Remember this day because three new additions to the Seattle Kraken will be making your days and rinkfuls of memories for many seasons ahead.
The Kraken announced Friday the hiring of its first team broadcaster, Everett Fitzhugh, plus two highly respected and accomplished fans-first executives, Jonny Greco as senior vice president of game presentation and live entertainment and Lamont Buford as vice president of game presentation.
Truth is, any one of the three new Kraken would merit his own announcement and fanfare. Combining the three is only fitting, though, because it feels a bit like how the Kraken home games will unfold for fans-just so many fun and wonderful things to see, hear, enjoy and remember.
"After the sport of hockey itself, we want to make an indelible impression on fans when the lights go out or the goal horn sounds or what goal song plays," said Greco by phone Thursday. "It's all about listening to Kraken fans and figuring out how to create the memories."
Greco's a born storyteller, which is what game presentation is all about from his view: "We want to create an event that fans will talk about the next day."
Greco's sports entertainment credentials are worth talking about too. He's worked previously with the Florida Marlins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Cavaliers, World Wrestling Entertainment and most recently at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. He helped create and launch the game presentation experience for the Vegas Golden Knights, which unquestionably turned heads around the NHL and put smiles on multitudes of fans.
Joining Greco will be Buford to establish an instant one-two game presentation punch unmatched in the NHL. Buford, beloved around the hockey circuit by all accounts, comes to Seattle fresh from his senior director of game presentation role with the Arizona Coyotes. Before that, Buford was the director of game entertainment and youth hockey for the St. Louis Blues. His zest for hockey-and inspiring hockey fans-first emerged while working in the American Hockey League with the Hershey (PA) Bears. What's more, he's worked in baseball, tennis, high school sports and boxing, along with non-sports events such as Ace Comic Con.
"Jonny and I have known each other for quite a while but we've never worked together," said Buford by phone Thursday, still in Arizona to be on hand for the start of his daughters' school years. "His experience and his level of storytelling to reach every individual always has fans leaving the arena saying, 'Wow.' I have reached out to Jonny on a mentor basis at times. It's a dream come true to work together with the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.
Buford is focused on the wow factor himself: "I've operated like every day is another day to create fun and memories and moments for fans. When they leave, we want to have changed their lives for the better."
Connecting with fans and creating an immersive hockey is the ultimate ambition for Fitzhugh as well. He joins the Kraken in a team broadcaster role that will be crafted as he works for the franchise. Expect him to be a major personality and voice for the team. He is living his dream to become an NHL broadcaster. In fact, attending his first game in person as a kid, he turned to his mother to say, "I want to be a hockey announcer."
"I want Kraken fans to know I share their passion for hockey and the inaugural season of this franchise," said Fitzhugh, who starts his position Sept. 1 and will be moving west mid-September. "I intend to be out in the community and meeting fans when the time is right. Until then, we will create other ways to reach out."
Fitzhugh spent the last five seasons with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League, a developmental pro league for the NHL. He held the dual role as the Cyclones' director of media relations and broadcasting. Fitzhugh was responsible for all matters relating to broadcasting and media relations, plus serving as the team's official spokesperson. His time in Cincinnati included Fitzhugh guest-broadcasting his first NHL game for the Washington Capitals as well as serving on the broadcast crew for the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic.
"As someone who's worked in hockey for more than a decade, to be named a part of the broadcast and content team for a brand-new NHL franchise - particularly one with an organization as strong as the Kraken - is a dream come true," Fitzhugh said. "Getting to the NHL has always been my goal. I look forward to representing the Kraken organization throughout the greater Seattle community."
"Everett has established himself as a unique and leading voice for hockey," said Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seattle Kraken. "He's going to bring tremendous energy and talent to our broadcast and content team, and we can't wait for our fans to get to know him.
Greco says he and new running mate Buford also plan to be out in the community: "We plan to listen to fans. There's a big difference between listening to and hearing from fans. We want to learn about the city and Pacific Northwest. We will meet with other Seattle teams that have created amazing and lasting traditions. We plan to get out to study the culture and all the places that are touristy and not."
"Jonny and Lamont will be a spectacular one-two punch," said Leiweke. "It's really exciting and going to be such a cool part of the Kraken story. What they create will be unique to Seattle and our fans. They both bring so much intelligence and energy. With Climate Pledge Arena and our technology resources, there are no alibis. We will be a world-class leader in game presentation for our fans."