Professional hockey in Northern California seemed like a pretty kooky idea back in 1990 when the National Hockey League, or the NHL, awarded San Jose an expansion team to start play the following year.
"Wall Street Journal, Business Week, New York Times, ESPN, CBS started calling and saying, 'God, hockey in California? In Northern California?'" said Matt Levine, the franchise's second employee ever.
He was responsible for all business and marketing operations, and first among those was coming up with a name for the team.
Levine and his team came up with six criteria that any team name would have to meet:
- 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
Those criteria produced 200 names internally, including Blades, Sharks, Stingrays and several names with the prefix "cyber" in homage to Silicon Valley and the nascent tech industry. But the team decided to widen the net and hold a "name the team" sweepstakes.
Levine put a simple ad in these three local newspapers: The San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News.