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.

But.

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!