While the Kraken compete for a first-ever Stanley Cup Playoffs bid, another of the franchise’s primary missions, growing the sport of hockey in the Pacific Northwest, is already in full-go mode at Kraken Community Iceplex.
“We’ve been committed to growing the sport and increasing access to the sport at all levels since the first conversations we had about an NHL expansion team,” said Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke. “We want all kids to dream they can play hockey. There is tons of work to be done, but we’re on the journey.”
Hockey has a storied past and exciting present in the region and the Kraken is working for an even brighter future. The Kraken organization honors and stands on the shoulder pads of hockey players, coaches, parents, families, amateur hockey associations, officials, league organizers, rink operators, Zamboni drivers, community volunteers and many others who established a palpable presence of the sport in Seattle and the PNW for a century-plus.
Being awarded the NHL franchise provided the opportunity to boost hockey by exponential measures and the Kraken decided to go big at home, building the three-rink Iceplex which is now Kraken Community Iceplex. With the brand recognition that an NHL team offers, the successful launch of the Kraken marks, and now a playoff push – the PNW has profoundly responded.
“When we looked at other NHL teams, we saw how impactful we could be,” said Rob Lampman, chief operating officer of the Seattle Kraken. “We mapped out our public programming to support a trajectory to benefit hockey across the region. As brand awareness and interest in the sport grows, so does programming within and beyond our building.”
The addition of the Iceplex’s three ice sheets logistically supports the sport’s growth, but it’s more than just that. The presence of professional athletes, the energy felt in a crowd during a game, watching the Kraken battle for a postseason spot, it all contributes to an indelible love of the sport from grassroots to Climate Pledge Arena.
“Being able to get these role models in front of our young players really tips the scales,” said Martin Hlinka, director of Kraken Youth Hockey Association. “When Kraken players visited our summer camps last year, everyone immediately knew who they were. The kids were eager to show off what they’d been working on.”
Kraken Community Iceplex staff have a motto that doubles as a bonafide description of the programming schedule: “There’s always something happening at the Iceplex” and hitting the one million number in year one of operations was a testament to that.
While girls’ and boys’ youth hockey currently represent approximately 25 percent of daily activity in the building, there are multiple skating opportunities throughout the week including Learn to Skate for kids ages 4 to 18, Learn to Skate for adults, Learn to Play for adults, 15 to 20 public skate sessions weekly, family drop-in skates and morning tot skates for parents and kids. Plus, there is the co-ed Kraken Hockey League for adult players, as well as a women’s-only division, and Kraken Skating Academy for figure skaters. The Iceplex is also home base for Kraken sled hockey, the University of Washington women’s and men’s hockey clubs, the Seattle Women’s Hockey Club and more.
When the Iceplex opened in the fall of 2022 there were six co-ed youth teams, 119 co-ed and women’s adult teams. In 18 months, it has added 11 more co-ed youth teams, two girls-only youth teams, 21 adult teams and a women’s-only program, and looking ahead into next season, three co-ed teams for the recently announced AAA program.
Building three rinks in the city has afforded the Kraken to expand opportunities in girls’ hockey. The Jr Kraken Girls Program is expanding to an anticipated seven teams next season, and more in the years ahead. The Jr Squid program is co-ed and there are dedicated Girls Skill Spring Development Series and Girls High Performance Summer Camp programs in place. For individual work, Kraken girls’ private lessons are offered while drop-in hockey and daily stick-and-puck sessions are open to all.
A highlight of last year was hosting the U.S. Women’s National Team for five days with open practices, and a clinic on leadership for young girls presented by members of Team USA and ROOT SPORTS analyst Alison Lukan. Of course, this culminated in the US beating Canada at Climate Pledge Arena and breaking the attendance record for a women’s national team hockey game in the United States.
David Min, player development coach, said the Kraken and Iceplex teaching approach is “player-centered coaching,” aimed at accomplishing more than on-ice skills.
“The idea is we want to develop the whole person: That’s first, then a good athlete, then a good hockey player,” said Katelyn Parker, also a player development coach and was part of the summer 2022 statewide tour of rinks with the aforementioned Martin Hlinka and David Min, and director of skating Chad Goodwin.
“Now our skaters and teams get to watch professionals as role models looking to improve, inspiring the young players to put in the work,” said Min. “Whether it’s at Kraken Community Iceplex, Sno-King, Tri-Cities, every rink and association [across the region], the presence of an NHL club hits home.”
“Our goal is continued growth of the game,” said COO Rob Lampman. “We want adults and kids from all backgrounds to have fun, and for young players to achieve their dreams, whether it’s being part of a team with friends or aspiring to play college and professional hockey.
“We’d love to see both boys and girls come up through the ranks of Jr Kraken and then to play in college, the junior or professional ranks. But our primary goal is to grow love for the game.”