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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Where the real hockey fans hang out’: The Hub attracts Kraken faithful as Lord Stanley’s, Zeeks tap into enthusiasm for team

At The Hub Tavern, Blake Anderson reacts as the NHL’s Seattle Kraken score a goal against the Dallas Stars during game two of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal on Thursday. On game night, The Hub Tavern on N. Monroe Street is the local spot for Kraken fans to watch their team progress in the playoffs.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Dave Richardson’s voice booms out over the tavern he owns with his family, silencing many fans clad in not just Seattle Kraken attire, but logos from across the NHL.

“Hey, we got a Stars fan, everybody!” Richardson bellows, his hand on the back of a proud-looking man clad in a referee shirt, to a cascade of boos from the faithful at the Hub Tavern on North Monroe.

Ask anyone seated at the Hub’s row of barstools where to watch hockey in Spokane, and they’ll promptly tell you it’s exactly where they’re parked right now as the Kraken prepared for their Stanley Cup playoff tilt with Dallas on Thursday night. It’s because Richardson, and the people inside, make it feel like a place you’re welcomed, no matter which club is yours. The kind of place Norm Peterson would come to, if he was a Bruins season ticket holder.

Don’t worry. Dave Richardson has a quip for them, too.

“Anybody know what time the Bruins game is on?” he yells during a commercial break, a dig at the regular-season juggernaut squad that fell to Florida in the first round.

Chanse Watson had a prime spot Thursday at the north end of the bar, nursing a beer and clad in a T-shirt promoting his weekly hockey podcast, Dusty Bender, that he cohosts with Tayler Wells. You pay with cash at the Hub, and refills are at the ready.

“They make this place like a second home,” said Watson, who traveled from Idaho to catch the game at the Hub. “You walk in, and you’re greeted. What kind of place does that nowadays?”

You may be greeted with some good-natured teasing, not all of it dished out by Richardson. Though that’s what Connor Lee received when Richardson caught sight of his Toronto Maple Leafs hat.

“We got a Toronto fan in the bar, so everyone use smaller words,” Richardson said, smiling at Lee.

Lee didn’t mind, even after his Maple Leafs fell to Florida in the game prior to the Kraken puck drop.

“This is the go-to spot to watch a game,” said Lee, who played hockey in Indiana through high school before moving out to Spokane. “This is where the real hockey fans hang out.”

Lee was born in Oklahoma, and there weren’t a ton of options to play in the arid Midwestern state. He then moved to Indiana and joined a traveling team, but said he burned out on hockey after playing for so long and stopped watching for a few years.

The Hub has brought back his interest in the game, he said. The playoff run for the Kraken, in their second year of existence, has also earned his interest.

“The Kraken are fun,” Lee said. “They play a very different brand of hockey.”

While Lee’s days in high school are pretty close in the rearview mirror, the same can’t be said of Dwight Carruthers, Tom O’Brien and Gary Fuher, who snagged a table near the back of the tavern, close to hot dogs rolling under a heat lamp. The Hub had to add the hot dog service in order to reopen under COVID-19 protocols, which required a menu, Richardson explained.

Carruthers, O’Brien and Fuher are all part of the Spokane Oldtimers Hockey Association, a group of senior – and more senior – hockey players from the area that recently held their 40th charity tournament in town. The group is part owner of the Eagles Ice Arena, and Fuher – a local architect – helped design their locker room space at the back of the practice rink.

“This is home,” Fuher said Friday morning, showing off the association’s “Snoopy” trophies, a cup with the “Peanuts” beagle perched on top. The Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament, held every year in Santa Rosa, California, is so named because it’s held at a rink built by Charles Schulz, the late cartoonist who created the strip and now hosted by his widow and son. Spokane’s team won the cup for four years running, from 2014 to 2017.

“I start looking around, and I’m almost mesmerized at times with all the things we have in this room,” Fuher said, remembering to point out a sign on the wall that reads, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” Benches for players, a loft addition for more lockers and showers for guys coming off the ice were all added with craftsmanship from the nonprofit’s members, Fuher said.

There’s also pictures of the Spokane Jets, the former members of the Western International Hockey League in the early ’70s before being renamed the Flyers. The team won the Allan Cup during the 1971-72 season, with defenseman Carruthers on the roster. At the Hub on Thursday, Richardson grabbed a playing card of Carruthers from its place tucked in a cabinet behind the bar. Carruthers gathers he was probably in his late 20s when that photo was taken. He’s now in his late 70s.

“This is the only bar I go to,” O’Brien said. During tournaments and practices, the Hub is a regular stop for old-time players, they explained.

“We love hockey,” Richardson said. “These guys are hockey.”

The reputation began about a decade ago, when the Richardsons bought the bar, said Buddy Richardson, Dave Richardson’s son.

“My wife and I, we were pregnant with our first kid,” Buddy Richardson said. “I had a lot of hockey stuff at my house. I didn’t want to just box it up.”

The collection has grown, including additions from regulars – even those whose allegiances lie with the enemy.

One day, when the Richardsons – Dave’s a Chicago Blackhawks devotee, and Buddy swears by the Colorado Avalanche – were gone, a Detroit Red Wings fan put up a neon sign of the Motor City team’s logo.

Rather than remove it, Dave Richardson went out and got a custom sign made to fit right underneath it. Its lit-up letters read just one word: “Suck!”

“Most people would have just taken the sign down,” Watson, sitting at the bar, said. “But not Dave.”

The Hub is the only bar in the state east of Kennewick that has received the “Anchor Alliance” designation as a meet-up for Kraken fans. You’d have to drive to Moscow for the next closest watering hole that’s earned that designation.

Others in town are trying to match the Hub’s tradition, and while the regulars here wouldn’t think of going anywhere else, Dave Richardson had only encouraging words for them.

“We wish them luck. This is a hard business,” he said. “We want everybody to succeed.”

Patrons at the downtown bar Lord Stanley’s, which opened a couple of years ago and advertises itself as a sports bar with a hockey emphasis, also sung its praises as the place to be to watch Seattle’s playoff run.

“You’re not going to get the atmosphere for a hockey game anywhere else in town,” said 22-year-old Kraken fan Nick Chumov.

Jesse Koester, who owns the bar with Eowen Rosentrater, could be seen serving food and drinks to customers in a Kraken jersey and hat. The bar, at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Washington Street, opened in September 2021. Koester and Rosentrater work full-time jobs in addition to their ownership and operation of the bar.

“We kind of advertise ourselves as a sports bar with kind of an emphasis on hockey,” Koester said.

Most of the TV screens Thursday night showed the Kraken game with a handful of others featuring the Los Angeles Lakers-Golden State Warriors NBA playoff game. Almost all of the bar patrons, some sporting Kraken jerseys and hats, appeared to be there to cheer on the Seattle hockey team.

“The energy is super high,” Rosentrater said. “I didn’t know there were this many hockey fans.”

A couple Kraken flags hung from the ceiling, and neon light Kraken logos were illuminated on the glass windows.

Gary Gleason was enjoying the game with his daughter, Jora Gleason, and her boyfriend, Zach Carman. Gary Gleason was wearing a Kraken jersey with “Gleason” sewn on the back of it. His Kraken hat was on the table.

Gary Gleason said the bar is great for Kraken fans.

“Spokane’s a great hockey town,” he said. “It’s great to have a bar like this to be able to enjoy the hockey environment.”

Besides beer and liquor, Lord Stanley’s offers a variety of food.

“If you’re a big fan of the sport, this is a good place to be,” Chumov said of the bar.

Edie and Mike Stotts, in the Gonzaga district, hope the success of one Seattle-based franchise will rub off on another.

They own Zeeks Pizza, at 1414 N. Hamilton St., and have been slinging $4 draft beers and $5 pepperoni or cheese slices during the Kraken’s playoff run. Zeeks was founded by a pair of college friends in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle in 1993, and the Stotts opened the GU location in February 2022.

Edie Stott said they’d run the deal as long as Seattle was still in the playoffs.

“They seem like a Cinderella story, and that’s how we feel,” she said.

The Stotts acknowledge that the place to watch hockey in town is the Hub, but for younger fans and those who may just want to learn about hockey, their spot is a nice introduction.

“We’re all about anything Northwest,” Mike Stott said.

Back at the Hub, the first period ended without a score. Fans filed out for a quick cigarette, or ordered another round. Dave Richardson, as always, stood waiting with a joke, or an observation about the game so far.

“How we doing tonight, Spokane?” he asked, to a roar from his patrons.

Staff writer Garrett Cabeza contributed to this story.