Ever since investor Chris Hansen exploded on the scene three years ago vowing to build an arena to lure the NBA and NHL to Seattle, there’s been a low, pleasant buzz surrounding the topic of expansion. It’s almost been enough to silence the thousands of middle fingers pointed in the direction of Oklahoma City each and every day.
After all, the Seattle SuperSonics were a successful NBA franchise that spent 41 years in Seattle before being shuttled out of town overnight by Oklahoma oil baron Clay Bennett. Initially, the energy that drove the arena project was the idea of the Sonics returning to Seattle. However, with the passage of time it’s become increasingly clear that isn’t going to happen. At best, the NBA has expressed indifference toward the Emerald City and has little interest in expansion or franchise movement, either now or in the near future. Call us in five years, says the NBA, or possibly ten. Better still, just build the arena and we’ll call you. Maybe.
Seattle certainly deserves better. KCPQ Fox 13 television personality Aaron Levine wrote about it in a recent piece, calling for the moon and the stars to align so that the NHL, not the NBA, takes the lead in the process. He’s not the only one, as I reported on the very same subject less than thirty days ago.
The NHL is all but begging the city to take a team, and it’s time for the local politicians to make it happen. Here are ten reasons why the NHL must expand to Seattle:
10. Seattle is the 12th largest media market in the United States
It’s a veritable gold mine for the NHL, and the league knows it. Securing new hockey fans has been an integral part of commissioner Gary Bettman’s legacy, with the Pacific Northwest still largely untapped. Nine of the eleven cities ahead of Seattle have NHL franchises.
9. Money talks
There’s gold in them thar hills. Seattle has the 12th largest Gross Metropolitan Product in the United States and is home to Microsoft, Amazon, Weyerhauser and other economic giants. The city has more than its share of corporate sponsorship opportunities.
8. An arena plan is approved
Plans for an 18,500-seat arena are done, the financing assured and as long as the process can be completed in time, an arena will be built. That is, assuming an anchor tenant is secured. Therein lies the problem.
7. The area’s hockey history is surprisingly rich
Junior hockey? Check. The Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips are well-established teams in the general vicinity. Professional hockey? None at present, but the Seattle Metropolitans, Seattle Totems, and a handful of others have been in town at various points since the early 1900s.
Pop quiz, hot shot: what was the first American team to hoist the Stanley Cup? You guessed it — the Seattle Metropolitans won it all in 1917.
6. An instant rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver is a mere 140 miles away, close enough for Seattle and Vancouver to smell the blood and Zamboni exhaust. The Canucks would be a natural rival.
5. Potential bad blood with San Jose, Los Angeles and/or Anaheim
It may be eleven hundred miles away, but chants of “Beat L.A.!” reverberate well in just about any arena. Likewise, the nearby Ducks would be fun to root against.
San Jose is closer still and although there’s no natural enmity between the two cities, both feature tech-centered economies that look down their noses at practically everyone else. Each looks forward to disliking one another.
4. Future expansion or relocation to Portland
Portland, Oregon is reportedly interested in the NHL. Although not as attractive an option, they have a ready-made NHL arena — the Moda Center — for a team to play in.
It’s unlikely that Portland would be granted a franchise anytime soon, but if the NHL is successful in Seattle, there’s a chance another team could eventually land in the Rose City.
3. League imbalance
Sixteen teams in the East but only fourteen in the West doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Although not unprecedented, leagues don’t like imbalance to remain unresolved for long.
Yes, a team could simply be moved from the East to the West. However, the NHL already did that when Detroit, Columbus and Winnipeg switched conferences just before the 2013-14 season. It’s more likely that expansion solves the problem this time around.
2. Seattle fans are rabid
Ever heard of that ’12th Man’ thing? Granted, that’s the Seahawks, but it shows how intense and devoted area fans can be. It’s not just football, either, as the Mariners drew over 3 million fans four years in a row back in the early 2000s and the Sounders have set MLS attendance records for five straight seasons.
Without question, Seattle is a first-rate sports town.
1. Seattle deserves a teamThe politicians have already said yes to $200 million in public financing. Mayor Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine have thrown their weight behind the project. The Sonics were ripped away seven years ago, and fans are clamoring for the NHL.
If ever a city has shown that it deserves an NHL franchise, it’s Seattle.
The timing is just about perfect
Given the support voiced on local sports radio, favorable editorials and water cooler conversations and the factors listed above, it’s clear that the NHL would be a natural fit in Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray has acknowledged that he recently met with Gary Bettman and NBA commissioner Adam Silver on the subject just last month, and potential investors are reportedly lining up.
Silver may have brushed aside the notion, but Bettman made it clear that the NHL would like to see the NHL in town. It’s time for the politicians and area leaders to make it happen.
What do you think? Does Seattle deserve an NHL franchise, or do you believe another city should take priority? Leave your thoughts below, or send a tweet to @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.