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Seattle looks forward to Kraken’s NHL Expansion Draft tonight

The Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, right, is congratulated by Ivan Barbashev, center, and Ryan O’Reilly after scoring in Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche on May 23 in St. Louis. (AP file photo)

SEATTLE — When the calendar flips to this time of year, there is normally a mix and anger and resentment for sports fans in this corner of the country.

Not this year. Not with one of the biggest moments yet in the creation of the newest NHL franchise about to take place tonight with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, during which the team will set the foundation for its first roster.

“I get emotional about this, but it was 3 1/2 years ago that fans took this huge leap of faith,” Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said. “And now it’s payback time.”

In an odd synergy of the calendar, the pandemic-related changes to the NHL season landed the expansion draft at a time that brings back painful memories for sports fans in Seattle.

It was 15 years ago this week — July 18, 2006, to be exact — that the NBA’s SuperSonics were sold to owners from outside the region. A two-year fight followed that eventually led to the relocation of Seattle’s first pro sports team to Oklahoma City.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price watches from the crease during the second period of Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 30 in Tampa, Fla. (AP file photo)

Seattle will finally get a winter pro sports replacement with the debut of the Kraken in October.

“It’s really about the players and the fans and tomorrow is the coming together of those two things,” Leiweke said. “It’s just powerful. Some fans feel it’s a long time coming. For me, it’s been 3 1/2 years coming, got some gray hairs as a result of it. But I think the fans are going to really like what they see.”

The unveiling of the Kraken selections will be a quintessential Seattle event. It’s being broadcast from Gas Works Park on the north shore of Lake Union with picturesque shots of the skyline in the background.

The NHL has recruited local sports celebrities to help announce the selections, including a nod to the SuperSonics with the inclusion of Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens.

Marshawn Lynch and Sue Bird are taking part as well. The Kraken jersey will be unveiled for the first time.

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