The Hockey Lover’s Guide to Seattle

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The brand new Seattle Kraken have been an instant hit in both their home city and across the National Hockey League. Here’s how visiting fans can make the most of a Seatown weekend.

For years, the most reliable sports trivia question involving Seattle was: What was the first American team to win hockey’s Stanley Cup? You’d be hard pressed today to find a Seattleite who doesn’t know about the 1917 Seattle Mets. On October 26, 2021, the Seattle Kraken (the NHL’s newest team) raised a Stanley Cup banner honouring the Seattle Metropolitans, the team that in 1917 defeated the Montreal Canadiens, the same franchise the Kraken would beat 5‑1 that night. The Emerald City has gone hockey mad.

January 21, 2022
Pacific Science Center
The Pacific Science Center’s Hockey: Faster than Ever exhibit.   Photo: Pacific Science Center

It isn’t just season‑ticket holders, who bought up every seat (average price: US$600) in less than 10 minutes. Kraken gear is more visible around town than Mariners, Seahawks, Storm and Sounders garb combined. The Pacific Science Center, located in the Space Needle’s shadow, launched a Hockey: Faster Than Ever interactive exhibit that runs through February, a fun way to test your slapper, see what it’s like to play goal and learn some NHL history. And more than 1,000 kids have signed up for the “Learn to Skate” program at the Kraken Community Iceplex, where three sparkling new rinks have more than doubled the ice sheets within city limits.

Related: 5 Magical Forest Skating Paths in Canada

Seattle is a hockey town once again

Seattle Kraken games are living up to the hype, too, not for the team’s success, which is minimal, but because, as I heard one novice fan put it plainly after the opening‑night loss to Vancouver, “they’re one hell of a good product.”

Seattle Hockey Kraken
The Seattle Kraken in action.

The “product” definitely begins with the roster: Kraken skaters play true to their former roles, energy guys who never stop mucking in the corners, backchecking and skating at full throttle – all endearing qualities to a new hockey fan. Though the Kraken swim deep down in the Pacific Division midway through their first season, you won’t hear any boos from this crowd: Seattle is a hockey town enjoying its first NHL team in 100 years.

A truly modern hockey venue 

The Kraken experience is elevated by the state‑of‑the‑art building they play in. It’s worth arriving early to check out Climate Pledge Arena (CPA), which lives up to its reputation as a revolutionary venue, a gorgeous timber‑and‑concrete layout $1.5 billion in the making. There has been much ballyhoo over the building’s zero‑carbon goals – the 45‑metre‑long living wall and ceiling‑hung ferns have to be seen to be believed. (Do any other NHL arenas employ a full‑time horticulturalist?)

Climate Pledge Arena
The living wall at Climate Pledge Arena.

There are virtually no lines at CPA either, where everything is “scan and go.” Add in “The Twins” – dual floating scoreboards – and a concert‑quality sound system playing mostly Seattle jams (personal favourite: the post‑Kraken goal call of “I like it” from Nirvana’s “Lithium,” to which the crowd responds, “Let’s go, Kraken!”), and the CPA experience is unlike any other hockey night out there.  

Related: Score the Best Food in Canada’s NHL Arenas

Winter in Seattle
The Seattle Center and Space Needle at night.

A reason to visit Seattle in winter 

Of course, Canadian fans are nothing new in Seattle. Blue Jays Nation occupies more seats during Sea‑Tor baseball games than Mariners fans do. Whitecaps supporters arrive by the busload for the Cascadia Derby. Seattle teems with Canadian tourists in summer; not so much in the perpetual drizzle we call winter. That is, until the Kraken arrived. You can now stir Oilers, Flames, Jets, Leafs, Habs, Sens and Canucks fanatics into this red and white cocktail. 

eating at Pike Place Market
Matts in the Market, a standby for dining in Pike Place Market.

Winter’s a great time to visit Seattle, with plenty of good things to do and no cruise‑ship crowds clogging Pike Place Market and elsewhere. A Seatown weekend (here’s hoping for plenty of Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts) provides the perfect amount of time to explore the city, albeit layered in fleece, Gore‑Tex and Sorels.

Filson flagship store
The Filson flagship store.

Filson flagship store 

Visiting fans may notice that Kraken ticket takers wear flannel and the ice‑scraping crew dons overalls. They’re clothed by Filson, the supplier that outfitted Klondike‑bound speculators in the 1890s. Located in SoDo, the Filson flagship is as much a museum as a mercantile. The Filson‑Kraken partnership is about as “Seattle” as it gets, down to the faux‑vintage Seattle Kraken jerseys.  

Related: Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser on Her Second Act 

Where grunge was born (and nourished)

Seattle’s cultural history sings a different tune in Belltown, located downtown. Head to Cyclops Café & Lounge on 1st Ave and check out the bar. You’ll find artifacts from when Nirvana (a tooth from Krist Novoselic) and Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder’s big toenail) made this retro haunt their primary clubhouse. Next door, the Crocodile has similar tales to share as well as live music to this day.

oysters
Oysters a‑plenty at the Walrus and Carpenter.

The Lower Queen Anne

Seattle is more about the neighbourhoods than the downtown core. You’ll find every form of fare near the CPA in Lower Queen Anne, including Taylor Shellfish Farms, showcasing delectable local oysters, geoduck (pronounced “gooey”) chowder and Dungeness crab. The inspirational Gates Foundation Discovery Center and Museum of Pop Culture, housed in architect Frank Gehry’s imagining of an exploded Jimi Hendrix (another Seatown native) guitar, are also nearby.  

Old Ballard Avenue
The street market on Old Ballard Avenue.

Further afield: Ballard & Fremont

Boutiques, bistros and bars line Old Ballard Avenue, a great area to explore on a non‑game night. Hattie’s Hat, one of those classic Seattle dive bars, serves up dark atmosphere with custom cocktails and IPAs galore – there are more than 20 breweries in Ballard. Fremont remains true to its quirky reputation, home to both a 16‑foot Lenin and a giant troll, plus several music venues (don’t miss Nectar Lounge), Seattle‑style healthy dining at Eve (known for its hot bowls and vegan options) and Brouwer’s Café, a Belgian‑inspired beer hall that’s a fit for any posse.

Related: Where to Ski in Europe this Winter

people eating in restaurant
Diners at Eve in Fremont.

Take the 1 train to Capitol Hill, UW and Iceplex 

For downtown hotel dwellers, Capitol Hill, the city’s heartbeat, is the simplest neighbourhood to access, just one stop from the Westlake Center terminus of the Link light rail #1 train. The city’s best pizza is had at Big Mario’s, while Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream is also legendary. The same Link rail line will take you to the beautiful University of Washington campus as well as, via Northgate stop, the Kraken Community Iceplex, where public skating is so popular, locals book time in advance. 

Westlake Center is also the departure point for the Seattle Monorail, a 1962 World’s Fair relic that has become the de facto means of transport to Seattle Center, home of Climate Pledge Arena. The Monorail disembarks at the Seattle Center Armory, a hulking venue and food court perfectly placed for fuelling up with a pre‑game burger or sandwich from the excellent Skillet Counter.

Related: 7 Winter Festivals to Check Out Before the Snow Melts