SEATTLE - It's the thing nobody's really talking about during these Stanley Cup playoffs but that will certainly become a huge discussion next month.
We've all long assumed the Kraken will launch in October 2021 because October has been the NHL's opening month the past eight decades. But it's looking more likely the league could delay starting the 2021-22 season until November or December of next year.
Much depends on what happens during the coming 2020-21 campaign, which now could start in January after an initial Dec. 1 target. Full disclaimer: With COVID-19 still a major concern and the Canadian government yet to reopen borders to non-bubble sports play, predicting events a year from now remains next to impossible.
But there's been NHL discussion about permanently switching to something like a December-through-July schedule starting with the Kraken's debut campaign. And that will likely suit the Kraken just fine as it scrambles to complete a $930 million overhaul of Climate Pledge Arena.
The former KeyArena was leveled beneath its roof and is now being built back up again - with construction underway on steel-and-concrete seating platforms.
The team is still targeting completion by late August 2021, possibly September, and hopes to know more in coming weeks. But that's cutting things awfully close. And when you look at what's ahead, getting the still partially framed interior to a completed arena with high-end finishes promised by the Kraken and Oak View Group (OVG) venue developers, another month or two of cushion would undoubtedly be welcomed.
Ken Johnsen, the construction executive leading the project, said Monday construction should quicken as precast concrete pieces manufactured in Spokane are now being trucked over and installed. Precasting - commonly used for sports venues - means the huge pieces don't have to be shaped and dried here and can go up right away.
"So, we're in good shape, it's going well - and they fit, which is great," Johnsen said.
Still, a project slowed by additional COVID-19 safety measures faces an all-out sprint to the finish. There have been even longer COVID-19 delays on another OVG project, UBS Arena, being built for the New York Islanders - which halted for two months due to the pandemic.
And while officials maintain UBS Arena will open by October 2021, you'd have to think they'd also love an extension.