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New Seattle Hockey Team Preps to Hit Ice With Two Legal Chiefs

Aug. 13, 2020, 9:41 AM

A duo of general counsel are behind the rollout of the National Hockey League’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, as they prepare to take the ice next year.

Seattle’s first hockey team is scheduled to play in the 2021-2022 season at the new Climate Pledge Arena. Lance Lopes, the Kraken’s executive vice president and general counsel, as well as Hewan Teshome, general counsel and senior vice president for both the team and arena, say there’s extensive legal work to be done in the meantime.

In the next year, this will include developing the region’s largest ice facilities, just north of the Climate Pledge Arena, and promoting and protecting the Kraken’s already record-breaking brand.

A high point for the pair came in late July when the team first officially released its name and logo.

“Our fans were clamoring for it. We vetted a lot of different things, names, colors, and ideas, and then we actually arrived at it earlier this spring,” said Lopes. “We were just ecstatic with the outpouring of really favorable results.”

Before the Kraken’s name and logo were publicly announced on July 23, Lopes and his team worked on trademark and coexistence agreements for multiple potential names and logos to throw people off track.

“We knew that this was going to be the name for some time, but we certainly wanted to make sure that we had other information out there in a similar track with registration and things,” Lopes said. “It was absolutely critical that we do our very best to control the release of the name.”

Within a day of the team’s nickname and logo unveiling, the Kraken had bested the previous record for NHL expansion team merchandise sales on Fanatics.com, the league’s official merchandise and gear distributor, by 50%.

This makes the team the NHL’s “best selling expansion team ever,” Brandon Williams, the director of global communications for Fanatics, confirmed in a statement to Bloomberg Law.

“I had friends who didn’t know the first thing about hockey text me saying, ‘This logo looks badass. I’m buying the jersey just because it looks cool,’” Teshome said, adding that the timing of the launch couldn’t have been better with some professional sports restarting after pandemic related shutdowns.

“Being a Seattle native, it was really cool to see the city rally around a new team,” she said.

‘Excitement on a Different Level’

Both Lopes and Teshome have spent years as attorneys in the sports sector.

Lopes is a former executive for the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. He later served as the senior associate athletic director at the University of Washington before joining Oak View Group in 2016.

The sports advisory and investment company co-owns Climate Pledge Arena along with Seattle Hockey Partners, though Amazon.com Inc. owns rights to the arena and changed its name from KeyArena earlier this year.

Teshome began her legal career as an associate at Hogan Lovells, but she had been interested in sports and entertainment since she was an undergraduate at New York University. In 2017, she entered the sports world as general counsel of Seattle-based sports gear company VICIS, Inc.

Teshome, who took her job with the Kraken in May, said the role brings her “excitement on a different level.”

“We have the freedom to build an organization that is whatever we want it to be and to set a bar for this arena and team that didn’t exist before,” Teshome said.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the Climate Pledge Arena would be “the world’s first net zero carbon certified arena” in a June 25 Instagram post. The venue will use recycled rainwater for ice, rely on renewable energy, and focus on promoting public transportation such as Seattle’s monorail, according to Bloomberg News.

As the arena is renovated and developed to meet these environmental goals, Lopes and Teshome say there are new, coronavirus-related details to take into consideration such as better air circulation and lighting systems that can kill bacteria.

Teshome said she’s also working on insurance policies, vendor agreements, and season ticket licenses, all before the team even has a roster.

“Behind the scenes there’s hundreds of hours of negotiating and drafting agreements with private parties and with the cities,” Teshome said. “A lot of time and detail goes into what seems like a fun and exciting project.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com