After joining the Seattle Kraken as the first Black team broadcaster in NHL history, Everett Fitzhugh has embraced his new home in the Pacific Northwest. From diving into local hockey culture, connecting with the community and ramping up for his first season with the new franchise, Fitzhugh has been a crucial part of the organization.
“We want people to truly feel like they are apart of this team and apart of this organization. They are more than fans to us and I think it’s been so amazing how we are trying to tell our story through our community’s eyes and tell our community’s story through our eyes.”
In this episode of #Storyteller, Fitzhugh shares what it’s like to build a team brand from the ground up and how he is using his platform to change the perception of the game. Plus, a riveting story on lost sports memorabilia that you won’t want to miss.
Best advice for anyone wanting to follow their dream but not knowing where to start:
I think for me the biggest piece of advice I learned and I had to learn it because there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me within the game of hockey. So watching other Black players and other minorities and women succeed in areas that they are not supposed to succeed in, I learned that no matter who you are, no matter your sexual orientation, your gender, your race, your ability, there is a place for you, there is a place for your voice in that space. It can be sports, it can be medicine, it can be science, it can be aerospace engineering, I don’t care where it is there is a place for you. Don’t listen to the noise, there is a ton of noise but there is a space for you in whatever space you want to be in. You belong in that space.
What it’s been like building a new brand from scratch:
This is the largest, small start up operation I think you could ever imagine and it’s been unbelievable. It’s been incredible to be apart of this seemingly since day one. I came in a few years into the process of NHL Seattle but being able to see our staff grow from even when I started here has been awesome. Our vision, what we are planning on doing for our fans, how we want to incorporate our community, how we want to make our community feel apart of this team. We don’t want hockey fans we want people to truly feel like they are apart of this team and apart of this organization. They are more than fans to us and I think its been so amazing how we are trying to tell our story through our community’s eyes and tell our community’s story through our eyes and there are so many people and amazing backgrounds in our organization trying to tell that story.
It’s a good mix of local Seattle folks who know the landscape, that have the history here, they have the roots here. You have people who aren’t from here but that can bring a different perspective of things they have seen. A ton of influence on how this can be not only Seattle’s team but the pacific Northwest’s team. We’ve got a huge huge interest and want to incorporate the great state of Alaska. They are part of our territory. We fought to get Alaska within our territory because we want to tell their story, their hockey story. We want to tell parts of Oregon Idaho, Montana, Eastern Washington, this isn’t Seattle’s team, this is the Pacific Northwest’s Hockey team and for us to have the honor and the privilege of telling that hockey story in our community is awesome. Expansion teams are so few and far in between, you don’t have a lot of expansion teams and to not only be around for an expansion team, you know Vegas and us, you go back 20 years and Nashville and Columbus and Minnesota but to actually be apart of it is unbelievable, it’s such a cool experience.
How do you view the importance of storytelling in your role:
I used to consider myself a hockey guy, right? I was power play, I was PK, I was goals, that’s allI cared about. As I gradually grew in this industry and learned more about this industry I learned that it’s more than just one the ice. It’s off the ice, it’s humanizing players, it’s making them relatable to your fan base because not everybody is a hockey fan, not everybody knows about the game of hockey so how can I as a PR guy for a team, as a marketer of a team, how can I help our fans understand our team, our players, our game even better. Now fast forward here to Seattle and it takes on a whole new meaning because now we are trying to educate an entire region about the NHL.
There are hockey fans here, you’ve got a lot of hockey in the area but not NHL hockey so education an entire community and bringing them into this NHL family has been a huge eye opening experience for me as well. I’ve learned a whole lot about talking to communities and going into places where maybe hockey isn’t their first choice, maybe hockey is not their fifth choice but they are excited for the Kraken because it’s a new brand, it’s a new opportunity for them to get behind their city and to yell and scream and cheer for their city. So being able to help our community to understand us as an organization, our passion for hockey, our passion for diversity and inclusion within our organization and the community, I’ve learned so much about telling that story. And yes, we are going to have players soon, we are going to be talking about the power play, we’re going to be talking about the Kraken’s first trip to Montreal and the Bell Centre and the rivalry between the Canucks and the Kraken but right now we are trying to build that fan base and we are trying to get that fanbase emotionally invested in our community and our organization and ultimately in our game.