Sarina Wei gathered in the puck deep in her own end and sent it rocketing up the ice and into her opponent’s net just as time expired in double overtime.
The crowd gathered around the scene — played out on a bubble hockey game — cheered as the buzzer sounded.
It was a moment dreams are made of, which is completely the point of the Pacific Science Center’s “HOCKEY: Faster Than Ever” exhibit. It’s a hands-on experience meant to excite the already established fan and educate newcomers to the sport — and we have many of those this year with the launch of the Seattle Kraken.
Sarina is a little bit of both. The 10-year-old is already an experienced ice hockey player as a member of a Washington Wild Female Hockey Association youth team. She’s been cutting grooves in the ice since the first grade. But she’s also a young fan eager to consume everything she can about the sport she loved long before the Kraken debuted.
On a recent Sunday, she excitedly sampled everything the exhibit had to offer with her family. Activities included besting her 8-year-old brother Marcus in that bubble hockey game and hammering away at pucks in the slap shot exhibit where shot speeds are displayed in real time.
Turns out, Sarina can wail. Her fastest slap shot was 31.9 mph.
“I think I’ve taken some better ones,” she said.
Wearing a hat and jacket emblazoned with hockey logos, Sarina represents the future of hockey in Seattle. She started playing goalie recently and can’t decide whether she likes that or playing forward better. It’s clear, though, that she enjoys the physical aspects of a very physical sport.
“I like the speed and how you get to run around and then, like, go in to block pucks,” she said.
You can learn what pucks are made out of, the technological evolution of the humble sticks and skates that make the game what it is, the distant origins of the sport and key cultural moments in hockey history from the exhibit.
“There’s lots of history, history in Seattle and also about women’s hockey,” said Maggie Wallace, who visited the museum with her boyfriend while wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt. “I didn’t know there was so much women’s hockey way, way back in the start of it all in early 1900s. It’s very interesting.
“Lord Stanley, of the Stanley Cup, his daughter, Isobel, was one of the best female hockey players at the start of it, and now to this day, the Isobel Cup is the women’s Stanley Cup.”
Wallace also found the detailed breakdown of difficult to understand rules like offsides and icing helpful, “which I think is super important for Seattle fans because a lot of them are new hockey fans and they don’t know yet.”
The exhibit is making its debut at PacSci. It was scheduled to open at the Montreal Science Center last year, but COVID-19 delayed those plans. With the Kraken debuting this season, PacSci was a natural second choice — the museum is just the length of a hockey rink from Climate Pledge Arena where Seattle began its expansion season in October.
“HOCKEY: Faster Than Ever” is the only physical exhibit currently open at the museum, which pivoted toward virtual programming after closing to the public in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
“The funny thing is we’re extremely busy right now because we are running the hockey exhibit in person on-site, but we’re also very, very busy virtually,” said Diana Johns, PacSci’s vice president for exhibits, education and outreach. “When we talk about what is our status, our status is that we’re open. It’s just not the same as how it was before COVID right now.”
Johns said the museum has served more than 30,000 kids in school systems across the state with virtual programming and museum leadership is plotting PacSci’s future in a thoughtful way.
“The word that we’ve been using is renewal,” Johns said. “It has given us time to sort of rethink things. ‘OK, moving forward, what do we look like?’ And none of that’s going to just happen overnight. It is definitely one thing to shut everything down overnight, which is essentially kind of what we all did. It’s another thing coming back online and making sure that as we come back online that we are doing so in a sustainable business way.
“That will happen incrementally. That’s not going to be a big bang overnight thing.”