: The Seattle Metropolitans! 1917. Look it up.

Purists might point out that half of North America’s greatest hockey stars were off in Europe at the time fighting World War I, while most of the others were probably laid low by the horrible influenza epidemic that wracked the continent that year.

No matter: Seattle won! I say we honor our past and call the new hockey team the Metropolitans, and let the world learn this fabulous fun fact about our hockey heritage. Let’s don the original Met colors, whatever they were, wear the retro jerseys, give a boost to the serendipitously named Seattle Metropolitan magazine. But again, only for a year or two. Then a new name, because “Metropolitan” is too generic for a region so unique in character. Got any ideas?

I’m partial to Seattle Totems myself, our old minor-league hockey team. Though  Seattle Steelheads has a nice ring to it. Steelheads is a good, tough name for an ice hockey squad, even if it falls somewhat short of the best sports team mascot ever. That belonged to a short-lived minor-league hockey franchise out of central Georgia a decade or so back.

That team? The Macon Whoopee.

 

 

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