SEATTLE KRAKEN

5 reasons for Kraken fans to be excited about Winter Classic in Seattle

Jan 3, 2023, 10:42 AM | Updated: 11:06 am
NHL Winter Classic Kraken...
Penguins star Sidney Crosby skates during the 2023 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The NHL held its 14th Winter Classic on Monday in Boston’s historic Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. The game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins lived up to its name as Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin appeared to score a tying goal just prior to the horn only to have replay show he was late, allowing the Bruins to win the game 2-1.

The game was exciting, but locally the excitement came pregame when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announcing that the 2024 Winter Classic would be played between the Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights in Seattle at T-Mobile Park, the home of the Mariners.

It’s a big deal for the city and the Kraken franchise.

“We’re pretty excited,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said. “I think in some regards these things we hoped would happen, these are the things we dreamed would happen. But it’s a great honor that in our third season, we’re going to host, really, an international event. We hope it’s on a day just like today where it’s brisk out there. We have some little sun shining and the Olympics and the Cascades shining.

“This is a big deal. Every other team thinks about this kind of event and every other team wants to host these events. We had to make our case. The city is great at big events. But it did fundamentally require a partnership between the Mariners, beautiful T-Mobile and the whole organization.”

Leiweke was complimentary of the Mariners organization throughout his Monday morning media availability, mentioning the role they played in securing the game. Obviously, there are a few stadium options in Seattle for a game such as this, but rain is public enemy No. 1 to outdoor hockey rinks. The possibility for a messy rink without a roof made T-Mobile Park the best option.

“We just want to pause and thank the Mariners for their support,” Leiweke said, “because with our weather, we needed the potential for a roof and we had the perfect neighbor. And they not only agreed to do it, they helped us sum up the league and helped us put our best foot forward, so a lot of thanks to the Mariners this morning.”

Having a showcase NHL event in Seattle not only is a huge feather in the Kraken’s cap but big for the hockey community in Seattle.

But what does it mean for the fans?

“It speaks to what we’re doing and it speaks to the fans that have been incredible,” Leiweke said. “We had a bit of a rough patch recently on the ice but our fans were there again last night (Sunday’s 4-1 Kraken win over the New York Islanders). They’ve been the torchbearers through this whole thing. It’s awesome to think that we’re hoping someday to host an event called the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’m not sure when it’s going to be but it’ll be some kind of event when it does come.”

Here are five reasons Kraken fans should be excited about the 2024 NHL Winter Classic coming to Seattle.

Seattle showcased

Having the hockey world focused on Seattle next January will further showcase what a gorgeous city this is.

The game will come a few months after the Mariners host the MLB All-Star Game at the same venue, and it will be another chance to show off for the country. There isn’t much more pleasing than the views on a crisp, clear winter day in Seattle.

You can already imagine the shots that the television broadcast will capture (along with the standard fish-throwing action at Pike Place Market that seems to come with every national broadcast out of Seattle). The rest of the country, and the world, will get a good look at what Seattle has to offer.

We got a little peak of what it could be by watching the setting the NHL was able to capture during the NHL Expansion Draft in July 2021 at Gasworks Park.

“It’s become a huge event for the league and one of the league’s showcases,” Leiweke said. “I think just hosting it, there’s a ton of ambition in pulling it off. Job one is pull it off and do it well, job two is how can we make it feel unique to Seattle, job three is how can we leave some legacy once the game leaves. Are there things we can do in and around the game to have a community impact and that’s what we think about at every turn?”

An event like the Winter Classic pulled off well could help lead to other major sport events consider Seattle in the future.

Mariners-Kraken synergy

Having the game at the home of the Mariners will further build a connection between the two franchises.

“I think one of the best parts of this whole thing is the partnership with the Mariners,” said Leiweke, who has worked in front offices in pro sports since the 1980s, “because this is a town where the teams do unite and cheer for one another… Teams actually root for one another. Trust me, it’s not the case in other markets. I think we have something unique here.”

Watching Monday’s game at Fenway, the Red Sox were a big part of the presentation. Bruins players entered the stadium wearing Red Sox uniforms, played catch on the field, and a mini diamond was set up outside the rink.

Imagine the possibilities of what a Mariners presence at the Winter Classic will look like.

New Kraken merchandise and jerseys

If you are a jersey-head or into other merch, the Winter Classic is a breeding ground for new Kraken gear.

A couple of months before the game, the Kraken and Golden Knights will reveal what their specialized jerseys for the game will look like. Seattle will have a new look for that day, and you can bet the jerseys will be available to purchase.

Not only new jerseys, but t-shirts, hats and other merchandise will be available to spend money and give you an opportunity to load up.

Will this be the game that a Seattle Metropolitan throwback jersey makes an appearance?

A celebration of hockey

The Winter Classic will feature a game. A game that most likely will have Pacific Division implications as the Golden Knights will be the opponent. The points up for grabs count in the standings.

That being said, the Classic has become much more than a game, and let’s face it, the sight lines won’t all be perfect. Even though there is an actual game being played, the day will ultimately be a celebration of Seattle and the sport of hockey.

There will be fanfare, and it won’t just be on game day.

In the past (and including Monday), the Classic has been an event that features events in the days leading up to it. That has included college games, alumni games, as well as events throughout the city.  You can bet there will be music and Seattle bands being featured before and during the game.

The players lean in as well.

This year the Bruins wore Red Sox uniforms, but in the past others have dressed as the cast from the television series “Peaky Blinders.” There have also been players who arrived dressed in beach attire for a game played in freezing temperatures.

Seattle will have to come up with something new – although who doesn’t want to see Jamie Oleksiak in an old Mariners uniform – but you can bet will be fun. How about the team arrives dressed like 90s grunge fans? Brandon Tanev already has the hair for it.

Build a budding rivalry with Vegas?

Seattle still doesn’t have a real rival. The supposed rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks is a fine idea but the Kraken’s 0-5-1 start against Vancouver leaves the rivalry a dud.

But things look promising with Vegas. For starters, the Kraken have picked up a win against Vegas and the teams have played some intense games that have a bit of chippiness in them.

True rivalries are formed on the ice, and having the two newest franchises in the NHL play in a game under a huge microscope just may help fan some unpleasant feelings.

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