As the Seattle Kraken clinched their first NHL playoff berth Friday, interest in hockey is coincidentally growing in the Northwest.
Western Washington University held an event at the Viking Union Wednesday, April 5, to celebrate hockey’s cultural impact and its future in the region.
The two-hour event's speakers included Western Associate Professor in public relations Derek Moscato, hockey historian Dr. Andrew Holman, Seattle Kraken Community Engagement Specialist Andrew Bloom and Seattle Times sports writer Geoff Baker.
Holman delivered a history lesson to the audience of Western faculty, alumni, students and Bellingham hockey fans. He reminded the audience of the Seattle Metropolitans’ legacy, being the first team south of the Canadian border to win the Stanley Cup in 1917.
“We can see something a bit different below the big leagues, beyond the big hockey in Canada [and the] U.S. Borderland was a shared resource, admittedly asymmetrical. Lots more Canadians were invested in American borderlands,” he said. “Hockey was a staple part of the cross-border culture. We can see [the beginning of hockey in the Northwest] in the 1890s.”
He elaborated on hockey’s role as a bridge for different cultures. He shared that during World War II, workers in the war industry from Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, engaged in a series of friendly games called the Hands Across the Border Series. This was viewed as a way of strengthening the formal military alliance between Canada and the U.S.
He also touched on hockey’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community. During the 1990s and 2000s, Seattle's gay and lesbian communities hosted an annual Pride Winter Athletics Carnival, which included male and female ice hockey tournaments.
These teams were organized by and for gay and lesbian individuals, with teams including the Seattle Ice Breakers and Vancouver Cutting Edge.
Geoff Baker covers the NHL’s Kraken for the Seattle Times and was on hand for the Kraken’s 5-2 victory over the Canucks in Vancouver on April 4.
“A lot of Kraken fans were in there,” he said. “The second period happens, Kraken just keeps scoring and scoring and the place gets louder and louder. In the final 10 minutes of the game, all the Canucks fans had gone home or they're really upset at their team and just starting to boo them or starting to cheer when they do something bad.”
As an investigative journalist for the Seattle Times, Baker also talked about his book, “Rising from the Deep,” published in November 2022. It explains the political saga involved in the development of getting KeyArena renovated into Climate Pledge Arena and the NHL’s arrival in Seattle.
Kraken representative Andrew Bloom later explained the organization’s priority of growing the game of hockey in the Northwest and making it affordable and accessible to all. He explained programs and scholarships they’ve set up in the Seattle area for kids interested in playing hockey.
“It’s a long-term play,” Bloom said. “It’s something where you plant the seed now and continue to offer these opportunities. We hope to see in maybe five to 10 years our U-12 team look more like the actual community we live in and have more representation.”
Joe Kramer (he/him) is a sports reporter for The Front. He is an aspiring sportswriter majoring in journalism. Outside of journalism, he enjoys baseball and spending time with his family, especially the dogs.