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NHL hockey comes to the Pacific Northwest as the league's 32nd franchise begins play this week.

There's nothing quite like the drama and edge-of-your-seat tension of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Why, pray tell, are we writing about an event that's half a year in the future?

Because the crystal ball is saying that we need to prepare.

Seattle officially becomes the 32nd National Hockey League city this week. The Kraken are scheduled to debut on Tuesday, Oct. 12, with their regular-season opener at Vegas (7 p.m., ESPN). It's the first of 82 regular-season games. If you have Root Sports on your television, you will be able to see plenty of Kraken hockey — including games Thursday at Nashville, Saturday at Columbus, Oct. 18 at Philadelphia and Oct. 19 at New Jersey.

The home opener is Oct. 23 against the Vancouver Canucks. This is the first installment in what figures to become a regional rivalry. The inaugural homestand at Climate Pledge Arena — built on the footprint of Key Arena in the shadow of the Space Needle — includes visits from two Original Six clubs: the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 26 and the New York Rangers on Oct. 31.

If you want to see a game in Seattle, you might need to take out a loan. Ticket prices on the resale market start at more than $100 for nosebleed seats. Want to see Montreal or New York? You'll need to sell a lot of snow cones. The Kraken sold 10,000 season tickets in 12 minutes when they went on sale and sales of their nifty-looking jerseys shattered NHL records for a new jersey introduction.

Anyway, back to this playoff thing. Consensus indicates that Seattle will krack — sorry, crack — the playoffs in this first season. In fact, odds makers and hockey experts have Seattle rated among the 10 teams most likely to make the playoffs.

General manager Ron Francis is a Hockey Hall of Famer for his 23 seasons playing in the NHL. He built a roster this year that is heavy on proven goaltending and defensemen. Seattle lacks star power, but coach Dave Hakstol (who coached the Philadelphia Flyers for 3 1/2 seasons) has solid experience and depth to work with.

The Kraken have arguably the best goalie tandem in the Pacific Division. Philipp Grubauer was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie last season for Colorado. Chris Driedger had limited opportunity to play for Florida but put up impressive numbers.

The defense is led by 38-year-old Mark Giordano, a 15-year stalwart with the Calgary Flames and the 2019 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's top defenseman.

At forward, Yanni Gourde, selected from Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, will miss the start of the season after offseason shoulder surgery. Veterans Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz project as top-line wingers, but the strength of the forward group will be depth, which could give Hakstol the luxury of leaning on four lines.

In the Pacific Division, Seattle joins three Canadian teams (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton), three California teams (San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles) and Vegas. The top three teams in each of four divisions and the next two best records in the Western and Eastern Conferences.

It remains to be seen how many Portland hearts the new ice serpent captures. But, if prognosticators are right and the Kraken make the playoffs, it figures to boost interest in hockey throughout the region.


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