At the Ground Floor(ball)

Kraken donate 36 floorball kits to Federal Way Public Schools, putting the franchise at nearly 200 kits distributed to promote the fitness and fun in learning a new sport – By Bob Condor @ByBobCondor

While the Kraken are gearing up for the franchise’s third NHL season with competitive on-ice practices and four more preseason games, many schoolkids in Federal Way will be getting their first experience playing the sport this fall. That’s because the Kraken and One Roof Foundation recently donated 23 floorball kits to Federal Way Public Schools, complete with high-tech sticks, balls, and nifty official floorball goals that make every kid take notice.

Seattle’s NHL franchise has aspired to grow the sport of hockey from the early days, soon after the city was awarded the team in late 2018 and long before the team name was unveiled. One of the earliest floorball learn-to-play clinics was staged at Northgate Elementary, now a neighboring school for the team’s Kraken Community Iceplex.

More recently, this summer the Kraken donated kits to 36 Tacoma schools. To date, the team has donated nearly 200 kits to school districts in Tacoma, Seattle, Highline, Renton, and Tukwila. The kits are shared with local parks and recreation departments to be used during after-school hours.

“You don’t need ice or be able to skate,” says Andrew Bloom, Kraken manager of social impact and youth access. “It’s a really simple way for kids to learn the sport with no need for extra equipment.”

A gym floor or outdoor sports court is all players need to get a feel for ball-to-stick-blade and how to move with or without the ball/puck. When Kraken staffers teach a floorball clinic, it’s common for the youth participants to finish the hour with enough skills to stickhandle the floorball, shoot with some oomph, understand the value of passing, and, most of all, realize the potential fun.

The Kraken have targeted school physical education classes and associated after-school programs as ideal recipients of the floorball kits, which cost about $1,000 apiece and fully outfit a school for floorball classes and impromptu games. Each kit includes four pop-up nets, 50 balls, 48 “penny” jerseys, 48 sticks, and a carrying bag to make the sport as mobile as it gets.

Hockey is a sport that doesn’t include benchwarmers by nature (every skater plays as part of frequent shifts or changes of the lineup). Floorball is perfect for everyone to feel part of the action. All girls and boys get a turn alongside shift teammates and it is not uncommon for those shift teammates to smile and laugh together whether on the floor or taking a breather on the sideline.

Local teachers and parks supervisors report that most kids approach floorball without bias (too often “I’m not good at this sport”) because they haven’t played it before. The clean slate provides a chance to influence both a turn toward the sport and, more importantly, a fun and effective way to access physical activity. The latter point is especially encouraging in neighborhoods where play and fitness space is scarce.

Kraken television analyst and former NHL player JT Brown joined the organization straight from pro hockey in part to work with future Hockey Hall of Fame announcer John Forslund but equally so to help promote a sport he loves.”I can’t wait to immerse myself in helping the franchise to provide greater access to hockey for youth players and all fans,” said Brown when his Kraken role was announced.

These days, Brown says he continues to be “excited to be on the ground floor in the community.”

Each introductory floor ball class is part of an impressive and thorough curriculum developed by Kyle Boyd, a former high school teacher here in Seattle who played the sport growing up in Minneapolis. He now serves as director of fan engagement for the Kraken.

Each introductory class or clinic formally starts with a safety talk. It’s all about not raising the stick above the shoulders, not swinging it at another player, the stick’s purpose is to get control of the puck, pass the puck, and shoot the puck.

When the floorball instructor moves on from the safety advice (there are always a few reminders as the activity starts), it is no more than 10 to 12 minutes before boys and girls are stickhandling their individual balls with impressive control. It’s remarkable when you consider most of these children have never tried the sport before.

“We needed to make that first introduction at that elementary school level,” Boyd says. “We can build both skills and fun around the basics of holding a hockey stick.

“The floorball programming is a great place to start. It helps the kids to not be intimidated by the equipment or the sport, plus learn the safety part of it. It’s not intended as a one-time thing, we want to provide the opportunity to play regularly.”

The Kraken’s philanthropic arm, One Roof Foundation, features three pillars to its mission. One is increased youth access to hockey by “breaking down all barriers to all forms of hockey” and “leveraging the team’s resources to create access and opportunity in hockey and life for marginalized and BIPOC youth and communities,” according to its website. Find out more about access to hockey at