What a week for the NHL, which showed fans everywhere how its present is still shaped by forgettable parts of its past. Anyone who hasn’t seen NHL-style “frontier justice” dished out on 1980s YouTube videos needed only watch a pair of New York Rangers-Washington Capitals affairs this week to understand it.
On Monday, notorious Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson did a number on Rangers forward Pavel Buchenevich, punching him while he was facedown on the ice in a scrum. Having triggered the expected melee, Wilson body-slammed Rangers star Artemi Panarin after first pulling his hair and continued striking him to where he’s now injured and out the remainder of the season.
The head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, former on-ice enforcer George Parros, fined Wilson only $5,000 without suspending him. The livid Rangers erupted with a public statement accusing Parros of “dereliction of duty” and being “unfit” for his job. As expected, following 24 hours of angry buildup, the puck drop for Wednesday’s rematch resembled the movie Slap Shot, as the Rangers sought retribution. Three sets of players from both teams immediately paired off and started throwing down.
In all, there were six fights in the opening five minutes, one involving Wilson, who’d barely stepped on the ice for his first shift. Buchenevich later high-sticked Caps forward Anthony Mantha and — unlike Wilson — did land a one-game suspension, which did nothing to silence critics of Parros and his old-school-minded boss, NHL executive vice president and 1970s and ’80s defenseman Colin Campbell. The Rangers were also fined $250,000 for their Parros statement — 50 times what Wilson got for starting everything.
Capitals alternate captain T.J. Oshie of Stanwood also recorded a hat trick Wednesday in his first game back following the death of his 56-year-old father, Tim, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, few were talking about that part after the smoke had cleared.
Bring on the playoffs! And your mailbag questions.
Q: @kpedraja asked: Is there any chance @ROOTSPORTS_NW makes their service (and Kraken games) available on a streaming service like YouTube TV? Would really help to build the fan base.
A: There have been talks between ROOT Sports Northwest and several streaming services. But I doubt you’ll see YouTube TV get involved, because that service doesn’t seem to have regional sports network (RSN) interest as part of its business.
This isn’t 2015. As a streaming service, you’ll either have the appetite to go after sports and pay for what they cost, or continue to carry cheaper programming less in demand. If you look at AT&T TV, the lone streaming service offering ROOT Sports, it also offers the Bally Sports line of 21 former FOX Sports regional outlets. Yes, AT&T TV costs more than YouTube TV — about $85 a month compared with $65 — but that’s because AT&T TV paid the going rate for what regionalized live sports cost.
I’d expect to see a couple additional services possibly pick up ROOT Sports before the Kraken’s debut season. But only those with a committed sports platform.
Fubo TV fits that description. The company’s starter package runs $65 a month for channels that include ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2, the NFL Network, Big Ten Network, NBCSN and a small handful of RSN options depending on location.
Two of those are the former ROOT Sports networks in Pittsburgh and Houston, since rebranded under the AT&T SportsNet banner. So, sure, it makes sense that Fubo TV would look at adding ROOT Sports here but, again, at a cost.
Anyone hoping to see Kraken games for $30 a month, or whatever these services used to cost when streaming was in its infancy, had best forget it. The cost of securing broadcast rights to sporting events hasn’t gone down. TV networks paying for those rights aren’t about to give them away at a bargain.
Q: @brycetacoma asked: So will the Seattle Thunderbirds still be Seattle? Or will they change their name to Ken? It seems it could cause confusion with two Seattle hockey teams.
A: They are keeping their name exactly as is. The Kraken has pledged to help them and the Everett Silvertips through marketing ventures and other support. Neither junior team feels at risk of losing many longtime in-person fans to the NHL club. Different economics at play.
I put the question directly to T-birds communications director Ian Henry, and he replied: “We are proud to play in Kent and have the city as our partner. We are not going to be changing our name.”
Q: @jcoulterbrown asked: Is it me or is this arena more on top of the ice than most? Looks like fans are going to have amazing views.
A: Yes, it is more “on-top” due to steepness. When the renovation was planned, architects looked at some of the steepest-grade seating venues in hockey. In the old days, before the “bigger is better” mentality, several revered hockey buildings — including Boston Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens and The Forum in Montreal — were intimate, steeply graded and boasted great views.
The AECOM report commissioned by the Seattle City Council in 2014 recommended steeper seating to fit a revamped KeyArena arena within the tight confines afforded beneath its roof, which had to be historically preserved. The Populous architectural firm, hired by the Oak View Group developer at what’s now Climate Pledge Arena, followed the report’s recommendation.
“The roof, I think, forces you to create a very intimate seating bowl,” Chris Carver, a senior principal with that firm, told me in 2017. “We’re trying to compress things … so it gives us more of an opportunity to create great seats — even in the upper deck.”
So they dug deeper, built an intimate bowl of just more than 17,000 seats mostly below ground, and the rest should be easy — or at least, a lot easier — to see.
Q: @SasquatchNHL asked: Heard anything about an open house at @ClimateArena prior to the season starting?
A: Yes, they are planning something before the opening game but also after the opener. They’ve already invited some season-ticket holders to come check out their physical seats on a limited basis. But those open houses I referenced will be for general fans. Details to come as we approach the reopening.
Q: @The_blakeshow88 asked: Expansion draft and rookie draft previews: Who are the players most likely on the Kraken short list?
A: It would take thousands of words to run down every team and player possibility for the expansion draft, but goalies are key. They’ll likely include two or three of Jake Allen of Montreal, Braden Holtby of Vancouver, Vitek Vanacek of Washington, Chris Driedger with Florida, Cam Talbot with Minnesota and Aidin Hill of Arizona.
Defenseman possibilities include Matt Dumba of Minnesota, Shayne Gostisbehere of Philadelphia, Brady Skjei of Carolina, Devon Toews of Colorado and maybe some salary add-ons such as Brent Burns of San Jose, or P.K. Subban of New Jersey. Forwards will likely include at least one of three local guys in Oshie, Tyler Johnson of Tampa Bay, or Dylan Gambrell of San Jose. James Van Riemsdyk of Philadelphia is a salary-bumper, but he’s productive and the Kraken needs to spend at least $48.9 million for next season on its 30 picks. Honestly, too many combos and side deal possibilities to guess in a few graphs.
The entry draft is easier, given the Kraken is guaranteed a top-five pick and there are several prized defensemen to choose from if the lottery goes Seattle’s way. Owen Power, 18, of the University of Michigan is a 6-foot-5, 214-pounder known for his maturity, poise and slick passing, and he’s possibly the only NHL-ready blue-liner given the lack of pandemic-era playing time for other prospects.
Simon Edvinsson, 17, from Sweden, is a 6-4, 203-pounder known for his ability to move the puck, and 6-2 Luke Hughes, 17, from the U.S. National Team Development Program has two recent NHL top-10 picks for brothers and is a strong, mobile skater. Unlike Power, Edvinsson and Hughes likely need more seasoning before any NHL jump.
Brandt Clarke, 18, at 6-2 and 190 pounds, is another strong-skating defender projected to go high. But the Ontario Hockey League didn’t play this season, and he sought ice time with a Slovakian pro team. He played well in limited games, and the Kraken scouted him at the just-completed IIHF Under-18 world championships in Texas.
If the Kraken opts for offense, there’s Dylan Guenther, 18, a 6-1, 175-pound pure-goal-scoring right wing from the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, who the Kraken also scouted — along with Edvinsson — at the U-18 event. Guenther is known for solid work in tougher areas of the ice, demonstrated by his keeping a play alive for a tying Team Canada goal in Thursday night’s U-18 championship game win over Russia.
Also, 6-1, 175-pound Michigan center Matthew Beniers, 18, looked great for Team USA at the world juniors in January and is considered NHL-capable at his position, whereas other young centermen are often converted to wings.