Seattle NHL Expansion Announcement Could Happen ‘Within Weeks’

Bill Daly
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has openly discussed NHL expansion to Seattle.

With respect to sports and in the wake of the Seattle Seahawks’ dominating Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos, Seattle is now, as former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick is fond of saying, ‘en fuego’.

After all, not only does the city have the NFL’s best team, but the Washington Huskies finished ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2001, with highly-coveted former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen poised to take the team to the next level. This offseason, the Seattle Mariners declared themselves to be ‘all in’ after years of rebuilding and reeled in the biggest fish of this year’s free agency pool — Robinson Cano — with a massive 10-year, $240 million contract. Both the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Coyotes came within a hair’s breadth of relocating to the Emerald City in 2013, stopped only by desperate last-minute negotiations (Phoenix) and ham-handed league intervention (Sacramento). Even the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer remain a hot commodity, with an average attendance (44,038) more than double that of any other team in the league.

With all that said, Seattle remains without the NBA and the NHL as of this writing. If reports are true, however, change may be just around the corner.

[See Also: Some Ideas on the Name of a Seattle NHL Club]

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly openly discusses expansion

According to this article, the NHL is seriously considering Seattle as an expansion target, possibly in time for the 2015-16 season. Discussing expansion with Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Daly said, “I think we have a belief in the Pacific Northwest, it being good hockey territory. I think, obviously, the Canucks have done a fantastic job — in Vancouver, but also throughout British Columbia and the Pacific region — at driving interest in the sport.”

He summed up his remarks by saying, “So, we think the possibility is there. It’s kind of more obvious than some of the other areas. It doesn’t mean we’ve done our due diligence. We’d need to satisfy ourselves on the marketplace, but just the objective factors around the marketplace suggest Seattle would be a good hockey market.”

A Seattle contingent visits Vancouver to learn how the Canucks do business

Could scenes like this (pregame at Rogers Arena) be a part of Seattle’s professional sports future? (Attribution: Mr. Leung, cc-by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Next week, a group of Seattle business and political heavyweights will make a two-day trip to Vancouver, B.C. to attend a game at Rogers Arena and to see exactly how the Canucks operate. “You’ve got some people on the trip who have never been to an NHL game before,” said Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission. “So, at the very least, they’ll come back with a greater understanding of what hockey is and what it takes to present the sport to fans at the NHL level.”

The Times points out that the trip has a greater purpose than merely discussions about the NHL. Nevertheless, it would seem more than a little speculative that many of the key players necessary in the effort to bring the NHL to Seattle are heading north, spending both time and resources, unless there are forces at work behind the scenes closing in on an expansion deal for the city.

Expansion fees could reach $275 million

It has been widely reported that the league’s asking price for an expansion fee was as high as $275 million last year, but Baker suggests that it will likely end up somewhere between $200 – $250 million. The hefty expansion fee is, of course, on top of the estimated $490 million price tag for the proposed new arena. Ownership would not likely be principally the same, as the potential new NHL team has been linked to Connecticut-based investment firm partners Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, the former of which has ties to the Puget Sound region.

And there may be a third big-dollar owner: former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Not only do the dollars and cents need to add up, but the funding mechanisms would need to be significantly tweaked if NHL expansion comes to Seattle before an NBA team is granted or relocated. The Memorandum of Understanding signed last year by the City of Seattle, King County and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen specifically called for the NBA to be the primary tenant, with the lion’s share of public financing generated as a result of that event. Assuming an NHL announcement were to come soon, the agreement would need to be changed.

The oft-cited ‘sources say’ indicate an announcement may be forthcoming

In the Seattle Times article, the most exciting news was buried — just as I have done here — toward the very end. Baker writes:

Sources have indicated that talks between the NHL and local officials were far enough along that some type of announcement could be made within weeks of the Sochi Olympics concluding. Daly told reporters in Sochi this week that no expansion announcement was imminent.

But it’s unlikely the league would delay an announcement beyond June if it intends to have new teams in 2015-16. Expansion teams typically need a couple of summers to do proper marketing and prepare temporary arena facilities.

If Seattle gets an expansion franchise, it likely won’t be the only one

Given that the NHL’s Western Conference currently has just 14 teams (versus 16 in the East) and assuming reports are true, it would seem highly unlikely that Seattle would be the only city awarded a franchise. Quebec City and Kansas City, both with arenas that will be available by 2015-16, are high on the list of expansion candidates. Several other cities in the U.S. and Canada have been mentioned as well.

No matter what, all eyes are currently on Seattle. Already the pantheon of professional football, the first American city to hoist the Stanley Cup may well be the next big thing in professional hockey. If Seattle does receive an expansion NHL franchise, the city may just party like it’s 1917.

7 thoughts on “Seattle NHL Expansion Announcement Could Happen ‘Within Weeks’”

  1. Together with Quebec, I’m ALL FOR a Seattle team coming into the NHL! I believe they’ll be very important to the league in the decades to come…

  2. I think I speak for thousands of people from Seattle when I say… I WANNA GO TO GAMES! We are thirsty for nhl hockey and sports fans in Seattle want to spend their money! Will the nhl take our money? The puck is on their ice.

  3. If the NHL needs 1 additional team, the REALLY need to look at Surrey BC, which in 3 years will be BIGGER than Vancouver! The Canucks are sold out every game, and there is a LOT of unmet need for more games/tickets/opportunity in Vancouver, from fans priced out of the Canucks games, and even if they aren’t, have little opportunity at tickets, as season ticket holders make the games are to get into. Surrey has the $$$$, the fanbase, and imagine the rivalry between Seattle, Vancouver, and Surrey fans all located so close! Win/Win/Win! Make it happen NHL!


    1. Deep Pockets: Ranked #21 of the Forbes 400 list means he has enough money that the he doesn’t have to take on partners, can withstand changes in markets and ride out economic downturns. Has the financial wherewithal to compete with “Big Market Teams” in pursuing free agents. Can sustain years of initial losses while developing the fan base and Hockey market.
    2. Local: Has emotional ties to the community. Has spent his adult life growing up here, raised his family here, made his fortune here. Has the means to live anywhere in the world yet he chooses to live in Seattle. No risk of threatening to move the team to some other city as leverage in a negotiation.
    3. Business Man: Whether fairly or unfairly known as the “Sales Guy”, Ballmer is a very capable businessman. He has the necessary business community contacts and relationships to all but secure a sellout of Corporate Suites and sponsorships. The depth and scale of his business experience will set a new bar among the fraternity of NHL owners. He is energetic, works hard, leads by example, is relentless in pursuing his goals and capable of inspiring those around him. Hire the right people to run the Hockey operation and let them do their job.
    4. Sports Fan: While it’s unclear to me that he is a NHL Hockey fan, I certainly remember seeing him at sonic games riding the emotional wave of ups and downs. Like Marc Cuban, he prefers to be courtside vs a private box and he is active and visibly engaged in the competition. He is passionate and has a healthy competitive gene that doesn’t like to lose and while making money is important, long-term winning is more important. Who doesn’t love that in an owner.
    5. Family Man: Married to Connie for 24 years and the fact that he drives a Ford speaks to his character. No TMZ headlines, no public lapses in judgment, no outrageous behavior (other than maybe monkey boy) makes him as average as the rest of us.

    I LOVE Steve Ballmer as a potential new owner of an NHL team. He would be great for Seattle, he would be great for the NHL, he would be great for the fans and I think he might even enjoy himself.

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