The NHL regular season, an 82-game slog, is serious business. Cutting the tension was, and remains, the work of Kraken winger Andre Burakovsky nine seasons into his career.
The stories aren’t always fit to print, but “every road trip, there’s something with him,” goaltender Philipp Grubauer said. Something forgotten, undergarments stolen, skirting the line with the arrival times.
Grubauer has had a front-row seat. The Rosenheim, Germany, native was drafted by the Washington Capitals three years before Burakovsky, who was selected in the first round (23rd overall) in 2013. During the 2014-15 season, they were up and down, often at the same times, between the big club and its minor-league affiliate, the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
They hit it off right away.
Grubauer was traded from Washington to Colorado the season before the same thing happened with Burakovsky. Grubauer signed as a free agent in Seattle the year before Burakovsky did.
“He’s always been my little schnitzel,” Burakovsky, 27, clarified.
Burakovsky is Swedish but born in Austria, and Grubauer likes to drive that point home. So Grubauer calls him “Kaiserschmarrn” after the Austrian dessert, and “Krampus,” after the demonic creature who, according to folklore, scared misbehaving children during the Christmas season. That one is brought out for the holidays.
Then there’s “Swedish meatball” — no explanation needed.
Burakovsky takes it all in stride.
“I’m kind of a chatty guy. I like to talk. I like to chirp guys. I like to make fun of people,” Burakovsky said.
“That’s the fun part about a hockey team — everyone brings a different personality. I am the way I am. I like who I am.”
The Kraken seem to as well.
Last season, Grubauer said he had been making jokes about leaving a stall open for Burakovsky, offering to let him get dressed in the Kraken locker room.
But then it wasn’t just a joke. Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Avalanche and career highs in goals (22), assists (39) and points (61), Burakovsky signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Kraken on July 13.
“To see him grow over the years and mature, it’s fun to see. Glad to have him,” Grubauer said.
“To share that whole hockey journey and NHL experience with him is kind of special. I don’t think too many guys get to do that, where you get to play so many years with each other.”
After signing with the Kraken, Burakovsky quickly reached out. Grubauer answered questions and showed him around, but just a little bit.
“He’s a big boy. He can figure it out himself,” Grubauer said.
But Burakovsky frequently wants a ride to the rink, and usually from another longtime friend — the maybe excessively punctual Alex Wennberg, a fellow former Swedish junior national team member.
They usually are on different schedules. Wennberg doesn’t nap on game days, Burakovsky said. But Burakovsky likes to shut ‘er down, and take his time waking up.
It all averages out, and they arrive at a decent hour for both.
“He’s one of those guys who really helps the locker room,” Wennberg said. “He’s like the glue, sticking it all together.”
In the locker room Burakovsky cracks jokes in multiple languages and has a working knowledge of a few more. He made stops in several countries, as his father’s professional hockey career required, and attended school in Switzerland. A little German for Grubauer, familiar enough with Danish for winger Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Burakovsky is serious and intense on the ice, but …
“He loves life,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said.
“There’s so many hard times as you go through the ups and downs of the season. To be able to keep the room loose, enjoy what we’re doing, I think it’s an important quality. He for sure brings that on a daily basis.”
Burakovsky (three goals, six assists through 11 games) has hovered around Seattle’s scoring lead since his first season with the team began, in the larger role he sought during free agency. A noted streaky scorer, Burakovsky was used all over the lineup with Colorado and on the power play, but he operated behind multiple stars. In their shadow, as he put it last summer.
He has a knack for keeping the offense moving. He’s found his Kraken teammates easily and has set them up quickly. That lethal wrist shot hasn’t wowed this new sports market yet, but it’s available.
“I’ve started settling a little bit. Feels good,” Burakovsky said.
“It’s a different type of hockey we’re playing here compared to Colorado, and it takes a little time to adjust to it and get a feel for the way we’re playing.”
He picked up his second Cup ring — he and Grubauer won it all with the Capitals in 2018 — on a recent road trip to Colorado and enjoyed a video tribute on the JumboTron during the game. The baubles, heavy and valuable, stay tucked away unless someone wants to see them. His trusty chauffeur Wennberg tried one on and suggested Burakovsky split the wealth.
“I should get at least something for all the effort,” Wennberg joked.
He had three “unbelievable” years of growth and memories in Colorado. Now there’s a new locker room to entertain and bolster.
“He’s still young and has a lot of good years ahead of him,” another fellow Swede, Kraken alternate captain Adam Larsson, said. “He’s in a good spot right now.”
And more stories, maybe even some that can be shared.
“I’m sure we’ll see something along the way here,” Larsson said.