After the weird, crowd-free playoff bubbles of 2020 and the advent of Covid vaccines and boosters for all, this year was primed for the raucous return of in-person sporting events. It also brought some memorable—and (wish we could) forgettable—times for Seattle sports fans. A 2021 replay, if you will.
The Seattle Kraken were released
Three years after the National Hockey League awarded our city a franchise, the Seattle Kraken debuted, drafting players during a tentacle-filled spectacle in South Lake Union. The team played (and lost, but still) its first home game at Climate Pledge Arena on October 23, and Shaq suddenly decided he liked hockey, we guess, when he opened an outpost of his fried chicken franchise here.
Sure, the NHL has had to postpone more than 50 games so far due to Covid outbreaks, and sure, the Kraken are currently dead last in their division, but professional hockey has arrived in Seattle and that fact alone deserves all the stick taps.
The Seattle Storm (and Sue Bird) won a bunch
After leading the team to WNBA championship titles in 2018 and 2020, head coach Dan Hughes retired, paving the way for former Storm player Noelle Quinn to assume his role. Amid the changes, including a temporary stay up north in Everett while their home court underwent a hockey-appropriate overhaul, the Storm went about business as usual. By that, we mean winning.
Though they ultimately fell to the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the playoffs during a thrilling overtime loss, the rest of the season was pretty great: Sue Bird continued to generate GOAT cred and top influential lists (ours included) for her longevity and domination. She and teammate Brianna Stewart were named as two of the WNBA's greatest players ever. Oh, and Bird, Stewart, and fellow Storm player Jewell Lloyd won a gold medal at the Olympics—Bird's fifth shiny medallion in total.
The Seattle Mariners disappointed us...again
We just can't quit you, Mariners. The heartbreak kids were back to getting our hopes up and devastating us anew this year, starting with a dumpster fire of a front office scandal in early 2021 that resulted in the ouster of then-president and CEO Kevin Mather.
Things started to look up as the team garnered an impressive 90 regular-season wins—their best since 2003—only to have it all go foul when they once again missed the playoffs. The Mariners' 20-season playoff drought is the longest active dry spell in North American pro sports. Fun.
One bright spot: Seattle was selected as the host city for MLB's 2023 All-Star Week.
The Reign went through it
Lest the Mariners claim all the controversy, 2021 was similarly tumultuous for the OL Reign. Head coach Farid Benstiti was asked to resign amid allegations of misconduct, one incident in a cascade of controversy for the NWSL that eventually led to the departure of commissioner Lisa Baird.
On the local front, Megan Rapinoe and gang landed a disappointing fourth-place finish in the NWSL Challenge Cup but made it all the way to the semifinal in the playoffs, falling to the Washington Spirit. (Rapinoe and teammate Rose Lavelle also earned some bronze hardware at the Tokyo Olympics.) The Reign ended the year with a massive swerve, announcing the team's return to Seattle and Lumen Field in 2022.
The Sonics still weren't back
As soon as photos of that "NBA Locker Room" placard in Climate Pledge Arena made the rounds on the internet, Sonics fans everywhere had reason to hope again. Outgoing mayor Jenny Durkan predicts an NBA team will be back in Seattle within five years, but we all know the power resides with commissioner Adam Silver and those three little words: money, money, money.
The Sounders got bounced in the first round
The Sounders' MLS Cup win of 2019 must feel like a decade ago. (Same, boys, same.) After the Covid mess of a 2020 season and ultimate loss to the Columbus Crew SC in the Cup final, the team couldn't replicate their pre-pandemic success in 2021, bowing out in the first round to Real Salt Lake.
It wasn't all a wash, though, with Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer and other Seattle notables welcoming a FIFA delegation in October in a bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to our fair city. Look for the announcement of host cities to be made sometime in April 2022.
The Seahawks sort of sucked
2021 started with a gutting wild card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams in early January and brightened when Russell Wilson was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his off-field charity work and on-field excellence.
Then came the actual 2021 NFL season. After falling to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, the Seahawks will finish with their first losing record in a decade—and the first since Wilson has been behind center.
Blame it on the lingering Wilson trade rumors. Blame it on a Covid hangover. Blame it on that broken finger. Either way, Seattle Times columnist Larry Sone notes "virtually all aspects of the team were subpar this year." Coach Pete Carroll is under contract through the 2025 season, meaning there's still time before talk turns to a (gulp) rebuild.