Hockey weaves its way into the dynamic family through many paths. For Vikrant Makhnotra and his loved ones, the first stitch began on his journey to visit his brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Vancouver, BC.
“Everyone was talking about the Canucks and ice hockey,” Makhnotra said. “They were so excited about the game, we went everywhere. I wanted to know about it.”
Makhnotra and his wife, Shamili, were even more fascinated by the prospect of raising a family among the mountains and waters of the Pacific Northwest. He moved to Seattle from his hospitality job in Kansas City in 2005, after relocating to the US in 1999 after finishing his education. He was employed by a major hotel chain, as well as served in suite hospitality roles during the Seahawks home games beginning in 2006.
The pandemic forced layoffs at the hotel chain. Makhnotra says that “luckily” he had contact with Delaware North, the company that provides a wide variety of food and beverages at Climate Pledge Arena. He now works at events in the city’s brand new Sparkling Jewel, managing the Smartsheet Suite at the event level with a glass wall that lets fans watch Kraken players walk through the ice.
Makhnotra, who lives in New Delhi and went to school in London at the age of 15, says, “I grew up playing sports in India. We used to play cricket and soccer and field hockey in our neighborhood playground. I played cricket and soccer in college in England as well.
“Cricket is the dominant sport, but the fans out there also follow the top soccer clubs. [especially in the UK and Spain], People in India are very knowledgeable sports fans. We played field hockey on artificial turf whenever we could. But ice hockey, wow, that’s so fast.”
Watching Kraken players and games so closely this season, Makhnotra began to think differently about activities for himself and Shamil’s two younger sons. An invitation from all arena employees to join a family skate and gathering at the Kraken Community Iceplex in the Northgate neighborhood put those ideas into high gear.
“I don’t see a lot of Indian players in ice hockey,” said Makhnotra. “A lot of Indian families put their kids in math classes and swimming and baseball. With me working with Kraken, my thought was, ‘Let me introduce them to hockey’ [Devik, 7, and Heetvik, 3],
Well, as we begin Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Makhnotra boys have advanced and improved on the learn-to-skate classes they started three months ago. Learning the proper technique of skating is the first building block of excellence and fun in hockey. Longtime fans and skaters know that three is about the ideal age to start skating, but seven-year-old Devik has quickly acquired the skill.
“Both took it as a challenge to improve, especially Devik,” Makhnotra said. “He’s making great progress. He was getting on well from his third grade.”
Devik was inspired by the Family Skate and IcePlex gathering earlier this year, although he did not know how to skate at the time and could not fully participate. Now, “he wants to be the best skater possible,” Makhnotra said.
In a Universal story, three-year-old Hetvik was first sold on a steel blade and not grime. None of the NHL players, including the Hockey Hall of Famers, admitted to crying or complaining, or the first time on the ice before subsequent visits both convinced them that skating was an entry point to a new world of joy and opportunity.
To Hetvik’s credit, he neither screamed nor winced. He took it simply to “eat snow”, according to Makhnotra.
“Exactly, he had been eating snow since grade five or six,” says Makhnotra mildly. [skill level],
While the boys continue to improvise at the rink, Makhnotra has become a Kraken fan and the family hockey weave will only strengthen when it is time for Hatvik and Devik to join a learn-to-play-hockey program at the IcePlex. Mom, Dad and the boys began watching Road Games together, tuning in to the Northwest telecast Route Sports to learn the players and the game from the announcer-analyst duo of John Forslund and JT Brown.
“It started with a puck I brought home for my eldest son,” Makhnotra said. “We started showing boys away games. It’s so fast and fun. We all love it.”