NHL in Seattle?

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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?