What if the Sharks weren’t the Sharks?
Last week, San Jose Hockey Now caught up with former San Jose Sharks vice president of marketing & broadcasting Matt Levine, who shared his thoughts about Seattle choosing to be the Kraken. Levine is now involved with 3BALLUSA, a fledgling 3-on-3 pro basketball league that will send players to the 2020 Olympics.
But 30 years ago, he had a hand in the naming of George Gund III’s expansion Bay Area NHL franchise, holding a widely-publicized name-the-team contest that generated over 2,300 suggestions.
According to Levine, these were the top five choices for team nicknames besides the Sharks, some internal, some from the name-the-team contest:
San Jose TigerSharks
The TigerShark Tank, anybody?
“It was a fantasy shark with stripes. We had some great graphics,” Levine said. “Because of what we liked about the graphics, the fact it could be exciting, the TigerSharks were there.”
San Jose IceHawks
Despite the presence of Bill Wirtz’s Chicago Blackhawks, Gund was a fan of the IceHawks.
“When we had it as a finalist, we went to the Wirtz family, out of courtesy,” Levine said. “They said please don’t use it.”
San Jose Seawolves
“We narrowed down the choices to three: Sharks, Stingrays, and Seawolves,” Levine said in 1992. (Salley-Schoen, Gwen. “When the shark bites.” The Sacramento Bee, March 11, 1992.)
However, of that trio, the Seawolves ran a distant third.
“We did not assign anybody to render Seawolves,” Levine recalled. “It was something like Kraken but with no history, thus requiring us to create a story around it to feed imaginations.”
San Jose Stingrays
How close were you to wearing a Stingrays jersey? Probably closer than you realize.
“We looked at Stingrays very seriously. They were scary, they were aggressive. And this was before the Tampa Bay Rays, so nobody was using it.
“We had three artists research and depict the Stingrays. But it looked like nothing but a pancake. And it was two syllables.
“When three talented artists couldn’t come up with a way to demonstrate a threatening Stingray, we abandoned it.”
San Jose Blades
The Blades actually beat out the runner-up Sharks in the name-the-team contest. But Gund pulled rank, and the rest is history.
“Blades were single syllable. We had some ice skate images that could’ve delivered Blades,” Levine noted. “But the feedback was it was more related to gangs. Also, it’s pretty boring.”
San Jose Sharks
Levine said there were seven criteria when it came to naming the expansion Bay Area NHL franchise:
• Had to have a regional connection
• Had to be a unique name in all of sports
• Had to be emotionally charged and exciting
• Had to lend itself to “imaginative graphic interpretation”
• Had to suggest qualities you’d want in a hockey player and team
• Could not be shortened in a headline
• Couldn’t be a concept name
IceHawks and Seawolves were concept names. TigerSharks and Stingrays were too easily shortened. Blades wasn’t exciting.
“Nothing met all of our criteria,” Levine said.
Except for one name.
“There was a certain perfection about Sharks.”
Before the Sharks
There were over 2,300 nicknames considered for the expansion franchise.
Levine added: “I didn’t want anything reminiscent of the previous NHL team.” So any Seals or Seals-like suggestions were immediately tossed.
Here’s a partial, alphabetized list, per Levine and a variety of sources — do you have any more to add?
IceSharks (Levine: “It was a shark with snow flecks all over the body. Another fantasy shark.”)
Rhinos (Levine: “We ended up giving it to our roller hockey team. We had some great graphics for it.”)
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