SEATTLE (AP) — The part-owner of the franchise who was once more known for his exploits on the football field led the way off the bus, followed by players clad in white T-shirts and orange overalls as a tribute to the fishmongers working across town at Pike Place Market.
A few minutes later, a gaggle of Elvises – or would it be Elvi? – strode their way into the stadium in white jumpsuits, sunglasses and mostly fake hair.
“Believe it or not, Paul Cotter didn’t even wear a wig. That’s just naturally his hair,” Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar said. “So he was pretty spot on.”
The 15th version of the NHL Winter Classic had a decidedly local flair as both the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights tapped into two of the most well-known aspects of their communities.
Eventually, the theatrics were replaced by actual hockey. Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 47,313, the Kraken posted a 3-0 victory, with Joey Daccord posting the first shutout in a Winter Classic.
“Just to walk out to the ice like that and hear the roar of the crowd was insane and I’ll never forget it,” Daccord said.
The victory capped a nearly perfect day for the home team. It started with Kraken minority owner Marshawn Lynch leading the team off the bus in outfits that paid tribute to the fishing industry and the workers at the nearby market who fling fish around every day.
Seattle’s Jordan Eberle said there was talk of ditching the T-shirts under the overalls, but, “I thought we’d look like firemen strippers.”
For the reigning Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights, well, was there any other choice than Elvis? It was the brainchild of veteran defenseman Alec Martinez.
“I mean, it’s literally Vegas,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said.
T-Mobile Park was transformed into a nautical landscape tapping into the region’s maritime influence for the meeting of the NHL’s two most recent expansion franchises. There were lakes created in the outfield, docks leading from the baseball clubhouses to the ice and a shipwreck in center field with the tentacles of a Kraken pulling the ship underwater.
The back of the shipwreck had a stage where Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Heart performed after the first intermission. The pregame featured Seattle native Sir Mix-a-Lot performing as the Kraken walked to the ice while stuffed fish were being thrown around them.
The NHL placed the game at the home of baseball’s Seattle Mariners in part because of the retractable roof in case protection from the Pacific Northwest’s notoriously wet weather was needed. But the league got its wish for an open-air game as fog burned off by late morning and a day of sun and clouds covered the ballpark.
“I think we’d be silly to try to normalize it. It’s not. It’s a different environment. It’s an awesome environment,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think everybody should acknowledge that. But at the same time, you have to dial in and acknowledge that the two points are equally as important as any other two points throughout the year.”
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