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14-year-old Nikhil Bagga embracing challenge of performing national anthem at 2024 Winter Classic

ByChristopher Detwiler

@Chris_Detwiler Staff Writer

Nikhil Bagga, at just 14 years old, knows a thing or two about performing in front of a big crowd.

But nothing quite like this.

The young guitarist will be performing the United States national anthem ahead of the 2024 Discover NHL Winter Classic, where the Seattle Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on Jan. 1, 2024.

The Seattle-based musician has had the opportunity to perform in front of hockey fans before, playing the national anthem at two Kraken games at Climate Pledge Arena. Now he’ll have the chance to show off his talents in front of a national audience.

“It’s crazy,” Bagga said. “It’s going to be like a whole different level this time. Like a step up. It’s cool. I’m very excited.”

Bagga’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner has been said to have a Jimi Hendrix-type flare, as the musician rocks out on his electric guitar for the performances.

He first picked up a guitar at 9 years old and has been playing and performing ever since. His first performances were busking around San Diego, and in just five short years he’s built up his stage to the Major League Baseball ballpark with a 47,929-person capacity.

“I just really love that feeling of performing, playing for people,” Bagga said. “I thought it was a really cool feeling and I decided to stick with it.”

Bagga first got on the Kraken’s radar during the 2021-22 season, when he was 12 years old, after he contacted the team with a recording of himself performing. Later that season, the Kraken gave him the opportunity to play at Climate Pledge Arena.

He was welcomed back towards the end of the 2022-23 season to perform the national anthem again.

And this time around, he got a call from the NHL to ask if he wanted to perform at the Winter Classic.

“It’s just crazy to think about. It’s like the big leagues now,” Bagga said. “It’s the real deal and I’m very excited. Very grateful for this opportunity.”

In addition to performing covers, Bagga writes his own music and released his debut album, “Leap of Faith,” in 2022. He’s getting ready to release some new music in January.

In the meantime, you can find him in his basement practicing for his big opportunity at the Winter Classic.

“I’m hoping that people like it, they’ll like the anthem, and maybe check out some of my music,” Bagga said. “It’s still a crazy, crazy thing to wrap my head around.”

The Winter Classic opening ceremony will begin with the Kraken’s and Golden Knights’ on-field arrivals from the dugouts onto the docks. Seattle native Sir Mix-A-Lot will perform one of his most popular songs during player introductions. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Heart will headline the entertainment for the game with a first intermission presented by Ticketmaster performance.

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