With the news that the City of Glendale, Arizona, will not renew the Arizona Coyotes’ arena lease, it may be time for the NHL to relocate the team to a more stable situation. Some of the cities mentioned as potential relocation cities, including Houston and Quebec City. While those are two great options, Portland, Oregon, should be added to that list. Here are three reasons the City of Roses should be the frontrunner to land the Coyotes if they relocate.
Traditon Of Hockey
Hockey has been part of the Portland community for over a century. It started with the Rosebuds of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) back in 1914. Not only were they the first American team to join the PCHA, but they were also the first team non-Canadian team to compete for the Stanley Cup. Flash forward to the present day, and the love for hockey continues with the highly successful Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL), who have been crowned Memorial Cup champions twice.
The State of Oregon also has a plethora of minor hockey programs. This is a State that loves its hockey and is passionate about its teams. They continue to have one of the highest attendances in the WHL, and their fans are a dedicated as anyone in the Pacific Northwest. The city cares about hockey and would ensure an NHL franchise succeeds in the market.
The rivalry between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver in the WHL has led to some intense playoff series. All three teams have made the Memorial Cup in the last 15 years and have some of the most passionate fan bases in the WHL. There have even been times over the past 20 seasons where one team prevented the other from making the playoffs. Here is a recap of how Portland has done against each team in the playoffs since 2002 when the Vancouver Giants officially became part of the WHL.
Portland vs. Seattle
In the past 20 seasons, the two teams have played three times in the playoffs. Here is a recap of those three series:
The first big matchup was in the 2002 playoffs. The series went to seven games, and the Seattle Thunderbirds defeated Portland, thanks to a late third-period goal by Trevor Johnson. It was considered a stunning upset, as Portland had 30 more points than Seattle in the regular season. What made the game more painful for Winterhawk fans was that the game was played at home.
Portland had to wait a few years to get revenge, but in 2006, they found a way to upset the Thunderbirds in a seven-game series, this time with an overtime goal in game seven scored by Jonathan Bubnick. During Game 7, the Winterhawks came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Thunderbirds. Like in 2002, the home fans watched their team suffer a game seven loss on home ice.
The teams would have to wait until 2015 to break the tie. This time, the series was decided in six games when the Winterhawks won the game in the dying seconds of overtime. Just like in 2006, Portland found a way to upset the Thunderbirds, this time thanks to an overtime goal by Nicolas Petan. The series was gruelling and really helped solidify the rivalry that still lasts today.
Portland vs. Vancouver
Just like the Seattle rivalry, Vancouver and Portland have faced off three times in the playoffs. Here is how each series played out:
The first time the two teams met was in 2006. The Giants were the better team by far and took care of the Winterhawks in five games. The only Portland win that series was a 1-0 victory in game two, where Kurtis Mucha stole the show with a 41 save shutout. Despite the lopsided score, this was a physical series and one that set the tone for years to come.
The two teams would meet again in 2010. The series was closer, but Vancouver still found a way to beat Portland in six games. The series was once again physical and featured a ton of penalties. The rivalry continued to grow as these two franchises grew to hate each other over the six games.
In 2014, Portland finally got revenge by sweeping the Giants. During the regular season, the teams were separated by 38 points. The series was not close, as Portland was clearly the better team. Game 4 was especially chippy, as there were five misconducts handed out. The two teams hated each other, which made the series exciting to watch from start to finish.
The biggest question that needs to be asked is about infrastructure. Does Portland have a stadium that can host an NHL team? The answer is yes. The Moda Center, which is currently home to the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA, would be a fantastic home for an NHL team. They can fit 18,280 people for hockey, which is more than the Staples Center can hold. The stadium is also very accessible by transit and close to the downtown core.
The stadium has hosted hockey for years, as the Winterhawks have used it since 1995. It has the capacity to host the NHL and the infrastructure to ensure the playing surface is up to the NHL’s standards. The stadium has also been renovated recently, with more planned for the future. It is a great stadium and is ready to host an NHL team if given a chance.
A Great Choice For Relocation
Although it isn’t the biggest city, Portland should be in the running if the Coyotes are forced to relocate. The team would stay in the Western Conference, have instant rivalries that the NHL could market, and give a passionate fan base a team they deserve. Not to mention the potential of a Winter Classic down the line at either Reser Stadium or Autzen Stadium. It is a win-win situation, and the NHL should seriously consider it, as the experiment in Arizona has clearly failed.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken team. His work can also be found at dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Adam is excited to be part of the Kraken’s inaugural season and ready to bring you in depth coverage of the NHL’s 32nd team.