After an opening road trip in which two of its opponents went with high-technology hologram displays, the Kraken chose a more traditional route for its pregame ceremonies Saturday night — though one that involved extensive use of the two giant scoreboards overhanging the ice at Climate Pledge Arena.

An emotional sounding Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke shouted to the crowd: “Seattle! We did it!” Leiweke then retired jersey No. 32, meant to symbolize the 32,000 fans whose paid season-ticket deposits within a 31-hour span in March 2018 helped seal the league naming the Kraken its 32nd franchise.

Seattle native Ann Wilson of the rock band Heart belted a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” with fans joining her in singing the words.

Before the festivities, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media and lauded the arena. Bettman was asked about how he’d initially viewed the Oak View Group co-founder Tim Leiweke’s proposal to renovate KeyArena — a venue the commissioner had long been skeptical and critical of.

“Well, let’s just start with one key point — other than the roof, this arena has nothing to do with KeyArena,” Bettman said. “They are two very different buildings. When he told me he was going to build it here in Seattle Center, that sounded great.

“When he told me they were going to maintain the roof and lift it up and support it so they could build this building — I don’t have an engineering degree, but I was marveling at the concept and the prospect. And they have done a phenomenal job.”


Bettman, as he always is at live NHL events, was later booed by a large segment of the crowd as he delivered pregame remarks over the arena’s public address system. One person who probably wasn’t booing was his son-in-law, Weston Saul Baker, who is from Colbert, Washington, and married the commissioner’s youngest daughter, Brittany Beth Bettman, a decade ago.

During his pregame remarks to the media, Bettman said his son-in-law would be at the game and quipped: “So now, when he sits on Sunday rooting for the Seahawks, I can be a little more tolerant with the Seattle connection.”

The Kraken didn’t go with a ceremonial pregame puck drop, choosing instead to salute Storm legend Sue Bird, standing on a platform high above the rink.

For a long time, many thought the team might invite Seattle Totems all-time scoring leader Guyle Fielder, now 90 and living in Arizona, for opening-game honors. He had confided in recent years that he hoped to still be around and in good enough health to attend the Kraken’s opening-night festivities.

Well, Fielder managed to do that and is now approaching his 91st birthday in November. But instead of traveling to Seattle, he spent Saturday night watching the home opener on television.

A Kraken representative did phone Fielder a few weeks back to inquire whether he’d be interested in traveling up for the opening game, but there was no clarity on what role — if any — he’d have. Fielder notoriously doesn’t fly, so his companion, Betty, drove the two of them up back in spring 2019 when the Kraken built a replica of his old locker stall at the team’s season ticket preview center.


He had hoped to take part in the Climate Pledge opening ceremonies.

“I was getting a little excited about it,” he said. “It would have been a nice thing to do. I miss Seattle and all the fans.’’

But after the initial call, Fielder said the team representative didn’t get back to him until fewer than two weeks ago. By then, Betty already had a pressing upcoming commitment she could not forgo, and the pair decided a long road trip wasn’t in the cards.

“There was a lot of confusion going around, and we didn’t know what was going on,” Fielder said. “And then this (commitment) popped up, and so we had to cancel.”

Fielder said he and Betty would “go out somewhere” to find a TV carrying the game broadcast, because he couldn’t get it at his home.

“We’ll see what the ceremony is about and then watch the game, or at least part of it depending on how it goes,” he said with a chuckle.


He said he spoke briefly with the team rep about possibly attending a game this spring once the weather heats up and COVID-19 possibly begins subsiding.

Hot ticket

Tickets for the game were the most expensive tracked by New York-based TicketIQ among the past five NHL arena openings.

The company, which uses proprietary software to track 90% of the secondary ticket market, said the cheapest seat to Saturday’s game was listed at $339.

The next-closest is $242 for November’s upcoming UBS Arena opener on Long Island, New York. Rogers Place in Edmonton opened in 2016 with a cheapest ticket list price of $225.

Local officials

Both linesmen working Saturday night’s game have Seattle-area ties. Ryan Gibbons, a British Columbia native, played junior hockey for the Thunderbirds as a winger from 2002-03 through 2005-06.

And Vaughan Rody, who left his native Winnipeg years back to come to Washington state and work as an on-ice official in the Western Hockey League, makes his home in Lake Stevens.


Keeping it simple

Kraken center Yanni Gourde said the team would simplify its game more against the Canucks.

The Kraken spent its recent road trip getting caught both ways in the transition game — getting burned on odd-man rushes after turning the puck over and being too slow to capitalize offensively on similar opportunities.

Gourde with the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning was at his best when the puck was dumped in the opponent’s end and he and teammates would crash the boards with strong forechecking to gain possession.

“Our game’s got to be simpler,” Gourde said. “Just shoot the puck in, and go to work. Make their D (defensemen) turn (around). Make it hard on them. I think those are little things we need to keep working on. That’s what we’ve been doing the last few days.

“And I think it’s just going to go towards our identity. We want to be a tough team to play against and I think that’s definitely a part of it.”

Anticipation for Dunn

A recent trip to a Seahawks game at Lumen Field had Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn psyched for his team’s home opener.  


“Watching my first Hawks game here, it was definitely life changing for me,” Dunn said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I didn’t really think a building could be that loud. So I’m sure a lot of those fans or maybe different people who are more hockey focused are going to be coming in here tonight doing the same thing.

“Our expectations are high, but I’m sure they’ll be blowing out the roof, and I think we’re just so excited to embrace that.”

Dunn certainly did, scoring the first goal in the arena’s history with 3.2 seconds remaining in the first period.