May 24, 2024

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An arts critic and a hockey fan go to a Kraken game: A most useful review of the Climate Pledge Arena experience

9 min read
An arts critic and a hockey fan go to a Kraken game: A most useful review of the Climate Pledge Arena experience


Could an arts critic find magic at a hockey game? Absolutely. Last week, two Seattle Times features staffers — let it be clear that we are not sportswriters; please turn to our lovely sports section for actual sports analysis — went to a Seattle Kraken game. For Moira, it was a first-in-a-lifetime experience; for Trevor, it was his second NHL game in two weeks. Here’s the story of our adventure at Climate Pledge Arena, complete with theatrical entrances, fried rice, missing chandeliers and a minor miracle. Oh, and the Kraken won, against the Buffalo Sabres, but that wasn’t the miracle. 

The Miracle, i.e. The Hat Trick

Moira: Let’s just cut right to the evening’s big thrill. Though a complete hockey novice, even I had heard of hat tricks: When one player scores three goals in one game, everyone throws their hats onto the ice. This sounded fun! Nobody does this at the ballet! So I brought along a throwing hat (i.e. one I didn’t mind losing, like the throwing bouquet some brides have at their weddings). I didn’t think I’d need it, because hat tricks are rare. But it was my first game and I had hope. Apparently, hope was enough! It happened — the very first hat trick in Kraken history, right there in front of me.

Trevor: To offer some perspective, there was a hat trick in just 7.6{cf07cd047201b183b19c0b335dbd7d35a498f84568531c8abe8643bd3ccfd494} of NHL games in the 2018-19 season. And the fact that Moira seemed to conjure the hat trick despite the obstacles placed in her path by the hockey gods … it was a fateful hockey game. You could just tell. 

Moira: I am contemplating quitting my job and becoming a full-time hockey oracle.

Trevor: I wanted to caution you against invoking the hat trick — hockey players won’t even utter the word “shutout” until a game is over lest they jinx their own goalie — but your magic was simply too powerful. When Jordan Eberle scored his first goal, I was unmoved. When he scored his second, I started to believe. And when Eberle led the Kraken skaters back to their bench after completing his hat trick, I got goose bumps. 

Moira: The hat trick, which happened in the third period (see, I’m just casually tossing out hockey terminology now), caused pandemonium — screaming, hat throwing, general mayhem. Trevor (some fan; he didn’t even have a hat) tossed my hat for me, as throwing is not one of my talents. For the record, it was a cute woolen hat with a pompom, and it should show up nicely in its eventual home at the Kraken training facility, in an acrylic cube. Yes, that’s what they do with hat-trick hats. I wish I’d thrown a veiled fascinator or something, but live and learn. 

Trevor: Having recently cut my overgrown pandemic hair, I’m on a hat sabbatical. But I would like to visit this Kraken menagerie someday to try to pick out your enchanted beanie. And as for who has the better arm between me and Moira, the jury is out. The hat caught a cross-arena breeze and did not make it out of the upper level.  

Moira: I’m choosing to believe someone picked it up and threw it onto the ice. I hope some hat-loving hockey fan didn’t just go home with it. Do misdirected hat-trick hats carry a curse? Also, I’d like to call out all the Kraken fans who left the arena with their hats still on their heads. This is a hallowed tradition, people! If I can lose a hat, so can you!

The Setting

Even the nosebleeds at Climate Pledge Arena have an excellent vantage point down to the ice, as seen here at intermission during the Kraken’s Nov. 4 game against the Buffalo Sabres, a 5-2 win.  (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)

Moira: Now that we’ve dispensed with the most exciting part of the evening, let’s backtrack a bit. Having not been in the former KeyArena since the “Dancing with the Stars” tour in 2007 (my idea of a sporting event; hmm, why doesn’t hockey have sequins?), I was curious as to what Climate Pledge Arena would look like. Walking around inside felt pleasantly like being in a shiny-new airport, with a very strictly enforced dress code: masks and Kraken apparel. (My favorite, of the latter: a hand-knit octopus cap, with whimsically dangling legs.) 

Trevor: I decided not to wear another NHL team’s jersey, hoping to avoid confrontation. Instead, I wore a blindingly maize University of Michigan hockey jersey with a big blue M on the front just days after one of the most polarizing programs in college athletics lost a big football game to its in-state rival. It went over like that scene in “Inception” when the dream people realize Joseph Gordon-Levitt is incepting. I was getting chirped — “Let’s Go Big Green!” “Go Wolverines!” “Go Blue — psych!!!” — by random passersby all night long. I chuckled to myself thinking about my initial offer for Moira to wear the jersey and how unwittingly disastrous that would have been. 

Moira: I would have been VERY confused.

Trevor: Not to mention, you didn’t exactly take to the sweater. Anyway, after a lap around the arena — checking out the many restaurants, the brick-backed craft brewery station, the plant-covered wall that’s a selfie hot spot — Moira and I made our way to our seats. There were only two or three rows above us in the nosebleeds, but we had a great view down to the ice. 

Moira: Yes; if this had been “Phantom of the Opera,” we would have been right by the chandelier. 

Trevor: Climate Pledge Arena needs at least one more chandelier, ideally one that drops the puck from the heavens to start play. 

Moira: That was my suggestion! Hockey people, please note. 

Trevor: Instead of chandeliers, Climate Pledge Arena has two oddly angular Jumbotrons displaying the action that are referred to as “The Twins,” which is straight out of a Kubrick film. 

Moira: I found that sort of endearing. 

Trevor: OK, HAL. I did like the Brandon Tanev Cam, where fans did their best impression of the Kraken fan favorite “Turbo,” whose team photo … well, the story goes that he saw a ghost. 

Moira: Maybe HE saw the Phantom of the Opera. 

The Food

Din Tai Fung serves a limited menu at Climate Pledge Arena, including these kurobuta pork buns — certainly not your standard arena fare.  (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)

Moira: After being overwhelmed by the numerous options for carry-to-your-seat dining at the Pledge, we opted for chicken fried rice ($16) and kurobuta pork buns ($9) from Din Tai Fung. Tasty! And quite portable. 

Trevor: It was a welcome change of pace from standard stadium concessions. The pork buns were yummy, but my plastic fork was no match for that pillowy bun — just use your fingers, people. Now, if you’re willing to wait through a 60-person line for a fried chicken sandwich, Shaq’s Big Chicken outpost is the move. The food kiosks at the arena keep meals prepped and ready for grab-and-go dining, with self-checkout screens keeping those long lines steadily moving. Pro move: I left our seats at the last TV timeout of the second period, grabbed my chicken and was back at my seat within two minutes. By intermission, the masses had returned. 

Moira: That sandwich looked pretty good! I should have had you grab one for me. 

Trevor: It was solid! I’ll spare you my in-depth fast-food fried-chicken-sandwich power rankings, but I’d place Shaq’s “MDE (Most Dominant Ever)” chicken sandwich ($16, steak-cut fries included) squarely above Wendy’s and below Chick-fil-A. Nice spice, good bun, fresh pickles, tasty Shaq sauce. Sad fries.

Moira: On the drinks front, I wish I could tell you how my can of Fremont Golden Pilsner beer tasted, but when I realized that it cost $15, I passed out. 

The Kraken Stormy is our hometown take on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, with Kraken spiced rum and ginger beer served in this aluminum souvenir cup.   (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)

Trevor: Yes, there are countless options for suds at the Pledge, should you be willing to part with an appendage. I grabbed a Reuben’s Hop Tropic ($15) tallboy can but also considered the Hop Valley Kraken Stash IPA ($15.50). You’ll find typical Pacific Northwest brewery fare at kiosks around the arena; you can also try the Kraken Bar on the upper concourse for a Kraken Stormy on tap ($16), a hometown take on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy with ginger beer and spiced Kraken rum — official rum of the Kraken (duh). It was delicious and came in a souvenir aluminum cup! 

Trevor: (Notes on that cup: I overheard a fan mention that you can stop by soda fountains around the arena for free refills after buying a mixed drink. In hindsight, I think he meant “you can” do so the way “you can,” technically, shoplift if you don’t get caught. I grabbed a “free” refill and was promptly stopped by security on the way out because they thought I was leaving with alcohol. I wasn’t, I insisted, but when I asked about the arena’s refill policy, security informed me that CPA certainly does not offer free refills. They were nice about it. The more you know!)   

The Spectacle

Erike Trefzger tries to get the attention of Buffalo’s Cody Eakin recently — his favorite player growing up. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Moira: As someone who knows zero about hockey but a fair bit about theatricality, let me just say: nice job, Kraken. The opera and ballet have nothing on the extremely dramatic entrances made by the team at the beginning of each period, from a hallway that’s lit to look as if it’s the mouth of hell, complete with billowing smoke and an insanely low-voiced person intoning “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” like Liam Neeson on steroids. All of this is incredibly fun and I enjoyed it immensely, even as I had to have Trevor explain what the hell was going on.  

Trevor: Moira, thou doth protest too much — you picked up on the game immediately. There was even a dash of actual opera during the national anthem to get you acclimated. 

Moira: Yes, Tess Altiveros, from Seattle Opera, did a beautiful job on the high notes, to much cheering. Speaking of cheering, can I make a suggestion? Why does everyone chant “Let’s Go Kraken” when “Let’s Get Kraken” would be way funnier?

Trevor: It would make the goal celebrations even more fun. After each Kraken tally, Nirvana’s “Lithium” plays over the speakers, and to the tune of Kurt Cobain’s wails (“I’m not gonna crack”), the fans chant-sing, “Let’s go Kraken!” Between “Lithium,” “Man in the Box” on Kraken power plays and near-constant Seattle artists on the PA, there was lots of hometown love queued up.    

Moira: On the rink itself, the game is speedy and snowy (I loved the overalls-clad team that came rushing onto the ice with shovels at regular intervals), sort of like Quidditch on ice. Though I have many hockey questions — why, in a game played on ICE, are they wearing shorts? — I could definitely appreciate the skill and drama of the skating. Particularly the coolly insouciant way the referees skate backward, like they’re just kind of hanging out. 

Trevor: Yes, a tip of the hat-trick hat to all the skaters: from the zippy referees and the rink crew with their shovels to the graceful, lightning-quick players themselves, carving into the ice in their “shorts” — known in the hockey world simply as “pants,” or “breezers” if you’re from Minnesota.  

Moira: “Breezers” is my new favorite word. 

The Upshot

Fans have numerous food options at Climate Pledge Arena. The Minnesota Wild played the Seattle Kraken Oct. 28 in Seattle. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Moira: Was the Kraken game a kick? Absolutely. Would I go again? Sure, if someone else was paying. Major-league hockey is way more expensive than major-league ballet — though, to be fair, ballet does not offer the thrill of a hat trick. (Maybe it should? Or at least offer the option, as the Kraken does, of getting up from your seat and dancing during the breaks.) 

Trevor: It would be a hoot if communal drink-chugging was as commonplace at the theater as it is at the arena. One last hockey fact: The first hat trick in Kraken history was a natural hat trick, meaning one player scored three uninterrupted goals. Fitting, as Moira proved herself to be a natural hockey fan. Maybe even a supernatural one. 

Moira: Oh, I just got pucky.  

The puck has finally dropped in Seattle, and the Kraken are already making an impact as the city’s coolest new pro team. Whether you’re a seasoned hockey expert or a newbie on the scene, here’s a look at hockey culture and hockey-related things to do in Seattle.



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