Inside the NHL

The team has no name, no uniforms, no players or coaches, no tickets for purchase and not even a functioning arena to play in.

But Seattle’s incoming NHL franchise does have an unaffiliated Facebook fan group that loves chatting about all of the above – and a rather organized group at that. So organized, in fact, the Seattle NHL Hockey Team Fan Page attempted its first official gathering last week at – where else? – The Angry Beaver hockey bar in Greenwood.

Only a tableful of fans attended the “Hockey Happy Hour” out of 2,200 or so registered page members, but then again, when you’re dealing with a team still two-plus years away from even playing you’ve got to start somewhere.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a huge event, but you do the Facebook Live thing and show people we’re there and then you build off of that,’’ said Jonathan West, one of the page administrators who organized the gathering.

West said those attending included “a cool mix of folks’’ such as the owner of a barbecue catering business and a software developer for a major technology company who sat down over beers to exchange ideas about all the stuff usually discussed online. He sees the makeup of the future NHL team’s fan base – and the Facebook group itself – as having a large subset of people transplanted from other cities with thriving pro hockey cultures.

West knows something about that, being a California native and 20-year veteran of the broadcasting  business now residing in Chicago and doing contract work there. From 2010 to 2012, he lived here and was the in-game host for the Seattle Thunderbirds junior team and is now pondering a move back to this region as his involvement grows with the Facebook site.

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He’d planned to visit relatives here this month and timed the Facebook gathering to coincide. Seattle, he added, still isn’t a thriving NHL market like Chicago or even Las Vegas – where he had worked for an ECHL team – and thus the Angry Beaver gathering marked a first attempt at bringing transplanted and native local fans “out of their shell’’ so the group can grow.

In many ways, delaying the NHL team’s launch by a year to October 2021 has stalled some of the momentum that existed here for professional hockey before last December’s awarding of the team. Then again, it has also created a bottleneck of energy with few places to let it out for devoted local hockey fans eager for any tidbits on the team they can find.

After all, when the biggest news in weeks involves trademarking names – Firebirds, Dragons, Sun, Falcons, Hawks and Eagles at last glance — for an American Hockey League affiliate in Palm Springs not even approved yet, that’s slim pickings indeed.

So, yeah, local NHL die-hards by now have plenty of pent-up energy as they wait for any news at all about Seattle’s club. As we know, social media is a great place to release pent-up energy.

And release it the Facebook group’s members certainly have.

They’ve ranted, vented and enthused about a variety of topics – the team name, of course, being front and center. Under a “Popular Group Topics’’ heading on the site where fans can review past discussions, the “Team Name’’ subject comes first followed by general NHL articles from elsewhere, a “Draft & Prospects’’ section, an “NHL – Other Teams” heading and a “Jersey & Logo’’ section.

In fact, the name discussion became so animated that administrators banned the topic. A recent post suggesting “Totems” got a reply the author was “stuck in the past” — after which, several responses later, said author called a “Kraken” fan “stupid” for suggesting Totems might spark a lawsuit while another invoked a “krakheads” insult and things devolved from there.

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“When people start to get too heated and call people ‘bastards’ and worse, then we have to shut them up,’’ West said.

The team-jersey discussions are still being permitted as long as conversation stays clean – though since uniforms do incorporate the team’s name, that’s now become a proxy battleground of sorts over whether “Kraken’’ is stupid or brilliant.

Still, West admitted, the name moratorium is “a relatively soft ban’’ and not a total block.

“If you have an interesting idea or an article, then we’ll allow discussion.’’

And the group has had interesting posts: For instance, using their own creativity or borrowed designs to depict how the team’s uniforms might look with a given name.

For now, West and three other administrators – two living within the Puget Sound region and one in Portland – are taking cues from Adrian Dsouza, a Florida resident who founded the page in February 2018. The Tampa Bay Lightning season-ticket holder had been moderating “a large NHL trash-talking meme page’’ while his wife did the same for a large Lightning fan page and both wanted to see something started here.

“I’m very excited to see a team coming to Seattle and want to set the foundation for a fan page based on my experience,’’ Dsouza said in a text message.

As the page grows, he added, he hopes to hand things over to West and others. Dsouza said he sees the page “taking off in a great direction’’ as the team’s launch date approaches.

West and other administrators are primarily taking tips from Dsouza on setting the tone for discussions and what they ultimately want the page to be.

“We’re just trying to shape the conversation to be more quality than quantity,’’ West said. “If you’re going to go all rah-rah about a particular name, tell us why you want it.’’

He hopes the page eventually leads to group tailgating parties outside KeyArena, or even a dedicated lounge inside where they can meet.

By then, of course, the team will already have a name and uniform and fans will – thankfully — be debating whether general manager Ron Francis should have drafted a fourth-line center ahead of a stay-at-home sixth defenseman.