The new Kraken Training Center in the city's Northgate neighborhood will serve up three ice rinks, beginning this fall. They'll host hockey games morning to late night, the Kraken's inaugural training camp, practices for the NHL team and all levels of youth, figure skating programs, public skating, learn-to-skate clinics and classes, learn-to-play sessions, curling, broomball and more, much more.
It all makes for smiles among skaters and can't-wait-to-be-Kraken-fans alike. Truth be told, all that activity will probably make us hungry and maybe a little thirsty too.
Mick McHugh is here to fuel the passion and the palate. When the Bar & Grill opens at the training center in the fall, the legendary restaurateur will operate the must-visit-to-believe-it destination in partnership with the NHL's 32nd franchise.
"I count myself first as a loyal Seattle sports fan from the early days of the Sonics, through the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders," says McHugh, who has opened 16 restaurants/bars in Seattle, most famously F.X. McRory's in Pioneer Square in 1977, steps away the Kingdome. "It's only right that now I can help welcome the Kraken to the city."
The Bar & Grill will be nothing short of a daily welcoming party for every fan, skater, parent, broomballer, city visitor, you name it, walking through its doors. McHugh is known for establishments featuring first-name service (he calls it "conviviality"), delicious food, a wide selection of draft beers and spirits and, most of all, an atmosphere of belonging.
"Win or lose, we want everyone to feel on board," says McHugh, now in his sixth decade of showing up at his places on the regular, greeting guests and staff. "It will be a joyous place. Seattle fans know we are lucky to have our sports teams. From watching practices to just being in the home of the Kraken, this is going to be a great place for everyone to gather and share their love for the city and its teams."
The stats on the new Bar & Grill:
- Capacity of 300-plus patrons in the dining and bar areas; private dining space for 40
- Overlooks two of the three rinks, positioned between the Kraken's "Rink 1" practice rink and "Rink 2"
- 17 televisions, also views of the 15-foot by 25-foot LED video board in "Rink 1"
- Kitchen led by an executive chef serving a fan-favorites menu to customers and preparing Kraken players' training center meals and snacks under the guidance of Gary Roberts, the team's sport science and performance consultant
- The menu will offer quality, locally sourced food and drink with F.X. McRory's influences
The bar and grill intends to respectfully join the city's established "hockey bars" and sports bars/restaurants along with those in a planned network of Kraken hockey bars throughout the team's region of Washington, Alaska and Oregon. The bar and grill will be hockey-forward, but fans will always be able to cheer on Seattle's other beloved teams when games are on the schedule.
Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke, who previously led the Seahawks and Sounders organizations, is "thrilled about what Mick is now about to do for Kraken fans and the hockey and skating community."
"We are building a unique bar experience and he is the perfect person to execute it," says Leiweke. "Mick is renowned in this city."
One unique feature is Kraken fans can not only gather for home and road games but be on hand to watch NHL practices and/or get insight into how the team trains and prepares for NHL competition.
"Rather than waiting for the next home game, Kraken fans can come to Bar & Grill and engage with their team every day of the week," said McHugh. "We're pioneering in a different neighborhood [from his previous 16 places] and we will mold into what fans want, including gravy over fries [one or more versions of poutine]."
Registration for hockey, skating and beginners programs will begin this spring, but fans will have to wait to see any fun signature moments that were common with McHugh as the operator. Seattle insiders might recall a singing bartender or the then-unheard of 28 draft beer taps in McRory's or McHugh flying in the first bottles of certain French champagnes to be served at his restaurants.
Many Seattle sports fans know about or have viewed the painting of the McRory's bar scene painted by famed artist LeRoy Neiman (who was regularly commissioned by NBC and other networks to paint scenes from the Olympics or Super Bowl). McHugh met Neiman in McRory's one night for a late dinner after the artist's gallery opening in 1980.
Neiman admired the hundreds of spirits bottles on full public display at the front bar, remarking he had not seen any such splendor in his world travels. In fact, the display count was indeed designated in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The two men talked about whether Neiman would be willing to paint the scene. It got complicated-mostly because Neiman was so much in demand-but after many phone messages, Neiman agreed to a then-high-priced $100,000 commission.
The project stalled until McHugh and partner Tim Firnstahl got the artist's attention by purchasing $25,000 in gold from a federal assay office in Delaware then personally delivering the bouillons to Neiman's New York City apartment. The painting (which includes an actual bottle label that was soaked off and sent to Neiman for artistic detail) became the bar's calling card to Seattleites and the world.
That was then and still brings laughs from McHugh via a recent Zoom call. But the "now" has McHugh inspired about what will await fans and players (from NHL to the tiniest girls and boys) at the Bar & Grill.
"The sky's the limit," says McHugh. "We'll accommodate everyone involved with hockey, figure skating, curling. We'll have special events for the broomball crowd. The glass walls to the rink will make us different, where you can see your favorite skaters, maybe a child or spouse. We're going to take care of you.
"The timing of the Bar & Grill is so perfect. In a city that has introduced so many prosperous industries to the world, with such a rich history of bringing people together through sports, we get to do it again in the hockey industry."