Two years and eight months. Over 135 weeks.
That was the wait time from the day the NHL announced a team was coming to Seattle to the day this city found out who comprised this team.
We’ll find out soon enough whether the Kraken nailed the expansion draft the way the Vegas Golden Knights did four years earlier. But we do know this: It nailed the introduction.
With Lake Union and the Seattle skyline in the backdrop, the Kraken unveiled its roster with captivating flair. Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton were there. Bobby Wagner, Macklemore and Lenny Wilkens, too.
Marshawn Lynch tried to pronounce Calle Jarnkork’s name on the big screen next to the stage. And NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (who pronounced Climate Pledge Arena as Climate Change Arena), received a mix of boos and cheers from the 4,000 people on hand at Gas Works Park — as well as the scores of folks looking on from their boats and kayaks.
Hard to imagine a more scenic or festive way for Kraken players to be welcomed to the city — and there were people doing some imagining.
“I had lot of, envisioning this in a lot of different ways, but nothing lives up to this,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “The lake behind us. The scene on the other side of the stage. It’s awesome.”
If Seattle hockey fans were asked to pick the moment they’d been waiting for since being awarded a team, most would probably say when the puck is dropped in the first game of the regular season. But Wednesday’s expansion draft ranks a solid No. 2.
This was the day faces could be associated with the franchise — the day relatively anonymous figures would become Seattle celebrities. As forward Jordan Eberle gave an interview by the lake, fans with paddles in their hands yelled, “Welcome to Seattle, Jordan!” They gave similar greetings to goalie Chris Driedger, Brandon Tanev and anyone else who stepped near the water.
Like opening day in MLB or training camp in the NFL, the ambience teemed with anticipation. Said Driedger: “Can you beat this? This is incredible.”
Speaking of incredible, the team Vegas constructed in its 2017 expansion draft ended up going to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season. It set a bar that Kraken general manager Ron Francis will feel pressure to live up to — at least to a relative degree.
With limited options — the other 31 teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie — he assembled a mix of up-and-comers and seasoned veterans. But perhaps as conspicuous as who was on the roster (such as former Norris Award winner Mark Giordano) was who wasn’t.
In terms of name recognition, Canadiens goalie Carey Price — a former NHL MVP — was probably the biggest in the draft. But the Kraken steered clear of the 33-year-old — who suffered a knee injury that might cause him to miss the beginning of next season — and selected Joey Daccord (Blackhawks) and Vitek Vanecek (Capitals) instead.
A reporter asked Francis about passing on well-known veteran goalies.
“I assume you mean Carey Price?” Francis said to laughs. “Anytime you hear Carey Price’s name and everything he’s done, you have to seriously have that consideration, and we did. We had those conversations.”
In the end, though, Francis went with the younger, cheaper options.
But Wednesday wasn’t about evaluating. Wednesday was about celebrating.
It was about Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke screaming into the mic as though he doubled as the team’s hype man. It was about Seattle sports stars past and present greeting potential future legends.
It was about Seattle reminding the nation of its beauty with its majestic views. It was about this city establishing itself as a legitimate hockey town.
Before the draft began, movie producer and Kraken co-owner Jerry Bruckheimer took the mic and told the crowd that everything they do is for the fans.
Well, those fans were greeted warmly Wednesday — and returned that warmth to Seattle’s newest team.