Kraken set to play first preseason game against Canucks
SEATTLE – The Seattle Kraken held their first two practices of their inaugural training camp Thursday and Friday. Then they held their first scrum on Saturday, wearing full uniforms for the first time in front of fans at Kraken Community Iceplex, their new training facility.
Now, already, comes their first preseason game. They face the Vancouver Canucks at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Sunday, a milestone for an expansion team on the fly, a chance for everyone from the hockey team to the entertainment team to create a chemistry and get ready for the real show.
“We are moving fast here”, advance Joonas Donskoy noted.
The coaches and players have never worked together as a group before. During the three day camp, they installed parts of their systems. They haven’t had the chance to work in special teams. And they will be playing against another NHL team? Even if it’s just a preseason game?
Yes. What’s important is that the Kraken will be ready to open the regular season against the Vegas Golden Knights on October 12, and coach Dave Hakstol has a plan set.
“We know we will be far from a finished product as we hit the ice for the first exhibition game and really throughout the exhibition season,” said Hakstol. âWe’ll try to add blocks to that foundation each day as we go along. Whether it’s a practice day or a game day, we’ll try to build a little bit, but we’re not trying to reach the finish line here. “
The same goes for the animation team, led by Jonny Greco, senior vice president of game presentation and live entertainment, and Lamont Buford, vice president of game presentation.
âLamont says that all the time, and I love this line,â said Greco. “‘We are not approaching the finish line. We are approaching the start line.'”
The entertainment team is preparing for the home opener against the Canucks on October 23 and beyond. The problem is, construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the Climate Pledge Arena, the new arena being built under the iconic roof of the old KeyArena near the Space Needle. The Kraken will play three âhomeâ preseason games at junior hockey rinks away from what will be their spectacular home.
âWe don’t play with our toys,â Greco said.
A staff member bus will leave Seattle around 7 a.m. Sunday to drive more than four hours east to Spokane, Washington. Coaches and players will skate in the morning and the playgroup will fly to Spokane.
“[This] is our first chance to be all together in a building and do a show for our fans, âsaid Greco.
This will be the first game for the PA announcer and the host in the arena. The Kraken will play some of the music they’ve planned for home games, using a playlist they’ve been curating for months and some of the video content they plan to use.
There will be trial and error. For example, they’ll likely experiment with a few goal songs in the preseason before deciding to pick one up for the regular season.
âIt’s an audition,â Greco said. âIt’s a try. It’s a practice. It’s a repetition. You try to hit a few really big moments, but we’re not trying to do anything crazy.â
Hakstol kept line suits and defending pairs stable for the first three days of camp to give them time to build up some chemistry, and he’ll likely keep them stable for at least the first preseason game.
Everyone in hockey and entertainment will evaluate the performance after Sunday’s game and decide if any changes need to be made.
âIn my opinion, games are best practice,â Donskoi said. “We can get videos and we can watch that stuff. It’s always easier when you play games and work that way. I think it’s easier than just practicing.”
The Canucks are a suitable first opponent in the preseason and regular season. Vancouver is Seattle’s natural geographic rival. Kraken President and CEO Tod Leiweke’s first NHL experience was with the Canucks. Kraken COO Victor de Bonis had spent almost a quarter of a century with them before that.
âIt’s a bit surreal, the whole experience,â said de Bonis. âYou’ve been with a franchise for 24 years, and you have the opportunity to start something brand new just a two hour drive away. I don’t know if it’s luck or if it’s just fate or what. that it is, but it is special time for all of us. “
It’s the start of a long journey the Kraken hopes to lead to a destination.
De Bonis’ office overlooks the central ice of Starbucks Rink 1 at the Kraken Community Iceplex. Through the window, fans can glimpse two replicas of the Presidents’ Trophy, which the Canucks won in 2011 and 2012 for finishing first in the NHL standings. Between them is a replica of the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which the Canucks won in 2011 for winning the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
âThose trophies, on the one hand, you say to yourself, ‘We didn’t win,’â said de Bonis. “Those 2011 and 2012 teams, they were amazing. You put them there, because it’s a reminder that you keep pushing to try to win, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”