SEATTLE – Pick a rival, any rival.
One of the great things about getting an expansion franchise is that the rivalry possibilities are endless. The Seattle Kraken haven’t played a single game, so there is no history to build the hatred that fuels some of the greatest rivalries in sports.
The Kraken haven’t yet had the chance to build animosity the way Sonics fans felt about Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Utah Jazz in the 1990s.
However, sometimes proximity is a good place to start; it’s easy to develop a disdain for the teams in your backyards. A great example is the MLS Cascadia Cup, which pits the Sounders against rivals Portland and Vancouver.
When looking at potential rivals for the Kraken, the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are two teams that jump out. Geographic proximity alone should make these teams quick enemies for Seattle fans.
It should also be noted that, since the Las Vegas Golden Knights were the most recent expansion franchise before the Kraken, it would make sense that Seattle’s NHL franchise would quickly develop a rivalry with that team, given their age in the league.
Today, though, we’re talking about potential proximity rivalries.
Let’s start with the Canucks.
For years, people pitched Seattle as a great hockey market, because of how close the city was to Vancouver. Back then, Canucks tickets were tough to secure, so it was widely assumed people would make the drive south to Seattle so they could catch an NHL game.
When this was a prevailing narrative, the Canucks were one of the top teams in the league, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010-11 before falling to the Boston Bruins in seven games.
Since then, though, Vancouver has failed to make the playoffs more often than it has qualified for the postseason and this season is off to a rough start with the Canucks next to last place in the North Division (8-13).
The Canucks’ recent struggles could be good news for the Kraken, the chance to grab some early momentum in the PNW rivalry.
Given that the teams are a reasonable car or train ride away, expect there to be a lot of fans from each market traveling to the rival city for games, which should make for a fun atmosphere that provides some early tension between franchises.
The Sharks, on the other hand, have been a mainstay in the postseason. Since 2003-04, San Jose has only failed to qualify for the postseason twice. The Sharks have been in the NHL since 1991, but have yet to secure a Stanley Cup championship.
In fact, San Jose has earned quite the reputation for postseason disappointment. The Sharks did advance to the Conference Finals in 2018-19, and the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015-16 But, for the most part, regardless of the team’s regular-season records, opposing fans typically feel pretty good when they draw the Sharks in the postseason.
Like the Canucks, the Sharks are struggling this season, sitting in next to last place in their division (7-8). However, San Jose is certainly next up in the series of fierce Seattle-Bay Area rivalries.
Will the Canucks and Sharks become the Kraken’s biggest rivals? Will it be the Golden Knights? Will something happen in Year 1 that vaults another squad into most-hated-rival status? Only time will tell. And, that’s the beauty of getting to experience the journey of an expansion franchise.