On a brisk Saturday night in Seattle, 67,969 college football fans jammed into Husky Stadium to watch 9-2 Washington trounce 1-10 Colorado by a score of 54-7.
Four miles to the southwest, the Seattle Kraken once again sold out Climate Pledge Arena, with a capacity of 17,151 for hockey. Just like they’ve done for every home game of their franchise’s brief existence.
There were even a few fans of the visiting Los Angeles Kings in attendance.
And it was an entertaining tilt for both sides. The Kraken opened the scoring at 4:42 of the first period when Jared McCann blasted a rebound past Los Angeles goaltender Cal Petersen. That 1-0 lead for the home side would last until the late stages of the second when Kings winger Viktor Arvidsson executed a nifty behind-the-back pass to feed Phillip Danault, who batted in his own rebound for the equalizer.
The third period started with a flurry of activity. After Drew Doughty was whistled for an early hooking penalty, Trevor Moore gave the visitors their first lead of the night on a shorthanded breakaway, just 35 seconds in. Still on the power play, Seattle replied just 18 seconds later, off Daniel Sprong’s third goal of the year.
There was no further scoring in regulation. Then, for the second-straight game, the Kraken sent their fans home happy with a sudden-death overtime win.
Against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Jordan Eberle set up Justin Schultz at the 3:39 mark of the extra frame, giving the Kraken a 3-2 win and their first-ever overtime victory on home ice. Saturday, the script was flipped. Schultz won a board battle in his own zone, then advanced the puck to a streaking Eberle, who elected to shoot his 2-on-1 with Jaden Schwartz.
“We didn’t have the puck a lot (in overtime),” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol after the game. “But we defended really well. We didn’t give up anything threatening. We were patient and on the game-winning goal, we took advantage of their defenseman diving in as we punched that puck past them. That creates the odd-man situation , and Ebs made no mistake on it.”
Last season, the Kraken went 2-3 on home ice in games that went past 60 minutes — losing three in overtime but winning two in shootouts. And last Sunday, Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets skated out of Climate Pledge with the 3-2 overtime victory in their favor.
“We put a lot of work and emphasis into it,” Eberle said. “When you go into those games, those are huge points that you give up, and you never know when you might need them. So we’ve worked on it and obviously, it’s worked out with a couple of ways to win. And those are huge, especially against a division opponent.”
With a single point on Saturday, the Kings maintain a one-point lead over the Kraken in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles sits second with a record of 11-8-2 for 24 points and a .571 points percentage, but Seattle has three games in hand and the better points percentage of .639.
Seattle is also the only Pacific team other than the first-place Vegas Golden Knights to boast a positive goal differential (plus-9).
And if the locals who quickly snapped up Seattle’s season-ticket inventory were initially disappointed that the Kraken didn’t produce the same instant success as their expansion cousins in Vegas, Year 2 is proving to be much more satisfying.
Around the arena concourse before puck drop on Saturday, many regulars were introducing newcomers to the Kraken and Climate Pledge experience — where the game presentation is every bit as elite as you’d expect from Hollywood spectacle-meister Jerry Bruckheimer and where fans will enthusiastically cheer for hard work along the boards and insert a rhythmic “Let’s Go Kraken” chant into their team’s goal song, Nirvana’s “Lithium.”
If those two friends tell two friends of their own, and so on, then you’ve got a true viral marketing success story.
This weekend, Seattle is also hosting Game 3 of the 2022-23 Rivalry Series between the Canadian and US women’s hockey teams. Team USA held a brief mini-camp in Seattle before heading up to BC last week, where they won games in Kelowna and Kamloops against the defending Olympic and World Championship gold medalists from Canada.
On Saturday afternoon, both squads practiced at the Kraken Community Iceplex and were greeted by hordes of fans, including plenty of hockey-playing girls. And on Saturday night, women’s hockey icons Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Marie-Philip Poulin took part in the ceremonial puck drop before the Kraken-Kings tilt.
With a large crowd expected, Sunday could turn out to be a landmark day — for women’s hockey and for Seattle’s reputation as a true hockey town.
As for the Kraken, they’re 3-1-1 on their current homestand. They’re set to host the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, then head out on a three-game post-Thanksgiving Pacific Division road trip.