Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

In honor of hockey season starting up very soon, I thought this would be a good time to recap on all that happened between BookTok, the community of book lovers on TikTok, and the Seattle Kraken hockey team over the summer.  

The Seattle Kraken is a very new hockey team compared to others in the NHL. It was established in December of 2018 as an “expansion franchise to the city of Seattle” and only started playing in 2021. It will be starting its third season this fall. As a newer hockey team, one would agree that gaining a fan base is important. To do so, the social media teams of the Seattle Kraken are very active, especially on TikTok during the hockey season.  

BookTok has been around for about three years now and it has significantly impacted the publishing industry. Books that are lucky enough to go viral on BookTok often become best sellers. Within BookTok, there is a very large community of romance readers. Of these romance readers, many like to read sports romance, specifically hockey romance. These typically involve a love story taking place between a main character and a hockey player. Popular hockey romance books include Icebreaker by Hannah Grace and the Off Campus Series by Elle Kennedy. As these books became increasingly more popular on the social media platform, many readers took an interest in the NHL and their players. Soon fans started casting real-life players as “a stand-in for a favorite fictional hockey player” and making videos that “showed game footage overlaid with quotes from hockey romance books.” While these all seem like very innocent fan-related actions, things took a turn.  

This year, during the NHL playoffs, the Seattle Kraken discovered what BookTok was. The popularity of hockey romance books was at an all-time high and many social media accounts of hockey teams would post TikToks of their players reading these, typically spicy, books. The Seattle Kraken, however, took things a step further. They would frequently post BookTok related content, often focused around one of their players, Alex Wennberg. At one point, their TikTok bio was “mostly booktok.” They even reached out to a popular BookTok creator, Kierra Lewis, after she had “posted videos featuring explicit comments about N.H.L. players.” The Kraken flew Lewis out to a playoff game and even sent her a Kraken jersey with “BookTok” written on the back. While she was at the game, she recorded videos that did draw more attention to the team, but also featured explicit comments about the players.  

Throughout the summer, fans continued to make content about hockey players in relation to hockey romance as well as their general affection for specific players. However, some fans acted in the example of Kierra Lewis and took things way too far. Some were leaving “explicit comments on players’ personal social media accounts” and others were going to games and “chanting ‘krak my back’ at players.”  

In July, Felicia Wennberg, the wife of Alex Wennberg, called out the inappropriate behavior of some fans and how it has become disturbing to her. She posted on her Instagram stories where she noted that some of the comments and videos about her husband had gone too far and were “pretty predatory and exploiting.” She repeatedly stated that her issue was not about people commenting on her husband’s looks and on more than one occasion she admitted to encouraging it. She said that the affection for her husband and other players is not “normal behavior” when it involves “sexual harassment” and “inappropriate comments.” She also mentioned that if this was happening to a female athlete, which it absolutely has, this is behavior that “would never be ok.” She made it clear that she absolutely supports female empowerment and being sex positive, but that people can do so “without exploiting others.” After posting these stories, Felicia received a considerable amount of backlash and messages harassing her. People began attacking her simply because she was trying to, very kindly, ask people to stop making her and her husband uncomfortable with their sexual comments. The harassment got to the point where people were leaving horrible comments on her social media, “including on photos of their 2-year-old son.” Essentially, people were villainizing Felicia Wennberg all because she was attempting to set boundaries with the fans of her husband. Due to the horrible comments and harassment that Felicia was dealing with, Alex issued a statement, saying “we can all take a joke and funny comments but when it turns personal and into something bigger that affects our family, we need to tell you that we’ve had enough.” He stated that he and his wife had had “enough of sexual harassment, and harassment of our character and our relationship.”  

When Felicia Wennberg posted about her discomfort to her Instagram stories, one of the images she used as a background was of a video posted by Kierra Lewis. When people saw that she was one of the main reasons why Felicia and Alex were feeling uncomfortable, they started criticizing her actions and she was receiving a lot of backlash, especially from fans of Felicia. In response, Lewis made multiple videos on TikTok attempting to explain her side of the story. In her statement, Lewis claimed that Felicia was “not only attacking Booktok” but also her “as a person.” She stated that Felicia was slandering her name by calling her a “sexual harasser” and missing the joke that Lewis was making by creating the phrase “Krack my Back.” She went on to say that when she saw Felicia’s initial Instagram stories, she immediately messaged her and offered to delete “any and ALL videos that mention Alex Wennberg.” Lewis claimed she received no response from Felicia. She then voiced her frustrations with the Kraken social media team. The Seattle Kraken TikTok account had unfollowed her and archived all their BookTok content after Alex Wennberg’s statement. Lewis felt that it was confusing and upsetting because, according to her, they “not only took interest to [her] videos from the beginning” about NHL players, specifically about Alex Wennberg, but also “encouraged [her] to keep posting” about him and the team. The Kraken’s TikTok account even started posting their own “Alex Wennberg thirst traps.” Lewis also noted that when the Kraken flew her out to the playoff game and gifted her a jersey, they ended up “gaining over 60K followers” from the videos she created. She claims she never received any communication from the Kraken social media team and instead they simply “covered their tracks by deleting all videos related to BookTok and Wennberg.”

After Lewis was called out by Felicia Wennberg, many other BookTok creators began making videos stating that they do not condone this kind of behavior and that she does not speak for all of BookTok. However, the damage was done.  

Other creators outside of BookTok, as well as mainstream media, began criticizing and making fun of BookTok as a whole. Rolling Stone even wrote an article about the situation, questioning “whether terminally horny people should be allowed to have internet access.” It is obvious that there were members of BookTok who were romance readers that were responsible for the discomfort of Alex Wennberg, his wife, and other hockey players. However, it is not fair to imply that people who read romance and smut are considered too horny to be given internet access. This may not have been the intention of the Rolling Stone article, but the title “Romance Novel Fans Are Under Fire for Being Too Horny for Hockey Players” does not really make it clear that they are not trying to villainize all romance readers. As stated by the New York Times, “the sexually explicit posts were made by a small sliver of the BookTok community.” The actions of Kierra Lewis and others who did the same as her are not representative of what BookTok stands for.   

Authors on BookTok were also pulled into the situation. Specifically, romance author Emily Rath, who has written multiple hockey romances. Rath’s book Pucking Around was credited as the book that sparked Kierra Lewis’ interest in hockey, which led to some people directly linking her to the situation with Lewis, the Kraken, and Alex Wennberg. Rath created a video on the situation where she notes that she would not address the idea that the act of reading her book could possibly encourage people to act the way that they did towards hockey players. However, she does acknowledge that this “was a pattern of behavior that extended since the beginning of April that NHL teams fed.” Essentially, Rath wanted to make it clear that true hockey romance readers who are also true hockey fans are still valued and seen by hockey teams. That even though this situation has brought about a severe misunderstanding of “hockey romance as a genre and by extension … readers of hockey romance,” many hockey teams still value hockey romance readers as fans and want to improve the way that they engage with their fans.  

This situation was very complex and messy. There were many sides to it and multiple parties involved. Felicia and Alex Wennberg had every right to set boundaries with fans since they were feeling very uncomfortable with the comments and content being made about Alex and other players. When Kierra Lewis was called out for her actions, she did not handle it well. She should not have publicly attacked Felicia Wennberg in her statement and excused her own actions as being purely for “entertainment.” Felicia had every right to call attention to the specific videos she was referring to in order to make it clear what she was upset about. The social media team of the Seattle Kraken is partially responsible for this situation. They exploited Alex Wennberg and BookTok’s interest in him to gain more engagement and followers. They encouraged the inappropriate behavior of Kierra Lewis and then proceeded to partake in it by making exploitive videos of their own. The Kraken claimed in a statement that they chose to engage with BookTok “to connect with new audiences” and that they “consider this a learning moment for the organization and have taken appropriate action.” It is important to understand that the actions of a very small portion of BookTok do not represent the entire community and what it stands for. Alex Wennberg stated that he is “all for the BookTok community to write books and fiction about hockey” but it is important to respect real-life players. This situation proved that it is important to treat public figures and celebrities as humans and to not always feed into the actions of brands and media teams. These people that are idolized on social media are real humans that deserve kindness and respect and should not be exploited based on their looks or for engagement purposes. Hopefully, this hockey season does not bring any more incidents between BookTok and the Seattle Kraken and everyone is respectful to each other. 

gia is an editor and writer at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg chapter. she often writes articles about politics and books. she is studying english at the university of south florida. in the future, she plans to go to law school and then work in the book publishing industry. In her free time, she loves to read and write, and she can frequently be found browsing for new books at a bookstore or studying at the library. she will always have a book with her and will talk about books with anyone!