Saying Hello to the New Guys

I watched a hockey game last night.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. I’m not adopting a new religion. I stand by my past statements that hockey isn’t my sport.


Long, long ago–or however many “longs” I should be using to refer to my tween years–I was a rabid fan of the Seattle Totems. I’ve still got a couple of pucks with their logo from giveaway* nights. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve still got a stick in the closet. (I just checked. Yes, I do.)

* Hard to believe now, but back in the day sports giveaways gave actual, useable items. The Seattle Rainiers provided me with bats I used all through Little League baseball and the Totems’ sticks were perfectly good for floor hockey (I had a great slap shot, but my dreams of playing “real” hockey floundered on my persistent inability to skate backward.) Try using a mini-bat, or worse, an inflatable “bat” for anything more ambitious than giving your siblings minor contusions and see how far you get. And get off my lawn.

Anyway, in those pre-Mariners, pre-Seahawks days, there was only one major league team in Seattle, the late, lamented Sonics. And basketball was, and is, even less my sport than hockey.

None of those early- to mid-seventies teams was very good. Playoffs? Hah! But in my memory, the Totems had a sense of fun and potential that the Rainiers and Sonics lacked.

So, with the arrival of the Kraken, professional hockey has returned to Seattle. And I had to watch their first game, especially since ESPN was kind enough to show it nationally.

Mind you, the game was at the same time as Game Four of the Giants/Dodgers series, so my attention was split. Baseball on the TV, hockey on the iPad. It worked well enough.

From a literary perspective, there are only two ways the Kraken’s first season can go. Either they smash through the season, leaving their competition shattered, or they dive to the sea floor, subsisting on a diet of the occasional bottom-dweller that strays into reach of their tentacles.

Keep in mind that the previous expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, took the first course. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season, and have reached the playoffs every year since. So we’ve seen that narrative recently.

Also keep in mind that the Kraken play in Seattle.

So who did the NHL schedule them to play in their first game? Why Las Vegas, of course. No question which plot they’re expected to follow.

They did their best to fulfill expectations. The Kraken looked lost in the first period. Errant passes, missed shots, even a few unprovoked pratfalls. After one period, they were down 2-0, and they made it 3-0 in the second. Then, amazingly, they pulled it together. Early in the third period, they tied the score at three.

And then, of course, they gave up another goal and lost.

Any parallels with the Mariners’ season–a late rush, only to fall short at the end–are to be expected, because Seattle sports. We expect flashes of competence, even greatness, before the inevitable slide into gloom. So it’s good to see our latest arrivals are already in tune with the local zeitgeist.

Whatever you think of the team’s performance and probable future, you gotta admit, though, that they’re way ahead of the current curve in team names. “Kraken” is so much better than “Guardians”, much less “Football Team”.

Will I continue to watch their games? Occasionally. I’m still a baseball fan. I’ll cheer for the Kraken in the same way I cheer for the Seahawks: from a distance, when I think of it. I won’t be doing the two-screen thing again–unless the Kraken make the playoffs. Hey, it could happen: flashes of greatness, right?

Welcome Kraken!

Quick Takes

A couple of shorter items today, because reasons.

First up, the Matier & Ross column in yesterday’s Chron announced that ticket kiosks are being reinstalled at the Temporary Transbay Terminal, suggesting that it’s likely to a while before the new terminal is back in operation.

Oddly, that’s not really bad news. I don’t think anybody expected a quick fix. Even by the most optimistic estimates, the new terminal couldn’t have reopened before February.

The only real surprise in the news is that testing of the cracked beams is still going on. That was supposed to be complete sometime in November. So, yes, the process is lagging behind schedule, but did anyone expect otherwise? And, frankly, I’m choosing to regard the delay as a good sign. Better to take it slowly and be sure everybody is happy with the testing than to rush it and stoke fears that something has been missed.

Assuming the tests wrap up this month and show the cracking isn’t a design problem, we’re still looking at a few more months. The fix will need to be planned, approved internally and by an external group of engineers, and then implemented and (one hopes) tested.

So spending the money to put the kiosks back where the riders are just makes sense.

Moving on.

A bit of news out of the Northwest.

Seattle has been granted a NHL franchise and will begin play in 2021.

Even though I no longer follow hockey, I’m pleased to hear it.

Just this once, let’s skip the discussion of injuries, violence, and general unpleasantness that usually goes along with talk about the NHL and NFL.

It may come as a surprise to many people, but Seattle was once a big hockey town. Back in the nineteen-teens–before the NHL was founded–the Seattle Metropolitans played for the Stanley Cup three times, winning once and losing once. (The playoff was canceled in 1919, due to a flu epidemic. No vaccines in those days.)

They also had a team from 1944 to 1975, playing in the high minor Western Hockey League. That was the team I followed obsessively in my possibly misspent youth. (There’s also a current minor league team, the Thunderbirds, but they don’t get a whole lot of press, even in Seattle, so…)

So, yes, it’s good to see high-level hockey coming back to Seattle. It should be good for the city: like the Mariners, they should be able to draw fans from Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, which means hotel revenue. There’s an automatic rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, not just because of geographic proximity, but also because Vancouver used to treat the Seattle team as a farm club. Now they’ll be meeting on an even footing.

The big question now, of course, is what the team will be called. That WHL team started out as the Ironmen, changed to the Bombers and the Americans, before settling on Totems. It doesn’t seem like there’s any sentiment for those first three names, but Totems has a lot of appeal–though, as several people have already noted, it would take some significant outreach to avoid controversy over cultural appropriation.

Apparently there’s even some interest in reviving the Metropolitan name. I’ll admit to liking the idea, but it probably won’t go anywhere. Inter-sport name collisions are one thing, but conflict within the league is discouraged. The NHL has a Metropolitan division, so confusion would be inevitable, especially given that Seattle won’t be in that division.

Some of the other ideas the franchise owners are considering are also problematic. “Rainiers” is on the list, but the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team is only about thirty minutes away. Awkward. “Cougars” isn’t much better. Washington State University wouldn’t be too happy about that, and annoying a big chunk of your potential fanbase doesn’t seem like a good idea.

“Renegades”? Blech.

“Evergreens”? Maybe. It’s somewhat unique, anyway. But are we really ready for the reporting when the team loses and attendance drops? “Last night the Evergreens tried to answer the old chestnut, falling 3-0 in a mostly empty arena. Not a sound was heard.” Nah.

I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more as ownership narrows down the list.