Back at the start of last season, the Seattle Kraken entered their first year as an NHL franchise. As a member of the league’s Pacific Division, many expected a Kraken rivalry with the nearest teams geographically. The division hosts a total of eight squads, though some already had rivalries in place. However, when Seattle struggled out of the gate (and ultimately all season long), no rivalry actually developed. In year two, circumstances look significantly different. Now in a tie for first place in the division, Seattle continues turning heads and stacking up wins. Every additional victory in the win column means a loss for their opponents. And with that number growing, more and more opponents have reason to be upset with the Kraken. At the moment, the Kraken have arguably two developing rivalries: the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights.
Seattle Kraken Rivalries Budding vs. Vancouver and Vegas
Although seven other teams play in the Pacific Division, not all of them felt like candidates for rivalries with the Kraken. Right away, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames got struck from the list. Their “Battle of Alberta” rivalry simply couldn’t be matched by any other team, especially not a brand-new one. The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are crosstown rivals in Southern California too, making them unlikely options. Oftentimes, the San Jose Sharks get lumped into that California rivalry too. Besides that fact, the Sharks lack of success recently makes it difficult to cultivate any hatred between the clubs. The Arizona Coyotes sit in that same struggling boat.
So that leaves the Kraken with two potential rivalries in their division, both of which now look promising.
Expansion Rivals – Kraken vs Golden Knights
As the league’s two newest squads, a natural sort of competition existed on day one between Seattle and Vegas. Last season, the Golden Knights swept the season series between the two, going 4-0 against the Kraken. Usually, a rivalry requires a back-and-forth relationship to truly take off. In this case, because everyone measured Seattle’s inaugural season against Vegas’ inaugural season, Kraken fans naturally grew tired of the comparisons.
In Vegas’ first season (2017-18), they not only qualified for the playoffs but went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Cup was awarded on Vegas’ own ice in the very first season where that could take place. Granted, it went to their opponents, but either way, the season went down as a massive surprise success story. Meanwhile, Seattle flopped and finished in the league’s cellar in their first.
All year long, critics looked back at exactly why Vegas accomplished so much while Seattle failed with the same expansion rules. Theories ranged from “teams learned from their mistakes in Vegas’ expansion draft”, to “Ron Francis simply blundered most of his picks”, and even to “Dave Hakstol was the wrong choice as coach”.
Year Two Bringing Fire to SEA-VGK Rivalry
Now, in their sophomore season, Seattle sits in the thick of the playoff race. In fact, they spent much of January chasing down and tying the Golden Knights in the standings. The two have swapped back and forth for first place in the Pacific Division, plus they split the first two games of the season series, too.
Seattle plays Vegas twice more in 2022-23 and wants to win the series this year. At 1-1, it could go either way. After going 0-4 against them last year, they sure want to even the score. Without a doubt, the 31st and 32nd franchises have quite a fun rivalry blossoming.
Proximity Rivals – Kraken vs Canucks
The knee-jerk answer to the question, “who will Kraken rivalries be against?” was the Vancouver Canucks from day one. Geographically, Vancouver sits closest to the Emerald City in comparison to any other NHL franchise. Plus the Canucks lack a true rival at the moment, so Seattle felt like a natural match.
Sure, Vancouver hates the Boston Bruins, but who doesn’t? And Colorado Avalanche fans sure hate the Canucks, still remembering the Todd Bertuzzi incident from years ago. Boston and Colorado both play in other divisions too, so they don’t even see Vancouver often enough to really grow hatred.
(Certainly, Canucks fans would all balk at the above. But they probably wouldn’t be able to agree on who their rivals are, so…kind of furthers the point.)
Seattle Finally in the Win Column vs Canucks
As mentioned previously, both teams need to find success against one another to really grow a rivalry. And until 2023, the Canucks topped the Kraken in all six previous matchups. That’s right; from their expansion draft until January 25th, 2023, the Kraken went winless against Vancouver. Officially, their record versus the Canucks stood at 0-5-1, being outscored 30-17 in that span.
In their sixth loss, the Kraken at least picked up a point by forcing overtime. That came just before the New Year, foreshadowing their next matchup. Finally, they bested the Canucks just before the All-Star break by a 6-1 score at home.
“Bruce There it is!”
To fan the flame of rivalries with the Kraken, the Kraken fans stepped up that night. For the last half of January, the entire hockey world knew of the inevitable firing of Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau. It was the worst-kept secret perhaps in hockey history, and distracted from the team and put Boudreau in uncomfortable positions on a daily basis.
The fans loved him through it all, though. They chanted “Bruce there it is!” at home games leading up to the firing, showing their respect for the long-time NHL coach. Vancouver management finally pulled the trigger, though, and replaced him with Rick Tocchet. By the time they arrived in Seattle, the drama seemed over and done.
Tocchet won his debut with the Canucks, and Seattle stood as his second challenge. In a 6-1 drubbing though, the Kraken dominated all night and beat the Canucks for the first time in their history with style. Then, Kraken fans started the “Bruce there it is!” chant, mocking the Canucks new coach, management, and/or franchise as a whole. It felt like a combination of relief for finally topping the Canucks, mixed with the bad taste Boudreau’s release left in everyone’s mouths.
Seattle Establishing Their NHL Presence
Attending a game at Climate Pledge Arena in 2022-23 feels incredibly foreign from the 2021-22 experience. The building rocks, the stands reverberate with excitement, and the atmosphere is electric. Their road record might be incredible, but their winning home record sure beats the losing record they sported in Seattle last year. They can beat any team on any night, and wind up with victories more often than not.
And that pisses off other teams. And fans sure love pissing off other teams. Seattle knows all too well, thanks to their Seahawks success against rivals. Now, they have that same animosity growing in the hockey world. The future of hockey looks really bright in the Pacific Northwest.
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