Inside the NHL

There’s no telling how many future Kraken fans were actually aware that two of this past weekend’s bigger Stanley Cup playoff performers used to play right in their hockey backyard.

Former Seattle Thunderbirds star Mathew Barzal scored an overtime winner Sunday as his New York Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals while onetime Everett Silvertips netminder Carter Hart later posted his first career playoff shutout for the Philadelphia Flyers against Montreal. And while fans of both junior hockey teams undoubtedly knew of the duo’s Seattle-area pedigree, neither was exactly a household name on the local sports scene and both spent many a night playing in half-filled home arenas.  

So, it’s reasonable to wonder how many fans paying a largsum for Kraken season tickets actually knew they once could have seen the pair face each other live for roughly the cost of parking around Climate Pledge Arena. And that’s why the Kraken’s announcement that the team won’t clamp down on fans who ultimately resell some of their season tickets on the secondary market was a smart business move and concession to the NHL’s current standing in Seattle.

Right now, despite some obviously strong momentum generated by the Kraken ahead of the team’s NHL debut late next year, this remains an unproven hockey market, where a significant portion of paying fans could be tasting the sport’s professional version for the first time — or wavering on whether their loyalty to teams from other NHL markets will translate to them paying for 44 Kraken home games.

“We’re going to create a good partnership with our fans and we’ve listened very hard to some of the feedback we’ve received on this issue,’’ Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said last week when the team announced pricing on general season tickets. “We really want an atmosphere where Kraken fans are filling the building and where they want to attend games. But we understand that not every fan will be able to make it to every home game and will want to offset some of the cost.’’

And the team will allow that cost offset through resale on any website fans want, whether it’s StubHub, SeatGeek, Venue Kings, Epic Seats or team-affiliated platforms like Ticketmaster and a modified version of a new Season Share mobile application. The Kraken is encouraging — but not forcing — fans to use the latter two platforms, saying it’s the only way those buying will know they are getting authentic seats.

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The Season Share option is interesting as a newer product billed as reducing friction between fans and teams. The app allows season-ticket holders to form groups with other fans and split their seats up through an online “draft’’ of games they plan to attend.

Fans pay only for the games they’ve chosen, and those seats remain in an online account — where they can be traded and resold with other fans.

Los Angeles-based Season Share has looked into partnering with pro teams on using the technology, which integrates through the Ticketmaster account management system. The Kraken is one of those partner teams and will soon announce its own branded version of Season Share — which likely won’t use that actual name and will operate on the team’s website — so season-ticket holders can form groups to split seat costs with.

Bill Chapin, Kraken senior vice president of sales and service, said fans will be able to share tickets with known friends or complete strangers looking to partner on seats. Details on how the team will match those partners together will be unveiled once season-ticket sales are completed.

“What we want to tell our depositors now is that we have a technology in place to help them do that,” Chapin said. “Because the days of spreadsheets and trying to track all that if you and I are dividing it … there’s better technology now to let you do it and have the financial part taken care of as well.”

For now, it seems a decent compromise for fans truly wanting to split costs and offload seats for games they can’t attend.

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Other fans wanting to maximize profits and value on their tickets are still being allowed to choose any platform they wish. And that’s important, given the sports trend has been to force fans toward team-controlled platforms, some of which impose pricing restrictions and track resale volume by fans.

The Vegas Golden Knights, during their wildly successful debut season in 2017-18, notoriously began taking season tickets away from fans they felt were reselling too much. That came after too many games in which opposing fans of visiting teams — who had bought seats posted for resale online — were out-cheering the hometown supporters.

Nobody really wants that in any sport. Seattle isn’t as transient a city as Las Vegas, but many fans here are expected to have primary allegiances to other teams that already travel very well. Throw in our proximity to British Columbia’s Vancouver Canucks, and there will be temptation for Kraken fans to launch a side business selling the majority of their tickets.

The Kraken says it’ll allow resale as long as fans don’t become ticket brokers. They’ve already proven aggressive at culling their season-ticket deposit list of people from other cities with a provable history of broker-like activity on ticket resale tracking software.

But for now, like an honor system, they’ll allow fans to make secondary market sales without specified restrictions. Given some of the prices being charged — still among the league’s upper echelon despite efforts at offering a plethora of half-season packages and keeping 5,000 seats priced under $100 a game — that’s the right thing to do.

When asking fans to commit nearly $37,000 over a three-year period for a top-priced lower-bowl seat, it would be greedy not to allow some recouping of that. Especially in a Seattle market that, despite winning the United States’ first Stanley Cup and decades of minor pro and junior hockey clubs, remains new to the NHL experience.

It’s best to listen to fans and not make enemies of them right away. The Kraken has done that so far and no doubt hopes its hands-off policy is rewarded by fans taking a pricey ticket plunge they’d otherwise have balked at.