Winter Classic creates lasting memories for Kraken players

Yanni Gourde, Tye Kartye, Brandon Tanev and Tomas Tatar reminisce about their 2024 Winter Classic experience in Seattle.

Winter Classic creates lasting memories for Kraken players

Feature photo: Getty Images

For Seattle Kraken teammates, the 2024 NHL Winter Classic felt reminiscent of their hockey roots.

Although the New Year’s Day game between the Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights a 3-0 win for the hometown team was the club’s first-ever outdoor game experience, it felt like a walk down memory lane for Brandon Tanev.

“Playing outdoors as a kid, I think is where a lot of us fell in love with the game,” said Tanev, a veteran of over 400 regular-season NHL games.

“You would rush home after school to get to the outdoor rink and then play until you had to be home. All your friends throwing their sticks on the ice and having someone close their eyes and throw sticks picking teams it was the best time. You would be searching for pucks in the snow, and it would be freezing cold, but no one would ever say no.”

Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 47,313 at T-Mobile Park, home of the MLB’s Seattle Mariners, however, made for a larger audience than childhood pickup games.

“I think, personally, the biggest highlight was seeing how cool of an experience it was for our families, friends and everyone who attended the game. It was incredible to see the smiles of everyone, whether it was at the family skate or walking into the arena, or just the pure joy and excitement of fans who attended the game. It was a great day for the city of Seattle, and I think it will be an event that everyone will remember.”

The 15th edition of the Winter Classic was the winger’s second NHL outdoor experience.

Tanev, at the time with the Winnipeg Jets, faced off against Jordan Eberle and the Edmonton Oilers in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg before the two became teammates in Seattle.

For two-time Stanley Cup champion Yanni Goude, Jan. 1 marked the forward’s first NHL outdoor game experience.

Gourde, who hails from Quebec, did more than just play outdoor hockey growing up. Gourde’s father and uncle maintained his town’s outdoor rink, located a three-minute walk from the Gourde home.

For three years, the forward, who spent several hours on the rink with his two brothers, helped his dad and uncle to keep the ice surface in tip-top shape.

“I played all the time at the outdoor rink with my dad and my brothers when I was growing up. I would spend all day and night there, the cold air in your face and sun in your eyes loved it out there.”

Gourde, who recently played in his 500th NHL game, was in awe about his first NHL outdoor experience.

“The set-up was beautiful. They did an amazing job with it, but to me, it was the electric atmosphere from the fans. It was special. It was so loud just a surreal moment.”

Tye Kartye had a similar takeaway about skating in his first NHL outdoor game.

“Standing for the national anthem, seeing the crowd, and watching the two helicopters [from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue] fly over the stadium gave me chills,” said the 22-year-old rookie.

“That was amazing. The whole event was just unbelievable.”

For the Kraken’s newest member, Tomas Tatar, the 2024 Winter Classic was his third NHL outdoor contest. The winger, who was traded to Seattle from Colorado on Dec. 15, recorded two points with Detroit in both the 2017 Centennial Classic at BMO Field in Toronto and the 2016 Stadium Series at Coors Field in Denver.

“What stood out for me, other than winning the game, was definitely the atmosphere and fans. During the anthem, you could tell this is special.

“I received a lot of messages from back home in Slovakia. Playing on Jan. 1 in primetime, the only game being played that day in the whole league, everybody was watching it was definitely special. I am sure they enjoyed it.”

As did Tatar’s partner, Veronicka, who was in the stands for the game.

“She really enjoyed it all. It’s a lot different than playing in a hockey arena. I am sure that families and friends of all the players had a lot of fun. We were happy they could be a part of it. There was so much for them to see.” 

The long list of highlights included bold fashion statements made by both teams.

A Winter Classic tradition, teams have been known to dress up for their arrival at the stadium.

Kraken players sported fishmonger-inspired attired, donning rubber boots and colourful overalls while holding fish and coffee all an ode to Seattle culture and the Pike Place Fish Market.

Vegas players dressed as Elvis, complete with wigs, glasses and rhinestone suits.

Along with a variety of family-friendly events, the stadium showcased a nautical theme in a nod to the franchise’s history.

As for the game, Seattle outscored Vegas thanks to goals from Eeli Tolvanen, Will Borgen and Gourde. Goaltender Joey Daccord posted a 35-save shutout to become the first to accomplish the feat in the history of the Winter Classic. 

The win was just another example, noted Tanev, of the magic of outdoor hockey.

“It’s truly something we all will remember. I think we all were excited for the game and the event but when you walked out and saw how amazing it was, and how loud it was, we were all blown away. The support we received was unmatched. It was a great day for hockey itself.”