It was a word that was uttered again and again among fans, arena staff and team staff on Sunday as Spokane Arena hosted the first game of any kind for the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken.
The pre-season match between the Kraken and the Vancouver Canucks was the first NHL game in the arena since the new barn opened with a pre-season game between the Canucks and the San Jose Sharks in 1995.
The game in the arena, which ended 5-3 with Seattle in the lead, was the first of a three-game preseason barnstorming tour of the state of the league’s newest franchise, with stops in Everett and Kent later that week.
“It’s great,” said Kraken fan Sally McDonough. “You couldn’t have done a better job choosing the cities.”
When asked what she was looking forward to most in her first NHL game, McDonough said, “Anything. The experience, the atmosphere, the camaraderie … everything. “
As the main tenant of the building, the Spokane Chiefs were more than happy to provide the brand new NHL team with the first “home ice”.
“I just think it’s fitting,” said the chief executive officer, Bobby Brett, as he walked through the crowded hall, shaking hands and stopping for selfies.
“It’s just wonderful to get out of the pandemic, to see a full house, and to see the excitement in the arena,” he said. “I’ve been on needles and needles all day.”
The Kraken were just as excited to get started in Spokane.
“We are excited about our reception tonight,” said Tod Leiweke, Kraken’s Chief Executive Officer. “When we decided to play our very first game in Spokane, we knew there were great fans out there, and tonight they made this night so special and epic for our franchise.”
It was a sold out crowd so the lines were long.
The entry lines, which were thousands of deep two hours before the puck was thrown, moved relatively quickly and mostly efficiently. Although workers checking mandatory vaccination cards outside of the arena refused to comment, fans said the process was not a chore as the magnetometers were more of an aid than a health check.
Justin Burback, a “die-hard hockey fan,” attended NHL games in Washington, DC and Tampa Bay but was thrilled to see a big league game in his hometown.
“I think it’s amazing to bring more professional sport to the PNW here, especially after Seattle lost the SuperSonics (the NBA),” he said. “Seeing the Kraken come out and become the next franchise is great for the community in the area.
“It really wasn’t that long (to get into the arena). We got here a little early to avoid the queues, but they all moved pretty quickly. “
The line outside for people seeking medical mask exemption was several hundred deep.
The lines for merchandise, food and drinks were also quite long, but people didn’t seem to mind, maybe dizzy with anticipation to be the first fans to see the team in person.
Those fans, most of them anyway, were all dressed in Kraken gear – including officially licensed jerseys, t-shirts and hats, homemade shirts and sweatshirts, and a few teenagers wearing some sort of octopus hats, tentacles, and everything.
Kim Wolfe identified as a Chiefs fan, and while she isn’t a season ticket holder, “I wish I was,” she said. A native of Spokane, she had never been to an NHL game and didn’t care that it was a preseason matchup.
“I’m super excited about the game,” she added. “It’s great to involve our Spokane fans and get them excited about the game and the team. Everyone I know is very excited, including myself. “
While the Kraken colors of “deep sea blue, ice blue and alarm red” were proudly displayed by the majority of fans who flocked to the arena, there were many fans wearing Spokane Chiefs jerseys, along with a good handful of people supporting Vancouver.
Andrew Fredericks grew up in Vancouver and is a Canucks fan, although he now lives in Spokane. Also part of a season ticket package for the Kraken, Fredericks admits that his loyalty and loyalty will be put to the test.
“I now have to make a decision about how contradicting I will be when they get further into the season.”
He is very happy that the team decided to play their way through the state.
“It’s great to piss off the neighboring cities and with Everett and Kent and here to raise awareness and interest in other parts of the state outside of Seattle,” he said.
A group of three college-aged female fans wore Tri-City Americans sweaters, here to support former Ams center Morgan Geekie, now at Kraken.
Geekie broke a 3-3 draw with his first goal of the show season early in the third period.
Miles Farnworth was one of a group of mites that buzzed around during the first break. He’s a Chiefs fan, but like most of his family, he wore an Kraken T-shirt. “I’m looking forward to getting on the ice and playing.”
There was even a decent line down the hall for chiefs season tickets.
“People were really interested,” said Chiefs agent Abby Dryer. “I think people are ready for the return of hockey and ready to be back in the sports industry and community.”
She said she wasn’t exactly surprised to see no more Chiefs jerseys in the crowd.
“I think people are really excited to be part of the Kraken and part of their startup,” she said. “I think people really got behind this and behind the team.
“I saw some Chiefs jerseys, which was really fun – and I think we’ll see a few more on opening night.”
The Chiefs open their home game schedule on Saturday against Tri-City.