The Seattle Kraken were supposed to be the next great rival for the Vancouver Canucks. It seemed like a natural fit for the two teams separated only by a couple of hours and an international border to spark an instant geographical rivalry. Fans of both teams could easily travel to road games in the other city, playfully clashing in the stands as the teams clashed on the ice.
It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Rivalries are not born purely out of proximity. Instead, they are forged in the fires of hard-fought games, preferably in the playoffs. The Canucks have notable rivalries with the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks and they came from repeated playoff meetings. It’s not something that can be manufactured.
A rivalry could develop between the Canucks and Kraken but the Canucks would first have to get back to the playoffs. The Kraken, in just their second season in the NHL, cruised their way to the playoffs with a 100-point season, then upset the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche, in seven games in the first round. They followed that up by winning Game 1 on the road against the Dallas Stars in the second round.
And plenty of Canucks fans have been cheering them on as they’ve done it.
Instead of seeing Seattle as a rival, it turns out that many Canucks fans are instead lending their support to their Cascadian neighbours. An informal Twitter poll of nearly 2000 people found that 44.2% of respondents were Canucks fans rooting for the Kraken in the playoffs.
It’s not entirely surprising. Vancouver sports fans have long cheered for Seattle teams, particularly in sports where Vancouver doesn’t have a team. Football fans typically cheer for the Seattle Seahawks, basketball fans supported the Seattle Supersonics before they left town, and there’s a large contingent of Seattle Mariners fans in Vancouver, even if most baseball fans support the lone Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
When it comes to the NHL, the relationship goes the other way. Many hockey fans in Seattle supported the Canucks before the arrival of the Kraken.
So, for a lot of Canucks fans, Seattle doesn’t feel like a rival. While that could easily change in the future if and when the two teams battle in the playoffs but, for now, many Canucks fans have found reasons to support the Kraken instead.
For some fans, the geographical proximity doesn’t make the Kraken rivals but instead makes them easier to support. It also helps that the Kraken have a fast, exciting team with fantastic depth who are fun to watch. For Canucks fans that have seen their team flounder over the last eight years, it’s a nice change of pace.
The Kraken are easy to cheer for as the expansion underdog — but without the immediate, first-season success of the Vegas Golden Knights that made them so grating.
Some Canucks fans find it easy to cheer for the Kraken because they already live in Seattle.
Finally, some Canucks fans are rooting for the Kraken simply because they’re not the Dallas Stars or some other team that they hate more. Also, their jerseys really are quite nice.
That said, for many Canucks fans, their support for the Kraken is conditional. They want to see the Kraken do well but not too well.