It was hard to find anybody inside the Washington Veterans Home in Port Orchard more excited than Kris Boudreau for the 2018 announcement of an NHL expansion franchise coming to Seattle.
Already an avid sports fan as evidenced by the walls of his room covered with athletic memorabilia, the U.S. Navy veteran has clung onto his love of the games as his strongest lifeblood. Even before the name was selected, he knew this was a team he had to watch play.
“I was over the moon. I lived in Vermont, and I grew up with hockey. John LeClair went to my dad’s high school,” he said of the legendary Philadelphia Flyer.
That love of the game translating to in-person attendance has been easier said than done. The Kraken, like all other major sports teams in Seattle, carry a hefty price tag for fans looking to attend games at Climate Pledge Arena. Resale ticket prices regularly reach a minimum of $100 in just the third year of the NHL expansion franchise, and aspects including travel to and from the stadium and parking make it necessary to have a game plan just to get to the game.
For disabled travelers, it’s even worse. Boudreau was diagnosed with MS in 1993, forcing him to receive a medical retirement in April of 1994. He managed to continue leading an active lifestyle until, as he put it, the disease “reared its ugly head” in 2010.
He now uses a wheelchair, making time his biggest obstacle. “I can get to games by taking the ferry and then getting a (yellow cab) wheelchair van to get me from the dock to Climate Pledge, but getting home is an issue,” he said.
Boudreau said with limited transportation options and consistent start times that run games late, the cost of getting home can run upwards of $250. He said he would sometimes get home as late as 3 a.m.
Taking his complaints to Facebook and GoFundMe, members of the community stepped up, getting him and two other veterans to a game and back. That gesture of kindness led to the creation of Kris’ Krew, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds to send disabled veterans and other ADA sports fans to Kraken games.
It’s a newfound mission that has not only brought over 150 veterans to and from games over the past two years, but it’s one that Boudreau said has brought him out of an extremely dark place in his life—likely saving his life. “I found my calling (in this), and I looked at it and said, ‘I’m not done.’ It’s a big endeavor; it’s a huge undertaking, but go big or go home, you know. That’s been my life.”
He now hopes to expand his nonprofit as far as it will reach. Short-term goals such as securing an ADA-accessible bus, already referred to as the Krewster, for transportation and continuing to secure funding to send veterans to games have been at the forefront. However, Bourdeau said this mission should reach out beyond the fandom of the Kraken.
“My hope is to take it to every sporting city in the country,” he said, “because sports are needed for mental health. If anything, it brings people together, especially after COVID screwed everything up.”
Kraken fans and anyone else looking to support Kraken Kris and his Krew have some opportunities to do so both inside and outside Port Orchard. Peninsula BevCo, which dedicated a monthlong round-up fundraiser in September to the nonprofit, has extended it through October.