The Seattle Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2024 NHL Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park, home of MLB’s Seattle Mariners. Kraken CEO Todd Leiweke spoke on hosting the event next year. There were a handful of other teams the Kraken were up against for hosting the annual event.
“Every other team thinks about this kind of event, every other team wants to host this kind of event, we had to make our case,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke mentioned how Seattle is great with big events and that it required a partnership with the Mariners. Given the region and its weather, Leiweke said the ability to slide the roof over if the weather doesn’t cooperate was a big factor. He said it’s one of the league’s showcase events. Leiweke has a great friendship with Mariners CEO John Stanton and because of that, he took a minute to pause and thank the Mariners. When the Mariners’ playoff run last season, Leiweke said when the Mariners were fighting for their playoff lives against the Houston Astros last season, the organization took time to give people from the NHL offices an important tour around T-Mobile Park.
“I think just hosting it, there’s a ton of ambition in pulling it off,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke said they want the event to impact the community and make it feel unique to Seattle. He also touched on leaving some legacy once the game leaves Seattle when its over.
But with the question of why the Kraken won’t be playing the Vancouver Canucks, which many fans would think to be more logical, Leiweke said it actually becomes a league event.
“It’s really quite interesting, they take over production, they allocate a certain amount of tickets for the season ticket members, but at the end of the day, they consult but they’re the ones that orchestrated what the teams were,” Leiweke said.
With that, he said it’s important that they accommodate everybody when it comes to their ticket holders.
“The league does run it, they’ll do the game ops, we’re going to show up with our fans, it’ll be a home game for us,” Leiweke said. “Another great thing is the league is gonna bring all their muscle to produce not just a great game, but events around it. But they will get to manage ticketing and other things, but we get to do carveouts of all our season ticket holders.”
Leiweke said that he thought NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has seen what’s happened in Seattle with the growth of the franchise and construction of the arena and was inspired by it.
“We fixed the arena, we brought this team to life under pretty difficult circumstances for our fans,” Leiweke said. “I think what the fans have done is inspiring and I think that when I talked to Gary about it, we talked about rewarding our fans for amazing, amazing support.”
Leiweke said he’s been in this industry for a long time and that the fans are as great as he’s ever worked for in his career.
“They’ve taken a leap of faith after leap of faith and this is going to be an incredible reward for them to show up and invite literally tens of thousands of their friends, neighbors and other sports fans across the region to come and witness this,” Leiweke aid.
He said it’s a fantastic thing and that Bettman bought the idea that they owe it to their fans. Leiweke talked about how it’s different than a draft because fans will actually be able to show up, engage and cheer. He said they’re also going to figure out other things they can do to extend the event. Leiweke really drove home the fact of the teams in Seattle support each other and the incredible fan bases the city has. But there is one event he said they still hope to host and that’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs.