Release the Kraken Fan: The Dave Imperio Story

Washington man, Seattle sports fan raised in Westernport

* Video: NHL awards franchise to Seattle
* Video: 1980 Winter Olympics: Team USA vs. Soviet Union
* Seattle Times: A Kraken fan’s visual guide to hockey
* Seattle Kraken 2021-22 schedule
* Seattle Kraken 2021-22 team and player stats
* Video: Rise of the Kraken (KING 5 TV)
* Video: History of hockey in Seattle
* Seattle Kraken roster
* Hockey terms: What do those words mean?

By Kevin Spradlin
AlleganyPlayground.com

There he is, in the far right corner of the second-to-last row on page 139 of 1988 edition of Back on Track, the annual Valley High School yearbook. Charles David “Dave” Imperio II, well-groomed, a wide smile, and donning a jacket and tie for his formal senior portrait.

Imperio, now 51, was not yet 18 at the time, and though high school graduation is seen as a rite of passage that begs the future to begin, an important part of Imperio’s life had started seven years earlier.

In the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid,  New York, Team USA beat the Soviet Union in the first-round medal game. Team USA, coached by Herb Brooks and comprised of amateurs whose names virtually no one knew, defeated the heavily favored Soviets, a team that had won four consecutive gold medals. A cold war on ice, it was West over East.

Team USA beat Finland, 4-2, two days later to capture the country’s second gold medal in ice hockey in history.

As young Imperio soaked it all in, a hockey fan was born.

“I wasn’t a super big fan yet until the ‘Miracle on Ice,'” Imperio said. “I fell in love with hockey then.”

Imperio then committed a cardinal sin as recognized by more experienced ice hockey fans: He began to root for both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It seemed to make sense at the time, as his family’s Westernport home sat nearly in the middle between Pittsburgh and the District of Columbia.

Submitted photo
Dave Imperio and son Eric Imperio are the first to arrive outside Climate Pledge Arena for the first Kraken home game in franchise history.

“I didn’t realize you’re not supposed to like two teams in the same division,” Imperio said.

Though he attended a Capitals game with his dad, Imperio eventually leaned towards rooting for the Penguins. It helped that he was also a Steelers fan.

Imperio’s love for hockey grew around his athletic prowess on the local soccer fields and wrestling mats, along with a little pond hockey on the property of a friend near McCoole.

After high school, Imperio spent a year in Italy with his father, who served in the U.S. Air Force, before returning to Westernport. That’s when he began dating April Saia (now April Imperio). With a baby on the way, Dave Imperio followd in the footsteps of his father’s military service, joined the Navy and was subsequently stationed at Naval Submarine Base Bangor (now called Naval Base Kitsap), outside of Seattle, Washington.

Imperio spent 16 of the next 20 years in Seattle and retired as a chief electronics technician for submarines. He also spent two years in San Diego and another two years in Italy. Today, he lives in nearby Port Orchard, about an hour’s ferry ride from Seattle.

Life changes

Beginning in 2018, there were signs of a major shift in Imperio’s life — at least as it related to the professional sports landscape. Three years ago this month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the awarding of a 32nd franchise to Seattle. The Kraken would begin play in Fall 2021.

“I know, obviously, that those words are words that the passionate and patient fans in Seattle have longed to here,” Bettman said at the time, “so today is a day for celebration in a great city that adores and avidly supports its sports teams.”

Submitted photo
Dave and Eric Imperio inside Climate Pledge Arena, rooting for Seattle on Oct. 23 against Vancouver.

Fans rejoiced, then began questioning themselves about their long-held loyalty to other NHL teams. Like many others, Imperio found a compromise.

“I’m still a diehard Penguins fan until this year,” Imperio said.

In a modest twist on the East vs. West game that caught his heart in 1980, Imperio still cheers for the Penguins as his East team. The Kraken have taken over the western portion of his heart.

“Now, I think I’m a bigger fan now because I’ve got season tickets to the Kraken and I’ve watched every minute of them play this year, the good and the bad,” Imperio said.

As an expansion team, there has been plenty of bad along with highlights and all the “firsts” that come with the inaugural season. First goal. First win. First home win at the new, $1 billion Climate Pledge Arena. First shutout victory (that’s yet to happen).

The Kraken are currently eighth — and last — in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division standings. They have a record of 10 wins, 17 losses and three overtime losses. A hockey team earns points based on performance, with a win (two points) and an overtime loss (one point) being the favorable outcomes for teams. The Kraken have 23 points through 30 games. Leading the Pacific Division, the Vegas Golden Knights are 20-12-0 with 40 points.

The lack of wins has not deterred Imperio from cheering on his favorite players on his favorite Western Conference team. Through his sections, Imperio’s blue-collar background shines through. Forward Brandon “Turbo” Tanev — who only today was ruled out for the season due to an ACL injury suffered earlier this month in a game against Edmonton — is among those at the top of Imperio’s list.

“He’s a workhorse,” Imperio said. “He’s all about gettin’ out there and working hard. He’s not the best skilled player but he’s the hardest working player.”

Submitted photo
Dave Imperio (left) with Eric Imperio and Traci Benstine at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

It doesn’t hurt that Taven is a former Penguin, Imperio said. Tanev was selected in July, along with 29 other players, in the expansion draft. He was 23rd of 30 players taken.

Another favorite is forward Jordan Eberle (taken 19th in the expansion draft). Eberle is tied with center Jared McCann for the team lead in goals (12), and leads the Kraken points (12 goals, nine assists equals 21 points).

Along with Eberle’s play, Imperio said, when the crowd chants “Eb-er-lee!” it sounds like the name of his granddaughter, “Everle.” In general, though, Imperio said he tired of hearing crowds chant “Eberly” when he did well because, well, he played well a lot and often against the Penguins.

“Every time the Penguins would play the (New York) Islanders, all I would hear is ‘Eb-er-ly! Eb-er-ly!'”

He thought to himself, “I hope one time he’s on a team I like so I don’t have to hear that name again and cringe. He’s one of those players where, if he’s not on your team, you don’t like him ’cause he’s really gonna hurt your team by scoring or doing something.”

“Now,” Imperio said, “he’s on my team. That’s awesome.”

Perhaps the most difficult of the first half of the first season for the Kraken came during eight game stretch between Nov. 21 and Dec. 6. Going into the Dec. 6 matchup against Pittsburgh, the Kraken had won five of seven games , including victories against the favored Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.

Submitted photo
Dave Imperio (left) and a co-worker’s relative at the Penguins-Kraken game on Dec. 6 in Seattle.

“You know what? It wasn’t the game I wanted,” Imperio said of the Penguins-Kraken game, which he attended with his son, Eric. “That was just a pure country butt-kickin’ right there. That’s the best way I can say it that probably won’t get censored out. The Penguins outclassed ’em, outplayed ’em. The Kraken can play way better than that and they just didn’t. I wanted to see a battle, to see a donnybrook, a fight in the streets. But it didn’t happen.”

The Kraken, which lost that game 6-1, “weren’t ready for the Penguins. Their powerhouse offensive line they got just crushed ’em.”

Inside Climate Pledge Arena, Dave Imperio wore a Kraken hat and a Sydney Crosby jersey. Crosby is a star for the Penguins — something that didn’t escape hockey fans in Seattle.

“A lotta people didn’t like” that, Imperio said of cheering for both teams.

The rest of sports

Imperio continues to follow the NFL’s Steelers and Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer. While hockey is a favorite, Imperio said soccer might be a close second, in part because he still plays, long after his two years of playing for Bruce High School before Bruce consolidated with Valley.

Soccer, Imperio said, is “similar to hockey without the fighting. I wish there was the fighting. That’d be awesome. But I play indoor soccer, which is a lot like hockey with the boards. But you can’t board people — you get in trouble for that.”

Source: Hockey-Reference.com

As for the Steelers, Imperio said he feels quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, now in his 18th season with the black and gold, “shoulda retired four years ago. We haven’t done much in four years. He just hasn’t been the caliber to go all the way for four years.”

Imperio, a Seahawks season ticket holder, was a fan in heaven for Super Bowl XL, which completed the 2005-06 season. That’s because the game pitted Seattle against Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 21-10, giving Pittsburgh a fifth Super Bowl title.

It was during the first four Super Bowl championships that Imperio became a fan.

The Steelers of the 1970s went to the playoffs eight straight years and won four AFC titles from 1972 to 1979 and four Super Bowls. Pittsburgh was the first team to win four Super Bowls and the first to win back-to-back titles twice.

“It was hard to grow up in that area in the 70s and not be a Steelers fan,” Imperio said, “especially with Baltimore in the 70s (being) so horrible and then the Colts left town and went to Indy. So there was no Maryland team. Who couldn’t root for the Steelers from the 70s? I was just learning about football, being in elementary school. The Steelers (were) just the team … oh my goodness. Very few people had any other teams.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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