Let’s go outside, shall we? The news was made official Monday that the next Winter Classic will be played at T-Mobile Park between the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights on New Year’s Day, 2024.
“Outdoor hockey is at the essence of our game and the way many of our players grew up playing,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis via press release. “We are thrilled to have the chance to showcase this in Seattle.”
Putting it in Seattle and featuring the league’s two newest teams will certainly bring a fresh look to the tentpole event. The Winter Classic has garnered big-time national interest since Pittsburgh and Buffalo first played an unforgettable game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008. But the NHL has reached a point where all of its more “historic” U.S.-based franchises have played in the Winter Classic multiple times, and the most compelling and historic venues across the nation have been used.
In fact, the announcement came just prior to the 2023 Discover Winter Classic, being played between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Those teams have now combined to appear in the event six times, while the venue being used—Fenway Park—already hosted the outdoor game in 2010.
A fresh look is needed, and Seattle is the perfect next stop.
“We are honored that the NHL has selected the Kraken, in just our second season, to host this amazing event at the home of our friends, the Mariners,” said Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke. “Over 40,000 fans will witness the beauty and grace of our wonderful game in a venue that showcases the Puget Sound surrounded by the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.”
It’s an enormous get for the Kraken franchise, which—in 2023-24—will be playing in just its third season. This will surely expand interest in the team both locally and nationally and give it a huge stage to show off the exciting brand the organization has worked so hard to build.
While it would be more visually stunning to host the 2024 Winter Classic at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, T-Mobile Park was always the only viable option for the event in Seattle. Rain is one of the worst things that can happen for an outdoor hockey game, and it so happens the Puget Sound area gets plenty of it in the winter. That effectively ruled out Husky Stadium and Lumen Field, which do not have retractable roofs.
But T-Mobile Park, with its umbrella-style retractable roof, can close and shield the playing surface from precipitation, while staying open on the sides to still give those in attendance the feel of being at an outdoor game.
The beloved stadium, home of the Seattle Mariners, remains one of the more scenic ballparks in Major League Baseball. It will provide a unique backdrop for one of hockey’s largest annual spectacles.
When Seattle launched its Reverse Retro jerseys earlier this season, we heard from a credible source within the Kraken organization that the team was intentionally holding off on creating a Seattle Metropolitans-themed jersey. The source told us they wanted to keep that in their back pocket for a larger event, specifically calling out the Winter Classic.
So, although nothing is set in stone on this piece, feel free to start designing your Metropolitans concepts now.
This is incredible news for the Kraken and for the NHL. The Winter Classic has been a windfall for the league and every team that has gotten to participate over its 14-year history, and 2024 will be no different.
Vegas is also the perfect opponent choice. There seems to be a rivalry brewing between the Golden Knights—the team that burst onto the scene in 2017-18 and ran all the way to the Stanley Cup Final—and the Kraken, who have been answering constant questions about why they haven’t had a similar start to their franchise history. Both teams will benefit from being on this picturesque and widely watched stage.
And selfishly, we can’t wait to experience the pageantry that comes with an event like this, right here in our own backyard. The Winter Classic has become a staple for hockey fans around the world, and all eyes will be on Seattle when 2024 comes around.
As Boston’s players arrived at Fenway Park Monday, they turned heads by walking in wearing old-timey Red Sox uniforms. Previously, we’ve seen costume themes from “Peaky Blinders”-type outfits to beach garb in below-zero temps. Images like that are what make the event so special, and our wheels are already turning for how Kraken players will dress when they arrive to T-Mobile Park in early 2024.
Buckle up, folks. This going to be exciting.