Seattle Kraken preseason games in Everett? There’s nothing in the works just yet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Over the weekend the Seattle Times ran a Kraken mailbag story where readers asked questions about the newest NHL hockey team, which begins play in the fall. One of the questions asked was about where the Kraken would play their preseason games if Climate Pledge Arena isn’t ready to host games by the time the exhibition season starts.
The NHL, which is still in the midst of its playoffs, hasn’t released a schedule for the 2021-22 season yet, though the league is reportedly targeting Oct. 12 as a start date. Climate Pledge Arena isn’t expected to open until sometime in October. Therefore, the Kraken are likely looking at playing preseason games either on the road or at alternate locations.
While the Seattle Times story provided no definitive answers about where Kraken preseason games would be played, one of the possibilities put forth was that Seattle could use Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena, home of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, as a venue for home preseason contests.
It makes a certain amount of sense. Angel of the Winds is a hockey-ready facility just 30 miles away that can seat 8,149. And the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, who will also be Climate Pledge Arena residents, are currently using Angel of the Winds as their temporary home.
With the conjecture out there, I decided to check with Silvertips chief operating officer Zoran Rajcic to see if there were any legs behind that speculation. He said there hadn’t been any discussion with the Kraken about the possibility of holding preseason games at Angel of the Winds. Yet.
How much fun would it be if Angel of the Winds ended up as a hosting site? The building has hosted an NHL preseason game before. In September of 2009 the Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning played a preseason game at what was then known as Comcast Arena. For the record, Tampa Bay won 2-1, with Jeff Halpern scoring both goals for the Lightning.
The game drew 7,281 fans on a Tuesday night, and the crowd was loud and raucous despite the only vested interest being the presence of former Silvertips Shaun Heshka and Peter Mueller on the Phoenix roster (Mueller didn’t even play as he was held out because of a groin tweak). Imagine what it would be like with the arena full of Kraken fans anticipating the start of the inaugural season?
So c’mon Kraken, let’s make this happen!
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Speaking of the Kraken, we’re now less than a month away from the expansion draft. Seattle will populate it’s initial roster by selecting one player from each team on July 21.
There are those who have visions of grandeur about the Kraken, considering the last NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season in 2017-18, and Seattle will be operating its expansion draft under the exact same rules as Vegas.
My original thought was there was no chance in Hades that Seattle was going to do as well in its expansion draft as the Golden Knights did. The NHL’s general managers learned their lesson from the previous expansion draft. There were going to be a lot fewer players with no-movement clauses in their contracts, which would require teams to protect some players they didn’t want to protect, and teams weren’t going to be suckered into making the type of side deals that produced many of Vegas’ best players.
But the coronavirus pandemic, as strange as this is to write, may have benefited Seattle. The loss of revenue caused by the lack of fans in the stands means the salary cap is remaining flat next season. As a result, more teams are going to need salary relief, and Seattle general manager Ron Francis has an opportunity to take advantage of that.
It’s going to be a lot of fun, let the speculation begin!
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As for the Silvertips, the WHL released the 2021-22 schedule for Western Conference teams Wednesday. Everett opens the season Oct. 2 at Kelowna and concludes the season on April 2 at Tri-City. The home opener had already been announced as Oct. 8 against Portland. Arenas are set to be open to full capacity.
With inter-conference play eliminated for 2021-22, the 68-game schedule fits well for Western Conference squads. Everett plays each of its U.S. Division rivals 12 times and faces each B.C. Division foe four times.
Almost all of Everett’s 34 home games will be on the weekend, as the team has just five weeknight home dates scheduled. While that’s good for the box office, it’s a little more challenging for the players, as Everett has seven three-in-three weekends on the schedule. At least the amount of travel for those three-in-threes has been contained, as most of them consist of back-to-back home games with a game at a nearby opponent tacked on to one end.
Perhaps the most significant difference from the last time fans could attend games in 2019-20 is the start times for Fridays and Saturdays. Friday night games at Angel of the Winds Arena are reverting to 7:05 p.m. from 7:35 p.m., while Saturday night games are switching to 6:05 p.m. from 7:05 p.m. Where was this when I was dealing with deadlines while on the beat from 2003-15?
It’ll also be good to have the Silvertips Preseason Classic back. It won’t be on Labor Day weekend as usual (the tournament is scheduled for Sept. 10-12), and its been reduced to two games a day instead of three. But fans will be welcome at Angel of the Winds, meaning the wait to see live hockey in Everett will be reduced by a month.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.