The Seattle NHL expansion team nickname is targeted to be announced around the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game in late January, Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said Thursday.
"We're working on it every day," Leiweke said. "I think it'll be the first quarter of next year, perhaps around the All-Star Game (Jan. 24-26 in St. Louis) when there's a reveal."
Leiweke was speaking during a Facebook Live AMA (ask me anything) after he said he just got off the phone providing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with his weekly update.
"He's actually very pleased with the (nickname) process because we're being really thorough, we're being really thoughtful," Leiweke said. "And a recent addition was our general manager. I've referred to Ron Francis as hockey royalty, he is a remarkable person, he's a remarkable hockey figure, and he's now weighing in because a fundamental part of it is, when the players pull on that sweater, is being inspired."
Video: Ron Francis on building Seattle into a contender
Seattle was approved as the NHL's 32nd team Dec. 4, and Francis was hired as GM on July 18. It is expected to select players in the NHL Expansion Draft and NHL Draft in June 2021 and is scheduled to begin play for the 2021-22 season, a year later than first thought.
"I had names a year ago that if pressed into launching in 2020, we would have been ready," Leiweke said. "But we're so much better positioned because we're now learning not just what we are, but what we're not, and that's really going to inform the name."
The XFL, a revived spring football league, revealed eight nicknames this week, including the Seattle Dragons, but Leiweke said he did not feel any pressure to select the city's NHL name more quickly.
"I don't think we look at anything outside of what we're doing," he said. "And really the answers are all from within. Brands become strong not by names of teams, but by sort of an inner strength and understanding the true essence of who we are. And we've added people, we've added strength to this organization. Ron Francis has been a great add, and I think we're on the trail to really nailing [the name]."
Francis initially said he was staying out of the brainstorming, but he has warmed to it.
"It is exciting for me that Tod has involved me in the process," Francis told the Seattle website. "I am probably the least qualified person in the room when it comes to branding. I am impressed we are crossing all of the t's and dotting the i's. I think the name is one thing. I think seeing the names paired with logo makes a big difference."
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Leiweke said there would not be a fan vote to choose the name but that they are having an input.
"The fans are weighing in in a very fundamental way," Leiweke said. "There was a Seattle Times contest, 100,000 responses. We actually took every single individual response and listed them in one document, and there were 1,000 different names. Some of them can't be printed in public documents like a newspaper, but many of them were really thoughtful and inspired. So we're listening to fans every single day, and there's not an appointment or a speaking engagement I do where I don't say to somebody, 'What do you think the team name should be?'"
More than 140,000 votes were cast in the newspaper's bracket-style tournament, with Sockeyes defeating Totems in the final. Other names were Metropolitans, Steelheads, Kraken, Sasquatch, Freeze, Emeralds, Pilots, Cascades, Grunge, and Fightin' Geoducks.
"It's inspiration from fans, it's lawyers making sure that we're trademarking properly, but it's also us having in our gut a feeling about what we want to be when we grow up," Leiweke said.