From the Kraken Community Iceplex, where it’s the genesis of another moment in history: the Seattle Kraken will finally play in a real game, ending months of anticipation for their first pre-season touch of the ice tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.
The place where it goes down isn’t inconsequential. Spokane Arena, the home of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, has served as the backdrop for two Memorial Cup title teams, a long list of alum eventually making their NHL debut, and a raucous fan base that has boosted the game’s profile in the state of Washington with a pretty impressive run:
For 15 straight years (not counting last year when no fans were admitted due to COVID-19 regulations), they’ve nestled into a spot as one of the top 5 box office draws in the league – that also includes NHL venues such as Edmonton and Calgary, who host WHL teams.
It will also start leg one of a three-venue love affair for hockey’s future in the state. In July, the Kraken’s “Three Rink Rush Tour” spearheaded a collaborative effort with three of the state’s top WHL attractions: the Chiefs, Seattle Thunderbirds, and Everett Silvertips, who all get a swing at hosting a historical Kraken pre-season game in the inaugural season.
(Ticket proceeds will benefit the One Roof Foundation, benefiting local youth hockey access and expansion of those efforts in WHL cities hosting the pre-season games).
The Kraken will ice a veteran heavy lineup tonight, looking to take an accelerated approach with the manufacturing of their chemistry against the Canucks, many have targeted as a top Kraken rival based on geography.
As tonight is takes on the overall “dress rehearsal” assignment before the regular season battles begin Oct. 12, the Canucks will have names you may be hearing from, a lot, and perhaps have heard from in the past such as Brock Boeser, Jason Dickinson, and veteran defenseman Luke Schenn. However, they are without stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, who remain unsigned.
Cool WHL “hey, they’ve played here before” notes: seven Kraken players who grew up in the WHL playing against the Chiefs at Spokane Arena will be back again: Morgan Geekie (neé rival Tri-City), Jordan Eberle (Regina), Driedger (Tri-City and Calgary), Dennis Cholowski (Portland and Prince George), and Haydn Fleury (Red Deer).
I'll join you at 6pm PT on Sports Radio 950 KJR, shortly followed by Everett Fitzhugh with the play-by-play.
PROJECTED GAME LINES:
FORWARDS (Left wing – center – right wing)
Schwartz - McCann - Eberle
Johansson - Jarnkrok - Appleton
Geekie - Donato - Donskoi
Tanev - Sheahan – Bastian
DEFENSIVE PAIRS (Left defense – right defense)
Giordano - Oleksiak
Cholowski - Larsson
H. Fleury – Soucy
GOALTENDERS (will split duty in net tonight)
Grubauer –will start
QUOTES FROM MORNING SKATE:
Jared McCann on the objective of the first pre-season game tonight:
“Get the system down. Don’t try to score every shift – sometimes you have to play defense. Sometimes for me personally – it’s trying to get back (further on defense) as a center. I’ve been a winger last couple years so I’m trying to get used to it. We have some good systems in place to help us out.”
Dennis Cholowski, former Prince George Cougar and Portland Winterhawk, on the return to a place he used to play:
“It’ll be cool. I’ve always liked that arena. The fans are way up high if I remember. They’re always packed in. I’ve always liked that arena for sure.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol, on measuring the value of his veteran leaders with how fast the training camp schedule has moved:
“Tough to measure that. Just from day one of practice all the way through each and every day, having a focused approach and calm approach, and have an approach to helps bring others with you is really important. We have guys in the dressing room with an ability to do that.”
Hakstol on the most important core value for young players to understand during pre-season play:
“There’s not one area of the game right now for me that’s more important, we’re working on our play without the puck (and) we’re working to get it back. Whether it’s coming out of the offensive zone, through the neutral zone, or if it gets to our defensive zone -working to get it back quickly. Same thing offensively – the fundamentals, the way we want to play, getting up the ice, and getting into the offensive zone – all of those pieces are as equally important. To pick one area, I can’t do it. I feel we want to be complete, and we’re just going to be pushing in all areas.”
Countdown to pre-season face-off: TONIGHT!
Sept. 26: Seattle Kraken vs. Vancouver Canucks, Spokane Arena, face-off at 6pm (950 AM KJR, iHeartRadio app)