SEATTLE — Selling the NHL to bring the 2024 Winter Classic to the Pacific Northwest necessitated the purchase of a protective plan — a retractable roof.
Next year’s version of the NHL New Year’s showcase will be played outdoors in Seattle, with the Kraken hosting the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Park, the league announced Tuesday.
But the decision to host the game on the West Coast for the first time required the added security of the retractable roof on MLB’s Mariners home field should Seattle’s familiar winter rains hit.
“We just want to stop and say thank you to Mariners for their support because with our weather we needed the potential for a roof and we had the perfect neighbor.” said Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke. “And not only did they agree, they helped us sell the league and do our best.”
The NHL announced the matchup for one of its flagship events before Boston and Pittsburgh met at Fenway Park in 2023. The game between the Golden Knights and Kraken will be played on January 1, 2024 and will bring together the two newest franchises in the league.
Seattle previously held the expansion draft in the summer leading up to its debut season. It had been in talks in the past to host the NHL draft or an All-Star game.
NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said bringing the Winter Classic to Seattle has been on the league’s wish list since the city was awarded an expansion franchise in December 2018.
And while Husky Stadium or Lumen Field would have offered larger venues for the event, the NHL wanted the retractable roof’s protection both for the game and in the weeks leading up to rink setup.
“The ability to actually cover the rink as we build the rink in the weeks leading up to the game was actually one of the defining factors as to why we play at the ballpark.” said Mayer.
Leiweke said he sees Seattle as a strong endorsement of the NHL as the Winter Classic landed in just the third season of the franchise.
“I think the league loves what happened here.” said Leiweke. “I think the league is excited about the ongoing development of the Seattle Kraken and Seattle as a hockey marketplace. We made our case effectively and we are delighted. This is a big thing for us.”
The Kraken becomes the 29th NHL franchise to participate in an outdoor game. Only Columbus, Florida and Arizona have yet to participate in an outdoor game.
Vegas previously participated in an outdoor game in 2021 when it faced Colorado on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada.
“Next year seems a long way off but it’s going to be exciting and you’ll feel like a kid again.” Vegas goalie Logan Thompson said.
T-Mobile Park will be the eighth ballpark to host the game, joining Fenway Park, Citi Field, Target Field, Busch Stadium, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park and Wrigley Field.
Even with the roof closed, the sides of the stadium remain open to the elements. The retractable roof also closes in adjustable sections, allowing for ice coverage while leaving other sections open to the elements.
Mayer said the placement of the ice in the stadium will depend on how the roof section can be placed to provide the most protection when needed on game day.
T-Mobile Park is also hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game this season on July 11, the second time the Mariners have held the event at the stadium. It has previously hosted concerts, a one-season college bowl game, and WWE’s WrestleMania in 2003.