NHL’s Seattle Kraken extends tentacle to Alaska hockey fanbase
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In Alaska, it is commonplace to see Seattle Seahawks jerseys on the backs of fans and sold at stores. If one has an itch to catch an Major League Baseball game at the ballpark, they hop on a nonstop flight to Seattle for a Mariners game at T-Mobile Park. The Seattle, Washington-Alaska connection is strong, especially with fandom in the 49th state. As the Pacific Northwest introduces another professional team, there should be no reason why the NHL’s newest franchise - the Seattle Kraken - won’t fit right in, competing in Alaska’s most popular sport.
The Kraken, the 32nd franchise of the sport’s top league, will drop the puck on a new era in 2021-22 and are hoping to bring Alaska hockey fans with them. Members of the organization have recently been traveling the state to explore - and highlight - the great hockey state of Alaska.
“We have the immense privilege of having the state of Alaska included within our territory, so we want to show our fans, our region, that Alaska is this special, magical place,” said Team Broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh, who was in Fairbanks as part of the franchise’s web content series. “We want to showcase its beauty, we want to showcase its love of hockey. We are going to meet a lot of hockey fanatics who feel the sport really resonates with them and for us, it is an opportunity to make those connections between Seattle, Washington, the Lower 48, Pacific Northwest and tie those into Alaska.”
Beyond extending its outreach, the organization has poured in time, funds and resources into the Alaska hockey community, most notably with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Division I hockey program. The ‘Save Seawolf Hockey’ aims to avoid the elimination of one of two collegiate programs in the state and have raised over $2.25 million of its $3 million goal for reinstatement since the proposed cut in August 2020.
The Kraken have helped lead the charge, donating $100,000 on top of another $50,000 from private investors, a visit to the UAA campus by CEO Tod Leiweke, while frequently posting the Save Seawolf Hockey link to their social media pages.
“[Leiweke], and we as an organization, are just so excited to be in Alaska, to have that reach in Alaska, and whatever we as an organization can do to help the sport grow here in the state, we are going to do it,” added Fitzhugh. “I always say that our CEO Tod Leiweke, his first dream was to have an NHL team in Seattle and I think his second dream was to have an NHL team in Alaska.”
While in Fairbanks, Fitzhugh visited local rinks like the Big Dipper Ice Arena - home of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Junior Hockey team and several youth organizations - and the Carlson Center - home of the Alaska Nanooks, a building Fitzhugh himself has experienced skating in as an opponent.
“I went to Bowling Green, so I have actually been up here two times back when I was in college and I remember playing the Nanooks on Friday and Saturday nights, in the middle of winter, and the Carlson Center was rocking, it was awesome,” Fitzhugh said while at the UAF Patty Center Ice where the ‘Nooks sharpen their skills at practice. “You can really tell that hockey is here, hockey is this state’s native sport and for us to be able to bring the NHL, to bring our influence up here is an opportunity that we could not pass up.”
The Seattle Kraken are ready to make some noise in the NHL - and Alaska - as there is expected to be future collaborations between the league’s newest franchise and the hockey state for years to come. For information on the Seattle Kraken can be found on their website.
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