Sunday, December 19, 2021

Edmonton Oilers 5 at Seattle Kraken 3 - December 18, 2021

The purpose of this west coast trip was to see the Maple Leafs in Vancouver and Seattle, the two NHL rinks where I had yet to see them play. When my friend Sharpy decided to join, it made planning a bit tricky, as we both had to avoid certain COVID test requirements. The best solution was for me to fly from Seattle to Vancouver on Saturday and then drive back to Seattle after the game with Sharpy, who would then take the rental car back to Canada. It was a brilliant plan, but as we found out, not resistant to the NHL's special brand of Covidiocy. 

I awoke early on Saturday and made my way to a chaotic SeaTac airport, where I had to check in at the counter, as it is the airline's responsibility to confirm that passengers meet Canada's entry rules. At this time, the Leafs still had two players in the COVID protocol and it looked like the game would be played. Two hours later I was in Vancouver and getting more hopeful. Then Sharpy arrived from Ottawa and told me that two more Leafs had entered the protocol. Oh-oh. After getting the car, we drove to Flying Beaver, a brewpub right on the Fraser River that is well worth a visit, especially if you like seaplanes. While having lunch with a friend, the news broke that both Leaf games that weekend were postponed. So it was time for Plan B. The Kraken were to face the Oilers that night and so rather than head into Vancouver, we immediately turned south and crossed the border. I spent all of five hours in Canada and actually did not set foot in Vancouver itself. 

Arriving on the outskirts of Seattle after a couple of hours in some heavy rain, we hit the traffic that defines this part of I-5. As we slowed, I noticed a train station next to a hotel just off the highway.  A quick search showed that the train station is Northgate, the newly opened northern terminus of the 1 Line, Seattle's light rail system that goes through downtown and all the way to the airport. This was ideal for our weekend needs, so we booked a room and relaxed for a bit after a hectic few hours. 

We then took the 1 Line to Westlake, from where you can ride the Monorail to Seattle Center, home of Climate Pledge Arena. We walked instead, stopping at Uptown Hophouse for a light meal and a couple of beers. Of course, there was the constant worry that this game would be postponed too but by 6:00, it was clear that it would go on. So we crossed the street and made our way to Climate Pledge Arena, the venue that changed Club 123 to Club 124. 

Vaccination credentials are checked and you walk through security without taking things out of your pockets, a welcome change. We entered via the Alaska Airlines Atrium, which brings you to the upper concourse, something you don't see that often. 

Despite being a new venue in Club 124, Climate Pledge Arena is not new itself. It was first opened in 1962 for Seattle's World's Fair, making it the oldest building in the NHL. The Seattle SuperSonics played here until they left for OKC in 2008, and the WHL's Thunderbirds used it until they moved to Kent in the same year. I had seen both teams here, so it was not even a new venue for me. Of course, it has undergone extensive renovations since then, with only the roof and building structure remaining.

It is tough to see the roof at night, but I did snap a picture of it while landing in Seattle the day before. The arena is just behind the Space Needle. The other venue in the picture is Memorial Stadium.

I'm not going to talk about the arena in much detail; after the day we had, I just wanted to sit and watch the game. I did take a brief tour and snapped a few photos. The concourses are very white, but not your typical setup, which allowed for ease of movement in most places.

The team store is huge, and you can look down into it from the upper level.

The venue has a relatively small footprint that results in the upper deck being relatively close to the ice, particularly behind the nets.

Double-digit sections denote the lower bowl, with the 100 level up top behind the nets (called Mount Baker Hall at one end) and the first few rows along the sides (known as loge seats), with the 200 level above that on the sides and one end. It is quite similar to Prudential Center in New Jersey in that regard.

There are twin, triangular scoreboards at either end, another unique touch.

The shot below is from a rail in the upper deck, not a bad view at all. 

A closer look at the scoreboard.

Looking back at the 100 level seats with the 200 level above and the suites below.

At one end of the arena is a small stand where entertainment takes place, similar to what happens at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.

There is one very cool bar on the upper concourse that is designed to resemble a Kraken, the sea monster of legend for which the team was named.

The shot below is from the top rows of the upper deck; now you are getting rather far away and the scoreboards are blocked too.

As game time approached, I returned to my seat, which was in Section 12, right next to the club (view below). Like so many new arenas, all seats between the face-off circles are reserved for the clubs; in this case three sections on either side. The premium to sit here is rarely worth it.

After the game, I wandered in to take a couple of pictures. Yes, the seats are very nice.

Below is the actual WaFd Bank Club area that covers Sections 13 through 15, the other side is the Symetra Club that comprises Sections 01, 02, and 26. There are also suites right next to the ice that are called Tunnel Club Suites. 

Returning to my seat, the shot below is looking back up at the entertainment area, easily visible due to the bright green railings.

There are a couple of banners; including one for a Stanley Cup that the team did not earn. Much like the Senators, who have several such banners, this team will not win a Cup until the banner comes down, no matter how cool it is.

Amazon bought the naming rights but chose to call it Climate Pledge in order to call for action on climate change. Maybe having people reduce the amount of online ordering would be a first step? 

There is a long corridor with some green that somehow signifies the danger facing the planet and all of the steps that are being taken to reduce the impact of our species. I suspect that not a single fan changed their behaviour one bit after visiting here.

Other than the hypocritical political message, this is an extremely impressive venue. The renovation of a building that is 60 years old shows that there is no need to construct new stadiums when you have the foundations of one already in place. The Blue Jays recently toyed with the idea of building a new ballpark, but decided instead to renovate Rogers Centre. I doubt they will be able to accomplish as much as they did here, but it gives me something to look forward to. 

The Game

The Oilers were visiting and it was a battle of the backups with Stuart Skinner in net for Edmonton, while Chris Driedger (below) manned the pipes for Seattle. The Kraken got out to an early lead when Skinner let a Ryan Donato shot sneak under his arm, and then Jared McCann doubled the lead just 9 minutes in. But Edmonton got one back when Evan Bouchard drilled a point shot past Driedger, and they tied it up on the power play as Warren Foegele slammed home a juicy rebound. It was an exciting period of hockey, but Edmonton outshot Seattle 20-7, a sign that things were not as close as they appeared.

The second period saw Skinner make a spectacular save midway through, and that seemed to energize the Oilers, who used some great forechecking to get the puck to Colton Sceviour, who backhanded it past a helpless Driedger. But Seattle got that back late in the frame when Carson Soucy (#28 below) scored on a long rebound off the post.

The Oilers had yet to lose in overtime and I had hope that we might get an extra period, but then controversy reared its ugly head. A point shot from Bouchard bounced off Driedger and hit Foegele (#37 above) in the face shield, where it then caromed over Driedger's shoulder and into the net. At the same time, Kraken captain Mark Giordano pushed Foegele into Driedger and it was ruled no goal. But a review showed that the puck was already behind Driedger and furthermore, Foegele was obviously pushed, so the call on the ice was reversed and Edmonton had the lead again. Seattle couldn't get anything going, mustering only 3 shots in the period (and 17 all game) and Connor McDavid added an empty net tally to make the final 5-3.

This was a fun game to watch and a lot more relaxing than attending a Leafs tilt. Of course, I will have to revisit here at some point to see the Leafs play, whether later this season if that game is rescheduled or in a future season. But for now, I am still in Club 124, which looks to have no new venues until at least 2024 if not later. 


This was the 51st venue at which I saw an NHL game, including overseas and outdoor games. 



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