Commentary: Win or lose in Game 7, this Kraken playoff run has turned Seattle into a hockey town

The best way I can explain what the Seattle Kraken have done this year – and will hopefully continue to do past tomorrow night’s Game 7 in Dallas – is to go back 30 years. 

Since 1993, I’ve had nothing more than a passing interest in the sport of hockey. But these names roll off my tongue without a second thought: Gretzky. Kurri. Granato. Robataille. McSorley. Blake. 

Growing up in Los Angeles, that Kings team with those players represents pretty much everything I remember from the fifth grade. Because their run to the Stanley Cup Finals had my entire elementary school class completely hooked – fixated for two full months. Tuning in every other night. Galvanizing that city, but also leaving an impression that would last a lifetime for those 10 and 11-year-olds in my classroom. 

In a matter of one month, that’s what the Kraken have done – not just to the diehard fan who’s been there since Day One. But for the casual fan who all of a sudden has taken notice, and is seeing these names come up big for this city night after night: Eberle. Schwartz. Beniers. Gourde. McCann. Bjorkstrand. Grubauer. Schultz.

The most beautiful part of the Kraken’s playoff run is that it has formally introduced us to the individual parts of this group. Which is ironic, because those individuals have unselfishly set aside all personal goals for the benefit of the collective whole. And it’s working. And it’s unleashed a fervor in this city that I can promise you’ll feel in your gut for years to come. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be inside Climate Pledge Arena for any of the six playoff games – and especially their three home wins – it’s an endorphin rush you want to feel again and again.

And the stories we’ve seen playout already are second-to-none. 

From 22-year-old Tye Kartye, who at this time last year, was undrafted and finishing up junior hockey - who at this time last month, was still in the minor leagues, and who has now scored three pivotal goals for the Kraken in his first eight games at the NHL level. To Jared McCann, whose absence from a dirty hit gave Kartye that opportunity to begin with, and who has now returned to contribute again.

There’s Morgan Geekie scoring a goal a few nights after his baby was born. Jordan Eberle, scoring the overtime game winner against the Avs, and Yanni Gourde’s overtime winner against the Stars. Seven goals from seven different players in a Game 3 win over Dallas, and 18 different Kraken players have scored goals in the playoffs so far.

There’s Eeli Tolvanen, whose photos on the Kraken’s website are still of him in a Nashville uniform, and who has now had eight points in the playoffs including a goal and two assists – making him one of the best mid-season waiver-wire pickups in recent NHL history.

And we cannot forget Philipp Grubauer, who has now made 50 more saves than any other goaltender this postseason and single-handedly keeping Seattle in some of these games – more than making up for the somewhat bumpy ride it’s been for him since signing with the Kraken before their first season. 

Whatever happens in Game 7 in Dallas, these stories and memories can’t be erased. Seattle might have been awarded an NHL team in 2018. It might have named that team in 2020 and began playing in 2021. 

But it became a hockey town in April and May of 2023. This team has officially become a fabric of our city.