The Seattle Kraken have a great opportunity to grow their fanbase this year by having a travelling training camp and preseason. This concept is not new and has allowed teams to expand their fan engagement throughout the province or state they play in and neighbour. Here are four cities Seattle should consider travelling to help grow the brand and fan excitement during training camp.
Spokane is located about four hours from Seattle by car and would be the perfect spot to set up a prospects camp. The city has a long history when it comes to hockey, and is currently home to the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL). They have a great arena and practice facility, and this allows the team to reach out and help connect with the community.
Because of Spokane’s long history with hockey, the Kraken could also play preseason games there while bringing back some Chiefs’ alumni. Players like Jared Spurgeon, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Darcy Kuemper all played their junior careers with the franchise. You also have Tyler Johnson who is from Spokane and may even get picked by Seattle in the expansion draft. (from ‘To become a two-time Stanley Cup finalist, Spokane area’s Tyler Johnson battled every step of the way,’ Seattle Times, 09/22/2020) Scheduling games against the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes would allow Seattle to market themselves and allow fans to see these players play back in Spokane once again.
Portland presents a great opportunity, as like Spokane, they have a long history with the game of hockey. The Winterhawks of the WHL have been there since 1976 and have been a powerhouse in the league over the last decade. The fans are passionate and bringing games down to Portland may be able to strip some of the fans of previous alliances to other teams.
As for bringing in alumni, the league is filled with former Winterhawks. Players like Joachim Blichfeld, Cody Glass and Oliver Bjorkstrand all have had success in the city. Seattle could also be bringing some former Portland alumni with them as they could select players like Adin Hill, Matthew Dumba and Ryan Johansen in the expansion draft. The Portland market is large with a population of over 645,000. If Seattle can build a connection with the city, it could be very beneficial for the organization as the city is only three and half hours away by car.
The Idaho market is untapped and would be a fantastic place for Seattle to build roots in. They do have an ECHL team in the Idaho Steelheads, as well as a thriving youth hockey organization. Although maybe not at the top of their list, building roots in Idaho’s biggest city could reap benefits down the line.
The NHL looks as though they want to start creating interest in the Midwest of the USA. The way they have done this is through preseason games in Salt Lake City. If the NHL plays their cards right and the Kraken can create interest within the city of Boise, it could help the NHL build their brand in untraditional hockey markets. A Vegas versus Seattle game would be perfect as Boise is in between the two cities. Building not just the team brand, but the sport is crucial. Playing an annual game in Boise like in Salt Lake City brings more eyes on the product and can build a fan base that will buy merchandise, TV packages and may even travel to a few games a year.
Tacoma is the perfect place to host a prospects tournament. It is only a 45-minute drive and houses a great youth hockey and adult recreational organization. Tacoma is also going to be the home of some Kraken season ticket holders and would show the community that the team is invested in growing the game and giving back to those who support them.
The city of Tacoma has had a hockey team in the past. The Tacoma Sabercats were part of the West Coast Hockey League from 1997-2002. The league has since folded and been absorbed into the ECHL. There was also the Tacoma Rockets who played in the WHL from 1991-1995. They both used the 21,000 seat area called the Tacoma Dome. Seattle could come back to the city and play preseason games or even a prospects tournament with other teams. Tacoma is going to be a big part of the Kraken’s fan base, so reaching out and building a strong partnership is vital.
Learning From Vancouver
One thing Vancouver does extremely well is community outreach by holding training camps and prospects tournaments all over the province. In the past, they have held events in cities like Whistler, Victoria, Prince George and Penticton. This is a lesson Seattle can learn from their newest rivals. Fan engagement is needed not just in your home city, but the surrounding area, as it brings in additional revenue and allows those who may not be able to attend games the feeling that they are still connected with the team.
A Great Opportunity
The main problem is that we do not know yet what type of travel and safety restrictions may exist when training camps start up, but if given the all clear, it is imperative Seattle gets out there and into these communities to build the brand. They need to try and convince fans who may already have allegiances to switch and follow the Kraken. The long-term benefits could be substantial and may even create brand-new hockey fans in the future.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.