Starting with a simple hello.
For several years, beginning with a dream that started with a microphone in college, traveled through stops in the ECHL and Western Hockey League, and required the embrace of a challenge to enjoy a journey - not a sprint - of "wearing different hats" (PR, social media, marketing, interior designer - go ahead, ask me) as a broadcaster, the goal remained the same:
Get to the mountain top in an NHL broadcast role.
I'll be enjoying this ride with you as radio pre-game, intermission, and post-game host for the Seattle Kraken on 950 KJR and the Kraken Audio Network. More on my background here (personal), with 13 years in the Puget Sound plus nearly 90 years of family who have lived here making this an ultimate dream come true. My goal will to deliver a listening experience you enjoy every night – highlighted as well by my famous colleague (and a pleasure now to call him a friend), Everett Fitzhugh, who will start his NHL career as radio play-by-play voice of the Kraken on Oct. 12, a date we have all circled on the calendar, against the host Vegas Golden Knights.
It didn't take long to go from these starting blocks to a full sprint.
Training camp is here.
It will be our mission every day to deliver as much texture as possible in real time, and prepare you for what's to come on each broadcast on Sports Radio 950-AM KJR.
Let history show on the historic first day of training camp for NHL hockey in Seattle:
- After fans filled the stands of the $80 million Kraken Community Iceplex (ages 12 and over requiring vaccination for admittance), the first two players on the ice in the glistening new three-rink venue ... no surprise based on stature - veterans combining for 21 years of NHL experience: Mark Giordano, and Joonas Donskoi. It's a moment for the Puget Sound that was indeed, frozen in time.
- Both players entered the ice surface to a round of applause. It would only be an omen: after each session, the team would leave the ice to a round of applause, which was immediately followed by their sticks hoisted toward the sky. Gratitude all around.
- Forward Yanni Gourde, selected from the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the expansion draft but reported to miss two months the first two months of the season after shoulder surgery, made it for the first day. He wore a red "no contact" jersey to provide puck touches and drill participation on ice, but for protection against heavy contact from teammates, potentially hazardous in high tempo drills.
- Lines and defensive pairings are subject to change daily, especially early in training camp when you will often hear phrases like "experiment." See below if you're curious about who skated with who. You can't take your eyes though off one combination of fellow veterans Marcus Johansson (left wing), Alex Wennberg (center), and Calle Jarnkrok (right wing), all from Sweden to form a line together coined by Ryan Clark of the The Athletic, "Swedish House Mafia."
- Goaltenders: you need good ones, and the Kraken are blessed with them. Take Philipp Grubauer and Chris Deidger for example: both slotted for potentially significant playing time in net, finishing last season in the NHL's top five for goals-against-average. Both were top eight in save percentage. Both were split between the two groups.
- First to the microphone in franchise history to speak after practice: Mark Giordano.
- Two groups of practices: several names that might be familiar to you from July's expansion draft and subsequent free agent deals were spread across the board, creating a mix of experience and youth - along with players who could find solid contribution roles either in the minor leagues, or with their major junior clubs.
- Still asking where's number two overall pick Matty Beniers? He's headed back to Michigan this season as part of the powerhouse Wolverines NCAA program for more seasoning, and NCAA players (or commits) aren't allowed to skate in NHL main camps.
GROUP 1 LINES - 9:40am
Schwartz - McCann - Eberle
Geekie - Donato - Donskoi
Kartye - Wilson - Appleton
Gates - Henman - MacKay
Giordano - Oleksiak
Lauzon - Borgen
C. Fleury - Oloffson
GROUP 2 LINES - 11:55am
Johansson - Wennberg - Jarnkrok
Tanev - Sheahan - Bastian
Twarynski - True - Melanson
Gourde / Lohin
H. Fleury - Soucy
Cholowski - Carrick
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PODIUM, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
Mark Giordano, comparing the first training camp with an expansion team, to his first in Calgary:
"You're going back 16 years now (laughs). Lot of excitement both times. A little more nervous my first training camp in Calgary, I got up early today and was excited to come to the rink and felt the energy of day one for sure. Something new for me too, I've been in the league for a long time but this is pretty cool."
Goaltender Phillip Grubauer on settling in while finding a new place:
"It's been a rough transition so far, given the housing market and apartments. We've been living the hotel life for three weeks but we're still looking. There's no pressure and we're taking our time. The city is incredible. I've got to experience some pockets of the city; I'm very excited."
Forward Jordan Eberle on the meaning of wearing a new jersey:
"It's a once in a lifetime thing. You're going to be one of the first players ever in this new franchise. You look at the fans who came out today - that stuff's rare. You don't see that in a lot of organizations. You look at the numbers they've had selling jerseys, season tickets - I've been here for a few weeks with family. Just walking around seeing Kraken jerseys, it's awesome. There's a lot of buzz around this team. We want to make sure we get the work in and give the people something to cheer about."
Goaltender Chris Driedger on the most important core value of being an ideal teammate, as a member of the Kraken:
"That's a good question. This team has been built and it seems from what Ron (Francis) has preached from the beginning is just - character people. Guys who can be gritty and know how to win the right way. It seems this team has been built from the ground up with character in mind, and I think that's the theme we'll take forward through the season."
Forward Alex Wennberg on the meaning of wearing Kraken colors, the first day of practice:
"We've been around skating, but getting around to the first day of camp, put the jerseys on and see the coaches out there, it's a great feeling. I bet if you watch a practice you'll see a lot of smiles, and even though it's hard working I feel like everyone's so excited and to see people watching us, it's been a blast to start it off."
Head coach Dave Hakstol on what he envisioned about this day, three months after being named inaugural head coach in franchise history:
"This was the day I had circled on my calendar. I'll be honest with you. I've been asked a couple times - the first game, the home opener, those things are looming in the future and are really exciting to look forward to. But this was the date I believe our entire staff and - if you ask the players - probably similar answer would be they had this date circled for a long time and get on the ice."
General Manager Ron Francis on the impact his staff made to prepare the Kraken Community Iceplex and team for the first day of camp:
"It was incredible. It wasn't just building this facility, it was also building Climate Pledge Arena downtown and we're looking at building one in Palm Springs. There's a lot of things going on, but we've had a lot of great people who've chipped in a lot of areas to get to this point. It's been a solid team effort, for sure."
Countdown to pre-season face-off: 3 days
Seattle Kraken vs. Vancouver Canucks, Spokane Arena, face-off at 6pm (950 AM KJR).