Science and story behind the Kraken, mythical sea monster, namesake for Seattle’s new hockey team

SEATTLE — Seattle’s new hockey team is named after a legendary sea monster that lurks in the water - the Kraken.

So, what's in a name?

“The name Kraken comes from the old Norse word ‘kraki’ which means like a boat hook or an anchor,” explained Lauren Poyer, an assistant teaching professor at University of Washington’s Department of Scandinavian Studies.

She thinks the decision to choose the mythical sea monster from Scandinavian folklore, with the ability to use its many limbs to pull down ships, is perfect.

“We still have a lot of ties to Scandinavia today in terms of fishing industry, shipping so I think thinking about a creature that can travel across the whole ocean is one way of thinking how we in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Seattle, are interconnected to the rest of the globe. Oceans hold us together,” added Poyer.

“I’ve been a lifelong hockey fan so this is kind of a dream come true for me,” said David Gire, an assistant professor of psychology.

In his lab, he studies the legendary Kraken's real life counterpart - the octopus.

“The way an octopus works is actually very similar to a successful hockey team,” Gire explained. “The brain cells of the octopus are spread out throughout its body and so there’s a small central brain, but the vast majority of its neurons are on its arms… So we can think of the little brains associated with suckers in the arm and the central brain of the octopus working together like a coach and a team.”

Additionally, he said the Kraken's resilience is embodied in the team logo.

“An octopus when it loses its arm, many cephalopods when they lose an arm, they can regrow it so the entire arm with all little brains and everything in it will regrow. And it will function perfectly like it did before.”

It will be another year before the Kraken drops the first puck at the new arena. It also still needs to build a team. But both Poyer and Gire believe the Kraken name is a good start and other teams in the NHL should be forewarned.

“Beware,” laughed Poyer. “And also don’t trust your senses. That’s something the Kraken is really good at. The Kraken is really good at making you think that your strategy for defeating it is effective but then it will change midstream.”

“The Kraken is going to be a fearsome opponent for the Pacific Division. I think it was well chosen for that reason. If you look at the octopus, it’s the natural predator of sharks and seabirds such as ducks… So if you look at the Pacific Division rivals up and down the coast, Seattle basically chose their natural predator.”