Seattle expansion team ‘will be ready’ despite pandemic

Francis hasn’t set foot in Seattle since. Rather than moving there in the first half of the year as he planned, the former general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes worked from home from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Rather than watching the rest of the 2019-20 season from the various arenas of the League, scouts had to contend with a break of more than four months before watching from a distance playoffs contested without fans in the stands and contested. in the bubble cities of Edmonton and Toronto. They never got to see the end of the season in the American Hockey League. This was canceled.

“This year has been quite simply…, began Francis before leaving his sentence in suspense. We had to roll with the blows. « 

This is what characterized 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of many people in many ways.

The uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 season, including when it will kick off and how it will unfold. The NHL has targeted January 1, 2021 as its launch date. Uncertainty also surrounds the expansion Draft and the 2021 NHL Draft. In particular, the date and location of these two events are still unknown.

Seattle would like to host those two draft drafts in June at its new home, a project now known as Climate Pledge Arena that cost around $ 1 billion.

“Our hope was that we could unveil our arena and our team to the rest of the league here in Seattle,” said Kraken President and CEO Tod Leiweke. I think the league has to juggle several things. How are things going to play out? When are people going to feel comfortable enough to come back to arenas and gather in large numbers? However, I believe it is realistic. « 

The Kraken kept things in perspective and adapted to the situation.

“The draft was a very important issue a year ago,” said Leiweke. Funny how things can change. « 

It’s now been two years since the NHL announced that Seattle would get an expansion squad on Dec. 4, 2018, and the squad has made remarkable progress over the past year, despite the pandemic, as it has built an arena, a training complex, a brand, an organization and a fan base.

The enthusiasm has not waned despite the pandemic. Rather, he climbed.

The Kraken unveiled its name, logo and colors on July 23. As of that date, the team’s items rank second in sales behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Stanley Cup champions, on, although their jerseys are not yet available, according to first vice. – NHL Marketing President Brian Jennings.

There are about 10 months until the Kraken kicks off, provided the 2021-22 season starts on time. The arena and training complex should be completed on time, and the plan remains the same: a full house by the time of the opener in October 2021.

« Even the most cautious people in government are screaming that by next fall our world should be back to normal, » Leiweke said. And we will be ready. « 

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In the aftermath of the NHL’s announcement that the NHL had given an expansion team to Seattle two years ago, the team held a groundbreaking ceremony in front of the former KeyArena, next to the  » Space Needle ”. Leiweke insisted that it was not a renovation. The famous roof built for the 1962 World’s Fair was to be preserved. A new arena was going to be built below.

Around the same time the NHL announced the hiatus of the 2019-20 season on March 11 due to concerns over the coronavirus, the £ 44million roof was lifted and laid on metal pillars, and the former The arena was demolished and the workers were almost done digging the 600,000 cubic yards of dust.

Less than 10 kilometers away, the construction site for the training complex of three rinks had been launched.

The roof is now attached to the structure again, and the bleachers of the new arena are taking shape. NHL Seattle, Oak View Group and Amazon announced on June 24 that the amphitheater will be called the Climate Pledge Arena and that it will be the world’s first zero-carbon arena. The air filtration was already improved, especially since most of the building is underground. Leiweke said this system had been further improved in response to the pandemic.

The Kraken Training Complex is also taking shape. The roof is on. The windows take place. Ice rinks are emerging.

Construction was halted for just a few days before workers could return to the job sites under strict safety protocols. Leiweke said the first phase of the training complex is slated to open in June, with the rest of the complex slated to open in August. He added that the arena should be ready by the end of summer, possibly early fall.

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Francis now relies on a full staff of amateur and pro scouts, but they haven’t had a lot of hockey to watch, and can’t attend the games in person, as the leagues all meet in. different situations all over the world and travel is limited. When the leagues resume their activities, the seasons should be cut short, which will make the evaluation work even more difficult, putting Seattle at a disadvantage.

“Everyone has to deal with that,” said Francis. It’s not just us. However, we probably have less data or information compared to other teams. « 

Francis has yet to hire members of his team, in addition to a coaching staff. He admitted that in an ideal world he would hire his coach before the expansion draft. But too much remains uncertain.

« Are there going to be any changes to the rules for the expansion draft due to the situation, » Francis asked. What will happen with the amateur draft? Will everything go as planned, or will things change? The expansion draft, when it will take place … I have a lot of questions left. We are not yet at the point where we can get those answers.

“We look at each situation, and we ask ourselves how we might react to each eventuality, and we try to prepare as best as possible for the situation that lies ahead. « 

The pandemic is expected to give Seattle an advantage, however. The NHL salary cap will remain stable at $ 81.5 million until NHL hockey-related revenue crosses $ 3.3 billion, according to the collective agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA. If many teams will be stuck by the ceiling or by an internal budget, the Kraken will come with a blank canvas.

“I think a lot of the other teams and GMs had more time to prepare this time around compared to the last expansion draft [pour les Golden Knights de Vegas en 2017] in order to somehow prepare their team and their training, ”said Francis.

“The biggest advantage for us, however, remains the space on our payroll, and not just in our first season, but also for years to come. It’s important to take into account our second and third seasons in order to deal with all of this in the right way.  »

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Two years ago, NHL Seattle’s slogan was « THE RETURN OF HOCKEY ». He sought to emphasize that the city had a rich hockey history. The Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association made Seattle the first American city to win the Stanley Cup when they beat the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association in 1917.

“I have the Stanley Cup making a comeback in Seattle,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said at the time.

Leiweke remembered the Metropolitans for another reason this week. The Metropolitans and the Canadiens also faced off for the Stanley Cup in 1919, when the Metropolitans were still part of the PCHA and the Canadiens represented the NHL, which was in its second season. The Stanley Cup Final, which was tied 2-2-1 after five games, was called off due to an outbreak of the Spanish flu.

“It’s interesting, the connection between the Seattle Metropolitans and global pandemics,” he said. The only Stanley Cup Final that wasn’t completed was because of what was going on here in Seattle, then here we are about 100 years later, and hockey is making a grand comeback as yet another pandemic is present in the background. It’s really unbelievable. « 

What happened after World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic?

« It was the advent of the ‘Roaring’ 20s, » and people had this strong desire to go out and have fun, « Leiweke noted. Quite incredible dances were organized at the time. The world has come to life you know, and we believe it will be again, and we’re going to be ready. « 

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