The NHL could have a future in Seattle

It’s been 93 years since Seattle last put a team on the ice at the professional level.

That time may be near an end.

On Monday, the Seattle City Council approved a 7-1 vote for a $600 million in renovations to KeyArena. According to the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker, council members approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the Oak View Group, a company out of Los Angeles. Per Baker’s report, it is stated that renovations are set for a completion date of 2020 so that the city can put a team on the ice for the 2020-2021 NHL season.

But what does this all mean?

As of right now, it’s nothing but fuel for the NHL relocation rumors to fly. However, it may also likely become a stronger argument than cities like Hartford, Houston, and even Quebec City. According to the report, the proposal made by OVG does not call for the city to be awarded a franchise prior to the start of renovations. It was also stated by Baker that a pledge for $40 million would be aimed toward a city transportation fund to help mitigate or even construct parking structures to alleviate problems that could arise from traffic. He also stated that $20 million would be geared toward local charities.

Seattle’s case for hockey

This wouldn’t be the first time the NHL had a franchise located in the state of Washington. From 1915 to 1924, the Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association called Seattle home. In 1917, the squad built primarily of players from the Toronto Blueshirts hoisted the Stanley Cup in a four-game series. In Game 4, Seattle demolished the Montreal Canadiens 9-1, becoming the first American team to hoist the cup. The New York Rangers of the NHL would become the first American-based NHL franchise to record the feat in 1928.

Despite a championship season, professional hockey lasted for a brief stint in Seattle. By 1924, the PCHA was on the edge of collapse. While still playing in the Western Canada Hockey League, the Metropolitans recorded their last regular-season title in 1924 before the PCHA completely folded.

Since then, there has been a strong presence of hockey in the state. The Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs, and Everett Silvertips all call Washington home. Two of those teams serve as a pipeline for the NHL as members of the WHL.

As for other sports teams, Seattle is really the epitome of a sports town. Everyone flocks by the hundreds to watch the Seahawks, Sounders and the Mariners (Yes, the ever-struggling Mariners) to play. When looking at the economic grip a potential franchise would need on a market, Seattle sits fairly well for a team looking for marketing and advertising avenues. 10 Fortune 500 companies – Microsoft and Amazon being at the top – call the Seattle-King County area home. A vital location for a team that would be desperately in need of promotional or even sponsorship connections. To add to that number, 13 companies have their headquarters in the location. It has been reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer is slated as a co-owner.

It may be an untapped market, but in terms of potential monetary benefits, being located near some of the country’s top companies should have the makeup for exponential growth for not just the team, but the actual market.

According to the report, it alluded that a franchise announcement from the NHL could be just months away.

“The NHL is expected to make a franchise announcement by July regarding the addition of either an expansion or a relocated team to this market. The league is dealing with ongoing arena issues in Arizona and Calgary and would like to align its Western and Eastern conferences in what now is a 31-team league.” 

-Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker

When the NHL makes that announcement in the coming months, the idea will be known whether Seattle will be home to the league 32nd franchise or a team looking for a fresh start. Although, recent history might show that Seattle should be hoping to be regarded as an expansion team.

Expansion or relocation? 

If Seattle wants any hopes to fielding a competitive team in their opening year of competition — notably the most important for fan support purposes, they must act now to start openly pitching to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on allowing the new Seattle-based franchise to be the league’s 32nd NHL team.  Why? Look no further than the Vegas Golden Knights.

In their inaugural season, the Knights have simply shattered expectations. They are the first team in NHL history to win eight of their first nine games and currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division with a record of 17-9-1.

The reason behind this unbelievable start is due to the changes in the expansion draft. Vegas was able to pluck quality players from all 30 teams to field what looks to be a bona fide playoff contender.  When you’re an expansion team and the makeup of your roster during the first year is littered with players who have either postseason experience or even a Stanley Cup win (three if you Marc-Andre Fluery), success is quick to follow. The team would have to pay a pretty penny for the expansion fee. Vegas paid $500 million.

If Seattle were to be deemed a relocation opportunity, the pickings are slim. Oddly enough, so is the talent pool. As it currently stands, the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames are the two teams along the continental divide that is in dire need of either a new arena or renovations. If either franchise were unable to find feasible accommodations for either a new arena or renovations, Seattle would more than likely end up with one of the two franchises. The talent pool has a mix of both franchises, but the best situation would still be able to tap into the league 29 other teams for players.

As for what this means to Houston and Hartford – two locations that have already started making a pitch for NHL teams – they still have time from now until the formal announcement to continue to state their case. Hartford has already started pitching the idea for the New York Islanders to come if the team is evicted from their current location. Meanwhile, Houston Rockets owner Tim Fertitta and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have already had a preliminary talk about bringing a team to Houston according to USA Today’s Scott Gleason.

It might be premature, but with the step Seattle made Monday, expansion, and relocations start involving the NHL may just be heating up.

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Joshua Zimmer
Josh Zimmer is the Lead NFL Draft analyst for NGSC Sports as well as serving as a contributor for NHL coverage.
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  1. Pingback: NHL: Seattle to start first steps of expansion process - NGSC Sports

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