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Sports >  NHL

Sue Bird, Marshawn Lynch, Gary Payton among Seattle celebrities to appear at NHL expansion draft

UPDATED: Mon., July 19, 2021

United States' Sue Bird plays against Team WNBA during the second half of a WNBA All-Star basketball game, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Las Vegas.   (John Locher)
United States' Sue Bird plays against Team WNBA during the second half of a WNBA All-Star basketball game, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Las Vegas.  (John Locher)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

An array of celebrities — including sports figures Marshawn Lynch, Gary Payton, Sue Bird and Jordan Morris as well as Grammy-nominated performing artist Macklemore and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer — will appear to help announce Seattle Kraken picks Wednesday during ESPN2’s broadcast of the NHL expansion draft from Gas Works Park.

They are expected to be joined on the main stage by Kraken general manager Ron Francis as the team’s picks are made. The broadcast will also cut to various local landmarks, where some of the picks will be announced, including Pike Place Market, the Seattle Aquarium, the Space Needle and Mount Rainier.

“We’re really happy with who’s going to be there and how we’re going to incorporate them into the show,” NHL chief content operator Steve Mayer said Monday as workers began setting up for the event. “It gives them a cool moment where they’re going to announce picks, essentially, from various teams. I think to add to the energy of the live event, it was vital to bring in some legends the fan base here is going to completely respond to.”

Representatives of the city’s teams past and present will be on hand, including former Sonics Shawn Kemp and Lenny Wilkens joining Payton. Kyle Lewis of the Mariners will also be there, as will Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. Kraken pro scout and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato joins team owner Bruckheimer and Francis as pick presenters.

“Ron will be probably the biggest piece, of course, and he’ll be introduced, and he’ll be the anchor and make a significant amount of picks,” Mayer said. “But we’ll also on occasion go outside the venue to different locations and bring a unique way of making picks into the fold.

“And then, what we’re going to do live is bring the celebrities out one by one on to the stage — they’ll be center stage. The crowd will obviously have a pretty cool reaction to whoever we bring out … and they’ll announce to the crowd the name of the player.”

Members of Western Washington Female Hockey and the Anchorage Hockey Association, Kraken season-ticket holders and construction workers from Climate Pledge Arena also will be featured during the broadcast.

About 4,000 fans are expected to attend the closed-set shoot, for which the Kraken has already given away all free tickets. The park is closed to the public Wednesday, and nobody without a ticket will be permitted.

Mayer, the event’s executive producer, arrived in town Saturday, and crews on Monday morning began assembling the main stage and other set items. Beyond the celebrities, Mayer said the hope is about four or five new Kraken players can be on site as the team’s choices are announced, as there were when the Vegas Golden Knights partook in the previous expansion draft four years ago.

The Kraken must submit final picks to the NHL by Wednesday morning ahead of the 5 p.m. TV broadcast.

“There is every intention on our part and the Kraken’s part that we are going to bring players in depending on who they are selecting,” Mayer said. “Going back to the Vegas situation, it was very last minute as you’d imagine.”

He added: “If the player happens to be there, we’ll walk the player up (on stage). If the player happens to not be there, we’ll move on to the next pick. So the celebrities will participate in what I think is a meaningful way. They won’t just come out and say hello. They’ll actually make a pick. So there will be a combination of some cool, different and creative ways to make picks.”

One rumored way was that the NHL plans to fly players in by seaplane and have them land on nearby waters, where a “sail gate” of local boaters will be taking place. A floating barge with a giant video screen will showcase the broadcast for the boaters. Mayer said that as of Monday, the seaplane idea had been considered but was not yet part of the broadcast.

“Could it happen? Maybe. But I don’t know where that (rumor) came from.”

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