A major part of how millions of fans will watch the Seattle Kraken is complete, with Seattle Mariners-owned ROOT Sports NW agreeing to a multiyear partnership that will see the regional sports network (RSN) broadcast about 75 of the NHL expansion team’s games annually.
In addition, the Kraken have signed NBC Sports commentator John Forslund to a five-year contract as their television play-by-play man for all ROOT Sports games. Forslund, until the playoffs last season, had worked Carolina Hurricanes TV and radio broadcasts since 1995 after joining the organization in 1991 when it was the Hartford Whalers.
The Kraken become the second major Seattle sports team with the majority of games carried by ROOT Sports, which will pay an undisclosed annual rights fee to the NHL club. The network is already home to the Mariners and Portland Timbers as well as the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Big Sky Conference and Seahawks non-game programming.
“We have tried at every turn to do things right on behalf of our fans,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said in an interview Tuesday. “Our fans will now be able to see games over a vast territory, in sports bars other commercial establishments. And they’ll get to hear a guy in John (Forslund) who’s at the top of his class in play-by-play.”
The rest of the TV broadcast crew has yet to be announced. The Kraken had previously announced the hiring of Everett Fitzhugh — the first Black play-by-play broadcaster with an NHL team — who is expected to handle radio and possibly some TV responsibilities.
Forslund left the Hurricanes last summer after a breakdown in contract talks. His deal expired at what was supposed to be the end of the season and he wasn’t retained to call playoff games when the pandemic-impacted postseason began in August.
Instead, he worked playoff “bubble” games for NBC in both Toronto and Edmonton. In an interview Tuesday, he said he missed the daily interaction with a team and the community aspects that go along with it.
“If you’re a broadcaster and you do national work, you’re at the highest level and that’s terrific — you’re serving a local audience and a national one, that’s great,” said Forslund, who will continue to do select national games while working full-time for the Kraken. “But with a team there’s a real connection with one singular fan base and then there’s community work and there’s there’s that connection with the team.
“And I did an awful lot with the Hurricanes and that was part of the difficulty in separating myself from that as I look back. But I’ve gone through that process of going through that personal frustration and turning the corner. And I was lucky enough to be offered this kind of a blue sky opportunity, and so that’s equally as rewarding as doing the games.”
ROOT Sports is majority owned by the Mariners in a partnership with AT&T. The head of AT&T Sports, Patrick Crumb, lives in the Seattle area and was instrumental in launching Vegas Golden Knights broadcasts for that expansion team in 2017.
The deal calls for ROOT Sports to implement an alternate channel whenever Kraken and Mariners games overlap. ROOT Sports will carry all Kraken preseason games for at least next fall’s debut campaign as well as any first-round playoff matchups for the team alongside the standard national telecast.
AT&T also operates an over-the-top streaming service that carries its RSN partners, meaning anyone subscribing would get ROOT Sports and Kraken games included.