At last, the wait is over. Nearly 3 years since the NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve Seattle with an expansion team, the Seattle Kraken play their inaugural game tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena at 7pm. After 3 years, the work done by the Seattle Hockey Partner Ownership Group, Kraken GM Ron Francis’s Management Staff, and Head Coach David Hakstol’s Coaching Staff is about to be put to the real test. There is a lot of expectations resting on this expansion franchise shoulders by the league, pundits, and fans alike.
The Kraken come into the NHL four years after the last expansion team joined, the Vegas Golden Knights. In what was considered to be a disaster waiting to happen by pundits, the Golden Knights turned everyone on their heads making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in only their first season despite losing to the Washington Capitals. In a professional sports league that is 103 years old rich with tradition and history, the Golden Knights struck gold for the NHL which had been losing popularity proving critics wrong that giving a city an expansion franchise could boost the league’s brand. With the Kraken joining after the Golden Knights, it’s easy to be critical using the Golden Knights success as a measuring stick in which all other team’s success are judged by should the NHL decide to expand further after the Kraken.
The Kraken aren’t looking for success in the short term. They for hopefully looking for having sustained success in the long term. Most of the pieces on and off the ice from players to the Head Coach that made the Golden Knights dominant are all but gone. That’s something the city of Seattle and sports fanatic’s demand. For decades, the landscape for professional sports in Seattle have been plagued with mediocrity. It was only 2009 when the Seattle Sounders joined Major League Soccer changed that label. The Kraken certainly would like to be a juggernaut in the NHL being a team that consistently is competing to win Stanley Cup Championships year after year after year much like the Sounders.
While MLS and the Sounders have grown, MLS is not one of the top 4 sports league in America. The Kraken however are in league that is one of the top four. The city of Seattle craves long term success in professional sports. It’s not often an expansion franchise for any professional sports comes along. There’s only one first. This puts more pressure on the Krakens ownership group and Team Operations management to get it right.
Any team’s first competitive game depending on result can tell a lot about the direction the club will go. If the team wins, then people likely will want to spend their leisure time and their money attending games. That being said, if the team underperform leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths with a bad impression, people are less likely to attend games and use their money and their leisure time elsewhere. After all professional sports is a business in the entertainment industry.