How The Seattle Kraken Kept Their New Buoy Mascot A Secret

SEATTLE — A presentation was taking place in a conference room at the Seattle Kraken training center when one of the doors began to slowly open.

The panic began to take shape at this point.

This forced a 6-foot-tall blue furry troll with an anchor-shaped earring dangling from his left side and a blue tentacle hanging from his right ear to find a hiding place. This caused everyone inside the room to burst into laughter, right after the person who tried to enter the room was told it was not the right time.

Now you know how far the Kraken will go to keep a secret.

At that time, less than 50 people on the planet had even seen Buoy. That changed on Saturday when the Kraken introduced its mascot to the rest of the world by abseiling it from the rafters of the Climate Pledge Arena ahead of a preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks.

It was no secret that the Kraken was going to have a mascot. Everything else, however, was a mystery. Until now, no one knew what name they would choose or what the mascot would look like.

Hundreds of ideas and names were submitted in the Kraken’s quest for a mascot. From all of this came Buoy. 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 how it sounded for a mascot.

“We looked at all the characters in this area and wanted to make sure that what we brought would be unique. We didn’t want to be like anyone else,” said Lamont Buford, vice president of entertainment experience and the production of Kraken. “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 hurdles, especially in the post-Gritty era in which already high expectations are raised even higher for what is often a subjective task. The goal for the Kraken was to find a mascot that felt local. But this demand also came with limitations. They didn’t want to have an octopus as a mascot because it already belongs to the Detroit Red Wings.

They also didn’t want to use kraken. The argument is that no one knows what a kraken looks like. And because of that, they wanted to keep this mystery, but still have a mascot that could set the tone.

“We talk about the kraken as living in the theater of the mind. It’s a mysterious beast. We don’t want to be a cartoon brand, that’s why we haven’t revealed the full kraken,” said Kraken’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. said Katie Townsend. “It was a pretty obvious choice that we wouldn’t go with a kraken, but do a deep dive led by Lamont and his team to look at what’s the right mascot for the city, for the fans and for the brand.”

Buford said Buoy’s blue fur matched the hue of the team’s color scheme. Her hair is a nod to hockey hair, while paying homage to the long hair associated with Squatch, the Seattle SuperSonics’ longtime mascot. The tentacle hanging from his ear is a way to let fans know that Buoy “met a kraken”, while his earring is the same anchor used as the team crest.

To Buford’s knowledge, the only team that has a troll mascot is Trinity Christian College, an NAIA school in Illinois.

Going with something unique meant the Kraken wanted to test Buoy with different focus groups to make sure his look was both family and adult friendly. This way, the team could send an inviting presence 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 “Buoy Boogie” that he will do repeatedly.

This even extends to the way Buoy signs his name. The B is designed to look like a buoy with flashing lights, while the tail of the Y continues to pass below its name in a wave-like pattern.

The process began 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 took up the challenge, spoke to different stakeholders within the organization and started brainstorming.

Eventually, the team narrowed it down to nine ideas, with Buoy being the eventual winner.

“Some of them are things you could have imagined,” Townsend said. “Some were abstract like a Squatch. We looked at sea life. We looked at things associated with a kraken. It would never be Squatch. We hope the Sonics will come back one day, and that’s the Sonics mascot.”

Of course, while this was all being discussed, Buford and Townsend also kept an eye on the door to make sure no one else knew about the mascot. Secrecy has become an important 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 were hiring trainer Dave Hakstol until they put out a statement saying they had hired the former Philadelphia Flyers coach to be the first in team history.

Buford’s team designed Buoy, so they were in constant touch. Townsend’s team didn’t see him until May. The Kraken management team saw Buoy in September, while Kraken players met the mascot about a week before release.

There were several questions the Kraken had to answer before Buoy’s introduction. Perhaps one of the biggest was how he would be received by fans and the hockey world in general?

Mascots can often be a polarizing topic. Some people love them. Others might skip it for a number of reasons. Everything from the name to their appearance and 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 potential 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 also very good. I think what we’re doing is our due diligence with our focus groups…and we think we’ve created a mascot that’s fun and fits our brand, so we’re going to push ahead with the launch.”

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