In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman provided some insight into the NHL’s plans for the Kraken’s expansion draft, which will take place on July 21st.
“There’s little we control right now, but the NHL hopes to hold the Kraken’s expansion draft in Seattle. It is preparing as if that could occur.”
That’s excellent news. A big expansion draft event in Seattle would go a long way toward continuing to get the city excited about the NHL’s arrival and ready for the season start in October. What will the expansion draft ceremony look like if it’s held in Seattle? The best indication might be to look at the the most recent expansion draft. So far, the NHL has kept a similar template in many aspects for the Seattle expansion draft as the one it used for Vegas in 2017.
The Golden Knights’ expansion draft was held as a combined event along with the 2017 NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena. The NHL Awards had been held in Las Vegas since 2009 so combining the two made sense. Fans could purchase tickets online which would get them into both events and prices ranged from $15-30. After the conclusion of the NHL Awards ceremony, the Golden Knights held their hour-long “expansion draft recap and celebration event.” In Vegas fans’ first opportunity to see their team’s roster unfold, owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee announced the team’s expansion draft selections pick-by-pick. The ceremony included an appearance by the biggest name selected in the expansion draft, goalie Marc-André Fleury. If you want to get a sense of exactly what it looked like, here’s the expansion draft ceremony in its entirety:
Obviously, Seattle’s expansion draft will have some noticeable differences from the one held in Las Vegas in 2017. First, it likely won’t take place in conjunction with the NHL Awards, as the 2017 event just happened to coincide with where the awards were already being held. The look and feel of the ceremony will also be different. The Golden Knights’ event had a very Vegas award show feel, which worked perfectly for them but I imagine that the Kraken and the NHL will want to do something that better fits the unique character of Seattle. That said, I do expect certain elements of the ceremony, like the owner and GM explaining picks, a player appearance, and a live crowd to feature in the Kraken’s event too.
When planning the expansion draft, the Kraken and the NHL do, of course, have to contend with the elephant in the room. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about what kind of atmosphere will even be possible for the event, which is less than four months away. Perhaps an outdoor venue like Seattle Center would be preferable to an indoor setup and would allow for better air circulation and a higher attendance capacity. On the other hand, maybe distanced seating and limited capacity will be necessary if vaccination efforts go slower than expected. The underlying data driving those decisions is something that the Kraken and the league ultimately won’t be able to do much about. As Friedman said, “there’s little we control right now.” But the Kraken organization has shown many times that they can think outside the box. The expansion draft will certainly be no different.