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The fans speak

NHL Seattle fans get together with CEO Tod Leiweke and Senior Advisor Dave Tippett to talk everything from start times to happy hours.

Fans play name game

Fan forum offers chance to discuss team colors, arena amenities, hockey and ‘good pressure’

By Bob Condor

Proving the pledge to involve NHL Seattle fans in everything from the team name to its colors to mobile connectivity, the club hosted another installment of its continuing series of Fan Forums.

The latest forum unfolded at Queen Anne Beerhall on a one of those picture-perfect Friday afternoons that makes all of us swoon over Seattle spring and summer cloudless days.

Over steins of German draft beers and plates of pretzels and grilled sausages (yes, with grilled onions and sauerkraut), a couple handfuls of season-ticket depositors traded ideas and preferences with NHL Seattle President and CEO Tod Leiweke, Senior Hockey Adviser Dave Tippett and Senior Vice President of Business Operations John Rizzardini.

Of course, the team name was top of mind.

“We have this discussion at the office a lot,” said one fan, who mentioned he is ready to cheer on the Seattle NHL club as much as his current allegiance to the Sounders MLS squad. “There are some names in the news we like and some we don’t like.”

As the conversation progressed, there was a lot of support for a team name that reflects the region while others vied for a name with alliteration. Most participants liked the idea of green and blue being part of the color scheme.

“Green is sort of necessary,” said one female fan who noted she and her husband will make at least 15 games per season since having school-age kids makes it hard to attend all games.

Another female fan, a marine biologist, offered an atmospheric entry: “I like the idea of grays and silvers like our skies,” she said.

The fans were rapt when hockey operations chief Tippett talked about whether the Seattle franchise can match the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, who made it to the Stanley Cup Final during their inaugural season in 2017-18.

Tippett explained the expansion draft will be the same for Seattle as Vegas: 30 NHL teams (Vegas is excluded from losing players) can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or one goalie plus eight skaters regardless of positions.

That means some formidable goalies will be available, said Tippett. Depending on the format, “you can get a team’s fifth-best forward or fourth-best defenseman,” which translates  to players who get significant ice time with their current teams. NHL talent evaluators frequently talk about the skill levels of the “top-six forwards” and “first two defensive pairs.”

“Everybody’s thinking they will be smarter [about the expansion draft],” said Tippett, “but so will we.”

Tippett mentioned that he wants to draft “hungry players.” He acknowledged the Vegas surge (including another solid season just ended).

“It is extra pressure on us, but a good pressure,” said Tippett.

Seattle CEO Leiweke then provided an update on the New Arena at Seattle Center before exciting the long communal table of depositors as he discussed how “ownership gave us permission to build [a three-rink complex] at Northgate.”

“I live nearby but play my beer league hockey far away from my place,” said one male fan. “It will be so great to skate and play at Northgate.”

There many nods of enthusiasm. A quick show of hands revealed most everyone at the table knows how to skate.

When the conversation turned to the in-arena experience, more than few people said cell phone connectivity will be paramount. They were excited about ordering food from the seats or following the NHL’s new puck and player tracking stats, but only if the wireless is foolproof.

Another fan said “lighting technology has come a long way” so he expects in-game programming to wow him and his kids.

The Fan Forums will continue this summer, but for now all fans can offer their opinions on the team name, colors, fan experiences, transportation and more through the recently launched #LiveHockey fan site, which received more than 212,000 submissions in the first week.

That’s our kind of powerplay.