The NHL in Seattle Draws Inexorably Closer

Seattle Arena project hockey NHL
Street level rendering of the new arena. Credit: 360 Architecture.

The NHL is closer than ever to becoming a reality in Seattle.

A little over a year ago, facts came to light that immediately raised the hopes of sports fans throughout the region that not only could the NBA return to Seattle, but very possibly the NHL as well. Bay area hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who grew up in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, made public his intent to build an arena in the SoDo region of the city for the twin purposes of obtaining two anchor tenants: a resurrected Sonics team, and a yet-to-be-named NHL franchise as well.

Fast forward to the present. Providing it passes a year-long formal review process and possible legal challenges, an arena capable of seating 18,000+ will be constructed. Furthermore, an NBA team appears to have been secured, as an investment group featuring Hansen as well as area titans Steve Ballmer and Peter and Erik Nordstrom has announced that it has entered into a binding agreement to purchase a controlling interest in the beleaguered Sacramento Kings franchise for an estimated $340 million, with the obvious intent to relocate them to the Emerald City.

Next up: the NHL?

The sale of the Phoenix Coyotes falls through

(Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)
(Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)

Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison had agreed to purchase the Coyotes from the NHL for a reported $170 million, with a deadline of January 31st to close escrow, due to a sweetheart lease deal with the city that Glendale mayor Jerry Weiers said he would not honor “one second past midnight.” With Jamison unable to arrange sufficient financing in time, he issued a statement late Thursday night that said:

“We will not be able to complete our purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes today in time to meet our deadline with the city of Glendale. However, our journey to purchase the Coyotes will continue. We realize this will require additional conversations with the city of Glendale and the NHL. We still believe we can reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. We hope negotiations with the city proceed as smoothly as possible, as everyone involved wants the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.

“To the Arizona’s sports and hockey fans, and the City of Glendale, we appreciate your patience and diligence. We wish everything was completed today as we worked extremely hard on the deal. However, we have taken significant steps to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for the long-term. I’ve seen first-hand the wonderful support Arizona hockey fans have provided the Coyotes and we will continue our efforts to keep the NHL in Arizona.”

Hockey in Seattle

Seattle's Stanley Cup winning Metropolitan franchise folded in 1924.
Seattle’s Stanley Cup winning Metropolitan franchise folded in 1924.

Although there has never been an NHL franchise in Seattle, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Seattle Metropolitans played for the Stanley Cup three out of four years in the early 1900s. They won the Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens three games to one. Two years later, the two teams matched up once again, but due to the rampant outbreak of the Spanish influenza, the series was called off after being tied 2-2-1. Lastly, in 1920, the Metroplitans reached the finals for a third and final time, losing the Cup to the Ottawa Senators three games to two. The franchise eventually folded in 1924.

Junior hockey remains strong in Seattle. At present, two Western Hockey League (the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Everett Silvertips) are in the region, with the Silvertips in the top 20 in attendance within the Canadian Hockey League, and the Seattle Thunderbirds just outside that list. Considering the history and strength of hockey in the Puget Sound, and given that an arena will be built in the heart of the nation’s 12th largest media market, Seattle is as attractive a destination for relocation as there is.

What’s next?

Certainly, nobody knows for sure at this point. Although Jamison was unable to deliver in time, it is quite possible he ends up negotiating a new deal with the city of Glendale. Pundits seem to give that a low likelihood of occurring, but area leaders may feel Jamison is the last, best chance the Coyotes have of remaining in Arizona. Rumors of other investment groups circling the carcass are out there, however, and given the speed and decisiveness Hansen has demonstrated in negotiating both the arena deal in Seattle and the purchase of the Sacramento Kings, it’s a safe bet that his group is one of them.

The NHL in Seattle. Two years ago, the region couldn’t even spell NHL. Today, fans are hoisting their coffee cups up high in anticipation. Next thing you know, it’ll actually stop raining.