Kraken Continues to Build Fanbase as Team Succeeds in Year Two


Sean Campbell

Face-off between the Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks

When a professional sports expansion franchise starts playing in a new city, the initial buzz and novelty can propel them to constant sold-out shows immediately. For the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Seattle Kraken, that may have been the case.

The team sold out of season tickets more than nine months before their first home game, hinting at the enormously successful inaugural season they would have in terms of sales. But deep into their second season of existence, the Kraken are averaging an attendance of 17,151 for a consecutive year. 

That’s the maximum capacity of their venue: Climate Pledge Arena.

For the Kraken’s Senior Vice President of Digital Innovation and Fan Experience Todd Humphrey, the nature of Seattle as a rabid sports city and hockey as a thrilling sport is a perfect match.

“It starts the moment you walk in…When you introduce the most exciting sport to such an exciting fan base, you make magic,” Humphrey said, watching the sellout crowd trickle into their seats before the team’s Mar. 7 win against the Anaheim Ducks, 5-2, marking the Kraken’s fifth straight win.

With a 37-21-6 record, Seattle is currently in the playoff picture in the Western Conference, a far cry from their last-place finish last season. Newly-added veteran talent in players like team points leader Andre Burakovsky and rookie sensation Matty Beniers have turned the Kraken into one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the NHL.

In fact, the Kraken’s efficient offense is a hallmark of the viewing experience. While they rank in the bottom 10 in the league in shots on goal this season, Seattle makes the most of their looks, leading the NHL in shooting percentage. If fans spend too long away from the game, they could miss those few thrilling moments each period.


Number three for the Seattle Kraken Will Borgen during warm ups. (Sean Campbell)

Considering their style of play and the fan experience, Humphrey and the Kraken organization have worked to limit the time fans use in the arena getting concessions or navigating foot traffic. By nearly doubling the square footage of the arena in the expansion, corridors are far more breathable, allowing fans to pass through comfortably.

When fans are in their seats, there is rarely a dull moment. From elaborate jumbotron videos to on-ice intermission performances and even Starbucks gift cards falling from the catwalks above, the game experience is designed to engage audiences.

Shawna Riddle, a dental hygienist and Seattle resident, said she is not the biggest fan of hockey. But at her second Kraken game, she acknowledged the effort the arena puts into the fan experience.

“I think it gets the crowd hyped,” Riddle said. “And I love the team aspect, especially in Seattle.”

Long-time Seattle resident and Seattle Parks & Recreation Department employee Ryan Spencer was excited to hear the NHL was expanding to the Pacific Northwest. He claimed the production value was much higher than other venues he has been to and for good reason.

“As a hockey purist… it’s a little bit too 21st century for me,” Spencer said. “But I get it, they need to do more to draw people in and educate them… It’s not a hockey city after all.”

Despite the perpetual sold-out events, the organization makes an effort to educate fans about the team and acknowledge the social landscape. For example, March 7 also marked the team’s Women in Hockey Night. The Kraken produced videos acknowledging the role women play in the organization, donned custom jerseys during warmups created by local artist Erin Wallace and donated $32,000 to the One Love Foundation, which provides educational resources centered around abusive relationships. 

“It’s really fan by fan,” Humphrey said of the engagement process. “Part of it is allowing fans to know their team… to see their players without the helmet on.”

That fan-to-player connection was apparent all night in the win over Anaheim. Each time star goalie Philipp Grubauer picked up a save, chants of “Gruuu,” echoed through the stadium.

But the most telling moment came late in the third period. Left winger Vince Dunn sustained a blow to the face. Bleeding from his nose, Dunn let out a flurry of insults at the referees, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which sent him to the penalty box.

What resulted was a similar reaction of frustration from the fan base, raining down boos and disparaging chants against officials.

With a consistent fanbase behind them, the Kraken have just over a month to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they do so, they will be the second-fastest NHL expansion franchise to reach that mark, ushering in a new era of Seattle sports.