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'Pride' Preview

Almost here and long anticipated, the first annual Seattle Pride Classic presented by Symetra skates into existence this weekend. Four teams, 56 players, hundreds of likely fans, two co-founders and a Kraken team broadcaster will mark the occasion

by Bob Condor / @SeattleKraken / NHL.com/Kraken

It is now just days until the first puck drop of this weekend's first-ever Seattle Pride Classic presented by Symetra, but the hockey event is years in the making. 

Co-founders Steven Thompson and Joey Gale started talking about the Seattle Pride Hockey Association (SPHA) practically from when they first met at local hockey skills clinic in the fall of 2018. They planned the inaugural "Classic" for last June, Pride Month 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic benched the rollout. 

But like the resilient hockey players they both are, Thompson and Gale absorbed the knockdown, then stayed upright in pursuit of the end goal-in this case, the four-team, 56-player event at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace Saturday and Sunday.

"I'm more of an operations guy, logistics is my strong suit," says Thompson, who grew up here attending Seattle Thunderbirds games with his father. "Joey is strong on marketing and sponsorships."

The two men are clearly getting the job done, along with a volunteer staff willing to put in long hours to create and this weekend execute on the SPHA event. Thompson says he can't wiat to hand out swag bags to all players, plus a commemorative jersey from Hockeywolf for every participant. 

The sponsorship list is impressive. Symetra, the first founding partner and official life insurance part of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena, committed to the title role. Symetra is joined by other hockey-centric product sponsors Bauer, Coastal Hockey, Hockeywolf, Howie's Hockey Tape, No Name Hockey, Pride Tape, Sockey and Warrior, plus the NHL. Other supporters include B. Liesse Photography, Iron Horse Brewery, James King Roofing, Liquid I.V., Seattle Metropolitans and Women's Pro Hockey Seattle.

There will be round-robin games Saturday, culminating in the third-fourth place game Sunday at 12 noon and championship game at 2 p.m. All fans are welcome for the free event. Check out the full details at seattlepridehockey.com.

Kraken team broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh will be on hand to man the public address microphone for the final two games on Sunday. Players and fans alike can expect lively conversation (maybe even a bit of mixtape good-kind-of-hype too) and special guests, including Trinity Parker, senior vice president of marketing, communications and public affairs at Symetra. 

The four teams are all named in honor of activists "who fought, sacrificed and helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ rights": Team Marsha (Johnson); Team Harvey (Milk); Team Laverne (Cox); and Team Edie (Windsor).

Thompson formed the four teams from 56 players who all registered to play in less than nine hours when signups were live online. He used a survey registration to determine players' skating and hockey skill levels, experience and preferences on which friends they might like to join on a squad. 

Tweet from @SEAPrideHockey: Thanks for the love, @NHL! 🌈������ https://t.co/tyNc5sNntm

The SPHA co-founder rated all players from one to 10, then "snaked" through the four rosters, evenly distributing 1's, 2's and so on through 10's. "Average age is 32 and skill levels average to 6," says Thompson, proving the point that SPHA welcomes novices along with more seasoned players and that Thompson is indeed great at the details.

"We want to be a voice and support system for anybody who wants to play or who knows how to play but doesn't play because they might be nervous about it," says Thompson. "We're not about forming gay teams or any exclusive team. We want to be inclusive and bring hockey closer to underrepresented groups."

That effort is already under way via SPHA and future events will be announced throughout the upcoming hockey season. The Seattle Pride Classic 2021 will fittingly amplify the message of inclusion and growing the sport. 

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