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Kraken New Ground in Seattle's Broadcast Booth

In many areas, the Seattle Kraken have been the model franchise for diversity in the NHL. That has fully extended to the media group that covers the team, too.
Everett Fitzhugh and J.T. Brown

When it comes to debuts of expansion teams, Seattle's had to be one of the most anticipated ones. 

Building the team on the ice was one thing. Off the ice, the team has been among the most proactive when it comes to diversity in their front office, social staff, their credentialed beat reporters, and their broadcast teams.

In August of 2020, the Kraken made history with the announcement that Everett Fitzhugh would become the first Black full-time broadcast voice of an NHL franchise, serving as the club's radio play-by-play man.

This past summer, the Kraken would add former NHLer J.T. Brown to the TV side of the broadcast team to work alongside the legendary John Forslund. The hires have made Seattle the first franchise to have two Black on-air voices simultaneously.

For Fitzhugh, earning the role marks reaching a point that he's had for years as a broadcaster.

"It's a culmination of a dream that I've had for a very long time," Fitzhugh said. "Getting to the NHL is the first professional goal I'd ever set for myself. I used to tell myself NHL by 40 that was the goal. To get the job at 31, start here at 32, has been remarkable. I look back at my journey, and all the places I've been, it's been fun it's been a lot of hard work but it's something I wouldn't change for the world"

Before the franchise's first game, Fitzhugh was used in a variety of online segments and digital platforms, helping to sharpen his status with the team and its fanbase.

It all led up to a special evening on Oct. 23, a night nobody will forget. For a city excited to kick things off at Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken welcomed Vancouver for Seattle's first NHL home game. Fitzhugh had the honor of being on the call.

"It wasn't just 'oh man, Everett gets to be in the broadcast booth for the very first time," he said. "It was Everett gets to be in the broadcast booth for the very first time for the Seattle Kraken representing an organization that has so many great people, so many great ideas, representing a community and a town and a region that has been waiting for this for so long."

For Brown, the thought of jumping into the television booth likely didn't cross his mind off during his playing days. But now, he's diving in head first and having a blast.

"It's been fun, it's been difficult, I learn something every day, every game I try to get a little bit better," Brown said. "I know I'm not going to be the world's greatest broadcaster after 10 games or even after maybe the first year but if I can use that same mentality that I had playing, you know whether if it's the training aspect or now it's preparing for every game, if I can translate some of that work ethic that I had on the ice to being up in the booth, I think this is something I can be successful at".

Both Fitzhugh and Brown know the impact they have as Kraken voices - not just as some of the first ones, but how being of a different background can show other minorities that a career in hockey is a reality.

"Not everyone is going to make it but there are other places in hockey for people that look like ourselves with the diverse organization that Seattle has created and the atmosphere they created," Brown said. "There are those spots in hockey, to be able to see a person like Everett, you saw him everywhere! I love seeing all the stories, him flying up to Alaska, doing all these things, maybe a kid watches that and says I don't want to play hockey, but I love hockey I want to do what he's doing. Or maybe there's a kid who has a passion for broadcasting and they see me and say maybe that's what I want to do. It's just giving people another avenue, representation is key."

The push to make the game diverse has been something the Kraken takes pride in - not only in the broadcast booth but in other elements of the team. American hockey legend Cammi Granato serves as a pro scout, Chanel Keenan as their intersectionality consultant, Namita Nadakumar is in the club's analytics group as a senior quantitative analyst and Zack Peggins is their social media specialist.

"It's not just your standard P.R. line, it is a fundamental belief, it is a basis of our organization that hockey is for everyone," Fitzhugh said. "If you are a historically underrepresented community, if you're Black, if you're Hispanic, if you're Asian, if you're a woman there is a place for you in this game. You belong in this game. Not only do J.T. and myself believe that, our entire organization to their core believes that".

The Kraken haven't excelled at the level Vegas did in its early days. But to Brown, the Kraken's work ethic has been strong out of the gate.

"What is good is that they're in every game right now, they've had chances to score and for whatever reason the puck is not going in," Brown said "It happens throughout a time in the season for players. I think the key thing for me, what I look at, is that they're playing close games. Besides the Philadelphia game, that's the only one so far that's been maybe not close, not a one-goal game with an empty net here or there. The team works extremely hard, they're going to put themselves in a position to win every game they play."

It's been a booming start for the NHL's newest franchise, and it's only going to go up from here - on and off the ice.

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