NHL in Seattle?


Will Seattle ever have an NHL team? It seems that the issue keeps coming up from various sources in the NHL and Gary Bettman made it sound like it was definitely possible. A couple questions arise when discussing this issue:

Why now? Well, plans are being unveiled for Seattle’s new arena that will be easily accessible for both basketball and hockey teams. San Francisco’s Chris Hansen (who is actually from Seattle and is a hedge-fund manager) is interested in bringing a basketball team back to Seattle. He has bought up land near Safeco Field (see the Seattle Times picture to the left) which is in the perfect location for a new arena. The question is, will Seattle be able to get both a basketball team (which is what Hansen and his investors seem most interested in), or will there also be opportunity for a hockey team to move into the arena?

Chris Hansen and investors have talked about bringing in an NBA team to Seattle and it seems possible considering the amount of money and passion behind the idea. Hansen has continuously talked to Seattle media about how the Supersonics impacted his childhood. Hansen has his eyes on prize (which happens to be the Sacramento Kings) and seems focused on bringing the sport he loves back to the city he grew up in.

But, what does this mean for potential Seattle hockey? According to Gary Bettman, Seattle (as well as 5 other cities) seem to be options for a hockey team that might re-locate. Bettman has stipulated that definite arena plans must be made before the NHL will approve a relocation. And every other city that seems to be an option doesn’t seem very simple. Quebec would love for a new team to come up North, but the Nords’ old arena is fairly small and rundown. Kansas City was another option raised, but is mid-America really the best place to attract hockey fans and why hasn’t any team committed to the new arena since it was built in 2007?

According to the Globe and Mail, AHL Chicago-Wolves owner, Don Levin came out today and told Hansen he would be interested in getting involved with bringing a hockey team to Seattle. This is a major step in getting Hansen and his basketball-minded investors to start thinking about the dual-benefits of a multi-purpose/multi-sport arena. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that Don Levin has been interested in owning an NHL franchise for the last couple years.

And where would this team come from? It is nearly impossible to start a team from scratch in the NHL, and with realignment talks already in the works, this deal probably needs to go through fast. The only team that I think really has a chance of being relocated is the Phoenix Coyotes. Their fan base is weak, attendance is the second-worst in the league, the team is being run by the NHL, they have only won a couple more games than they have lost, and Arizona is not quite a place where ice-cold hockey fits in with the local culture. Not to mention the fact that the Coyotes have been losing money ever since they left Winnipeg to come to Arizona. But will Levin be accepted by Hansen? Will he be able to lure the Coyotes up North?

11 comments on “NHL in Seattle?

  1. Gene says:

    Nice blog! I enjoyed the Seattle write-up.

  2. Jared says:

    I would love it but I’m doubtful. We couldn’t keep a basketball team which is much more likely to succeed in this city.

  3. Howard Wells says:

    Good read, thanks! As part of the agreement between Hansen and the city and county, the new stadium is a no-go without BOTH NBA and NHL teams signed up to play in the new place.
    Another thing to note: the private money ready to be spent on the $450-500mil stadium is higher than any stadium but Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center.

  4. Sharon says:

    Interesting how super wealthy can impact these decisions.

  5. southpaw62 says:

    Question: Would someone placing an NHL team in Seattle be required to pay a territorial “infringement fee” to the Vancouver Canucks? I know the NHL gives existing teams an “exclusive” radius of up to “X” miles from their arenas. Anyone wanting to put a new or relocated team in these “exclusive-radius” zones must pay the infringement fee.

    I believe the NHL’s exclusive radius is 150 miles (240 km). If this is correct, would the Vancouver team qualify to receive this “infringement payment?” I could be wrong.

    Comment: I live in Sacramento, CA. If the Kings should leave my town, I hope Seattle is the town they move to. A third team in the LA metro would get lost in the shuffle. The Lakers are always a big draw and the Clippers are on the way up with Blake Griffin.

  6. Don’t know too much about the law behind the infringement rules. What I did find online was that it has definitely happened before.

    “For the Anaheim team, the $50 million expansion franchise fee was paid as follows: $25 million to the NHL and $25 million (at $5 million per year for five years) to Bruce McNall and the L.A. Kings, whose territory was infringed by the Ducks. The NHL defines the franchise area for a member club from the boundary of, for example, the Corporation of the City of Ottawa (the old city not the new city) plus 50 miles. So if someone wanted to establish a franchise in Gatineau or Red Deer or Hamilton, they should first do a deal to determine the amount of compensation that the rights holders being infringed (the Sens, the Oilers and Flames, and the Leafs and Sabres) would receive.”

    Judging from this quote, it seems very case-by-case. But, according to mapquest the distance from Rogers Arena to Safeco Field is 145 miles so maybe its not going to be a problem at all. Time will tell.

  7. southpaw62 says:

    I’ve heard that some hockey pundits have suggested that Portland, OR is on a short-list if the NHL should expand or approve another team’s relocation.

    If Portland would get an NHL team, would this have any impact on the Seattle metro? Wouldn’t the NHL pretty much close the door on placing any more teams on the West Coast?

    Personally, I’d like to see hockey in the Emerald City. However, the Atlanta-to-Winnipeg move may exemplify the NHL’s desire to put more teams in the “traditional hockey zone,”—Canada, the US Northeast, and the US Midwest.

  8. Eric says:

    Interesting dialogue. You mentioned that Phoenix has the 2nd weakest attendance in the league. Which team has the worst attendance?

    Seattle is a great city, but the 3 hour time difference makes it hard to follow east coast teams on their west coast trips

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