Seattle Kraken

Why Yes To Kraken; NHL’s Winter Classic Man

If you’re a hockey fan in or around the Emerald City, it’s likely you heard already that the Seattle Kraken will be hosting the Vegas Golden Knights on January 1st, 2024 for the premiere annual hockey event called the NHL Winter Classic.

The Kraken game will be played outside at the home of the Seattle Mariners, T-Mobile Park, and you can be rest assured the facilities and the surrounding areas will be decked out to the nines.

One thing I’ve always been impressed with when working with the league and for the league for a stretch, is just how they manage to pull off these massive events with an incredible array of bells and whistles. I acted as the in-venue host and an NHL Network TV reporter at the same time for the 2009 game at Wrigley Field in Chicago and did the national radio broadcast in 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston.

From that perspective, I can assure you that the NHL’s effort to manage the event, the sights and sounds, inside and out, was astounding.

Thirteen years later, Fenway Park was utilized again and the details were even more extreme for the 2023 game on January 2nd.

The man in charge: NHL Chief Content Officer and Executive Producer for these behemoths, Steve Mayer, who joined the league as an senior executive in 2015.

“We needed to be a bit different,” Mayer told us. “We knew that a lot of those fans that were going to come again, we wanted them to have a different experience when they came to Fenway for a second time. We started with just changing the orientation of the rink and that was a hit, and having the backdrop of the ‘green monster’ (the outfield wall in left), which is a legendary sports landmark, and then to do some things on the field to give it that thematic of baseball meets hockey … it worked.”

NHL Executive Steve Mayer on “Simmer’s Morning Skate” talking Seattle Kraken Winter Classic.

Which sets things up very nicely for the Seattle Kraken. Also a ballpark scenario, the configurations will be mapped out in the next couple of months, while incorporating the natural beauty around the city and the cultural themes within it.

Mayer and part of his crew will make it to Seattle in late February for a site visit, ten months out from the event, right after they finish responsibilities at this year’s NHL All-Star game weekend in early February and the final outdoor game of the season in Raleigh, North Carolina a couple of weeks later.

That game between the Hurricanes and Washington Capitals sold out in minutes, to the tune of about 60,000 fans. Expect a similar response in Seattle when the ticket opportunity gets posted.

“We do think about next year the second this year ends,” Mayer said. “We’re looking forward to Seattle. First of all, the response in Seattle has been awesome and we need to look at that. Not always do we hear as positive a response from a local community as we’re hearing (there). The team, the Kraken, sent out some early information to their season ticket base and got an incredible response back.”

Logistically, figuring out what seats in the ball park will actually be available for hockey is one of the first steps. Once they know who can sit where, then they can make rink plans and sketch out all of the other fun stuff.

“The Kraken are a first class organization, we’ve watched very closely how the fan base has taken to the team,” Mayer added. “Incredible in just the second year how well the team is doing, they’re looking like a playoff potential team. We thought, why not? Let’s do what we would consider our signature game in one of the hottest places in the league.”

Remarkably, from his mouth to someone’s ears, the Kraken are literally the hottest team in the NHL as we speak.

As Mayer states near the end of the conversation, stay tuned for more details. We’ll share them here.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.