Kraken’s AHL franchise to begin play in 2022

by Kevin Nesgoda

Photo: Seattle Kraken.

Photo: Seattle Kraken.

Oak View Group and the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation announced today, their mission to build a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena for Coachella Valley. The facility will house the Seattle Kraken’s AHL franchise, as well as a training facility and community gathering spaces. The project will be privately funded and is to be constructed on land owned by the foundation.

Today’s announcement brings a change to the initial plan outlined in 2019 which proposed an arena located on tribal land in downtown Palm Springs. The new location will allow for fan access across all nine cities of the Coachella Valely for AHL games as well as concerts and other events taking place at the arena.

The Berger Foundation has always seen the potential of this property,” said Douglass A. Vance, vice president of real estate for the private foundation that has long generously supported educational and other charitable projects in the region. “We prepared the land many years ago for a project exactly like this arena and ancillary businesses and have since been actively seeking developers to create a world-class campus for the Coachella Valley and its visitors.

The arena construction is scheduled for 2021 which alters the timeline of having an AHL affiliate hit the ice for the Krakens inaugural season. With the project set to be completed in the last quarter of 2022, the AHL team won’t begin play until the 2022-23 season. General manager Ron Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk are exploring all options for finding other competition options for a certain number of reserve players during the 2021-22 NHL season.

One option is to follow the path of the Vegas Golden Knights and share an affiliate to house their AHL players during the construction process.

We’re excited the deal is done and Palm Springs will be our home for the AHL franchise,” said Francis Tuesday. “We will be doing everything we need to do on the development front, from top to bottom, for the good of the organization. We will be engaged and in communication with every player in our organization.

All 18 and 19-year-old players that are selected during the 2021 NHL draft, and who don’t make the NHL roster, are required to return to their junior, college, or European teams.

Only a handful of draftees make NHL rosters in a typical year,” said Olczyk in a press release sent out this morning. “In fact, some seasons, you might even have a thumb or pinkie finger left after counting. It is extremely difficult to make the NHL roster [as a teen]. These are talented young players but for the most part they are not physically, emotionally or psychology mature enough to play against men who might be five, 10 or even 15 years older with stronger bodies and deep hockey skills and experience.

The Kraken will maintain development control of any players sent to a shared affiliate, should that happen. However, they will not have control over systems used or playing time until a team takes the ice in their own facility.

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