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What would it take to host the NHL Draft in Seattle? Lessons from Vancouver

Seattle's new hockey franchise already has dreams of hosting the event, as early as 2021, in the new arena at Seattle Center.

Perhaps it is fitting that here in False Creek, Seattle got a real idea about what it would take to host an NHL Draft.

The two-day affair in Vancouver is part convention, part celebration of the sport. Hundreds of team executives, from all 31 teams, gather in one spot to pick the next generation of talent. Hundreds of fans follow along as well.

Seattle's new hockey franchise already has dreams of hosting the event, as early as 2021, in the new arena at Seattle Center. NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke made that clear during a visit with reporters. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hasn't ruled it out either.

Monika and Gordon Hodges of Mt. Vernon made the trip up to Vancouver, and are making their vote public about the name of the new Seattle franchise.

"Release the Kraken. We're excited about hockey in Seattle," laughed Monika, sporting a shirt with the mythical sea creature. She called herself a Canucks fan until this year.

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Kevin Doeffler was joined by his wife Eryn and daughter Riley, making the trip north from Everett.

"It's exciting. Makes it available to a lot of people who are really interested in hockey," said Eryn.  

Yet, it's not a slam dunk, to mix a sports metaphor.

"The last two years have been about the logistics," said Michelle Collens, of Sport Hosting Vancouver.  

Her organization has been working on the planning for the event, which also includes a handful of appearances of the young prospects in the days before.

Vancouver is hosting a Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek this weekend, and it’s also just the beginning of the cruise ship season.  

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Collens said Vancouver had to guarantee a certain amount of space would be available. 

"20,000 room nights are being generated for this event," she said, noting there are 18,000 rooms in Downtown Vancouver, and 30,000 rooms within a half hour drive. Many executives and team personnel were stretched across the city.

What would that look like in Seattle?  

David Blandford, a spokesperson for Visit Seattle, said the city has roughly 14,000 downtown hotel rooms. The hotel market rapidly expanded during the economic boom, with new buildings like the Hyatt Regency. It opened in 2018 with 1,200 rooms, making it the largest in the Northwest. However, if the NHL was looking for adjacent event space, the new Washington State Convention Center expansion is not expected to be completed until 2022.

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Of course, it could all depend on the construction timeline for the new arena at Seattle Center. Leiweke announced early this year that the Oak View Group was now targeting a June 2021 completion date. It had already been pushed back from October of 2020, to spring of 2021, before making the announcement. 

That would be a tight time frame for the draft or even the team's expansion draft, which will happen in mid-to-late June.

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