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Matt Calkins: 'We live for hockey': Climate Pledge Arena fans show they are committed to Kraken on opening night

Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times on

Published in Hockey

For a minute, it seemed as though those cheers might last clear through the intermission. The crowd at Climate Pledge Arena had been waiting 19 minutes and 57 seconds for it, the city of Seattle a whole lot longer.

When defenseman Vince Dunn scored with 4.6 seconds left in the first period, he authored the latest — and one of the loudest — pages in Seattle sports history: the first Kraken goal at its sparkling new home.

That was the moment everything surrounding this team and arena had been building toward. That was the moment the project finally felt complete. That was the moment the NHL had truly arrived in Seattle.

"It's just surreal," longtime hockey fan Alex Erler said from the lower concourse of Climate Pledge Arena. "That's the word for it."

Saturday's home opener, a 4-2 loss to Vancouver, was the culmination of years of stress, struggles and strife. There were polarizing debates about where Seattle should build a new arena. And after the Oak View Group won the bid to renovate KeyArena, the budget soared from $650 million to over $1.1 billion.

There were construction delays. There was the chaos of COVID-19. There was an endless supply of obstacles. But as Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said during the pregame ceremonies: "We did it!"

 

You have to think most people in the Climate Pledge Arena had been anticipating this moment for years. Long before the arena was built, season tickets for the Kraken sold out within minutes of going on sale.

The fans on hand Saturday were particularly committed to their new NHL team. The average cost of a ticket was $601, according to ESPN during its broadcast. That's the highest average ticket price for any sports event in the city since 2010 — and that includes two NFC Championship Games for the Seahawks. There is no indication this is a casual fan base.

The sustainability of the fervor will depend largely on whether the Kraken stays competitive. But for now, Seattle feels like a legitimate hockey town.

"We live for hockey. We've been waiting for hockey for so long," fan JF Desagne said. "It's in our blood."

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