Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • November 30, 2021
Vegas Golden Knights Fan And Hawaii Hockey Nut Michael Kawazoe Was There To Witness The Seattle Kraken’s Momentous NHL Debut

Michael Kawazoe’s love for hockey extends well beyond the fact that he has a good shot from the slot and is fundamentally sound in most aspects of the game.

No, this Hawaii guy is a gigantic fan of the sport, especially the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. He and a friend flew to Dallas in October 2017 to watch the NHL’s 31st franchise play its inaugural league game against the host Stars.

Kawazoe, who runs the Waikiki Malia by Outrigger hotel as well as the adjoining Rivals Waikiki sports bar and who also plays hockey at Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas, was also in Las Vegas less than a week ago — Oct. 12 to be exact — to watch the Golden Knights welcome the NHL’s 32nd and newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken.

“It was a cool experience then,” said Kawazoe, who is from Hawaii and graduated from UNLV, about his 2017 trip to Dallas. “It was right after the (Oct. 1, 2017) shooting in Las Vegas, so all the Texas guys in the stands were buying us drinks. I didn’t pay for a beer the entire game. But it was almost a funeral type of them feeling sorry for what happened. I imagine them seeing Las Vegas people was much like seeing people from New York City after 9/11.”

Hawaii’s Michael Kawazoe, right, with some fellow Vegas Golden Knights
fans before the Oct. 12 game against the Seattle Kraken.

This time, Kawazoe and his girlfriend Kuulei Agbayani — the operations manager at Hawaii Sports Radio Network, The Shark, KGU 760-AM and 95.1-FM — were a welcoming presence for the visiting Kraken faithful.

“There was good interaction on both sides,” he said. “No (trash)-talking. It was a ‘Welcome to the League’ kind fo thing, like inviting people into your home feel. The Seattle fans are very laid back. Very cool. Seahawks fans are a little more rowdy. The Kraken fans were very respectful, very nice and you could tell they were happy to be there. They traveled in force with a quite a few fans there. I know what they felt like (coming to watch a brand-new team play its first game).”

Below, click to watch Kawazoe’s video clip of part of the Oct. 12 opening ceremony that includes a depiction of the Kraken, the infamous mythical sea monster, making an appearance on the ice.

And what about Kawazoe’s impression of the Seattle Kraken players?

“Clearly, they can play,” Kawazoe said. “But I don’t think they are a playoff team, but they’re also not going to be a bottom-six team. They were down 3-0 and bounced back. But that’s Vegas’ MO. They take their foot off the gas once they get a lead. The Kraken, those guys are hungry. They don’t want to be the laughingstock of the league.”

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The Oct. 12 opening face-off from Michael Kawazoe’s perspective.

Seattle wound up losing its first NHL regular-season game, 4-3 on a goal that went off the skate of Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson and was upheld as legal with no kicking motion found by the referees upon review.

Kawazoe added that he was also excited to see Vegas’ new lineup this year — without goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the first time.

“There were fans in the arena last year, but now we’re back at full capacity and it was the home opener,” he said. “They (Vegas management) brought in some young guys and Fleury’s gone. It’s (Robin) Lehner’s team now. We’ll see what happens.

“Vegas controlled possession in the offensive zone for quite some time and they finished some nice goals and pounced on some of Seattle’s mistakes. It was impressive.”

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