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With expected return of NBA, Seattle’s NHL chances improve

Jan 22, 2013, 3:05 PM EDT

Seattle Getty Images

In case you haven’t been reading ProBasketballTalk, it appears all but certain the NBA will be returning to Seattle next season in the guise of the soon-to-be-former Sacramento Kings.

Yesterday, the NBA formally announced the Kings had been sold to a group led by investor Chris Hansen.

Hansen has been working hard to bring basketball back to Seattle, which lost the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.

If all goes to plan, the Sonics II will play at KeyArena for two seasons before moving into a brand new arena.

Which brings us to the point of the post — that brand new arena could also house an NHL franchise, something Hansen has said he’d welcome as a second tenant.

Now, a place to play is only the first thing Seattle would need in order to get an NHL team.

The second thing it would need is, you know, a team.

One potential relocation candidate has been (still is?) Phoenix; however, Greg Jamison has said his investor group plans to close on its purchase of the Coyotes by the end of the month. If that happens (yes, a pretty big if given past history), Seattle hockey fans might have to hope for an expansion team.

Of course, the same questions would remain about the viability of Seattle as an NHL market, even with a new arena.

For all the people in the metropolitan area (approx. 3.5 million), are there enough people that actually like hockey?

And would an NHL franchise be able to survive in a city that would also have the NBA, NFL, and MLB, plus a popular MLS team and a major NCAA program at the University of Washington?

Related: Chicago AHL owner eager to own Seattle NHL team

  1. elvispocomo - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Good hockey fans in Seattle and surrounding areas for sure, but are there enough to make it financially viable with all the other major sports competition as you say? I think it’s a stretch, but it’s gotta be better than the attendance in Phoenix, no?

    *Not saying anything bad about the fans that do enjoy hockey in Phoenix, just that the running joke is that there are only two of you.

    • eastcoastcynic - Jan 22, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      The Seattle area has a similar population size to the Denver area, which supports MLB, the NHL, and the NBA. Why not Seattle?

      • elvispocomo - Jan 22, 2013 at 6:28 PM

        Not saying it can’t happen, but is it the most likely location to have success? Would Hamilton or Quebec City be better choices? What about Portland (no NFL or MLB)?

    • dbara43 - Jan 23, 2013 at 8:30 PM

      The WHL Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips often have home games the same night and draw upwards of 15,000 on those nights for junior hockey. Support would not be an issue.

      And I think we could get more than 7,000 for a season ticket base (I’m looking at YOU Columbus) and draw better than a lot of other cities that already have NHL franchises.


      • elvispocomo - Jan 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        nothanksimdriving123’s post further down seems to suggest otherwise for the Thunderbirds attendance. Again, not saying it wouldn’t work, but it’s definitely a factor to consider.

  2. misterchainbluelightning - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    One too many teams in California (looking at you Ducks)
    I’d also think that a NHL team in Seattle will kill the Thunderbirds, shame but there’s only so much money to be spent on sporting entertainment, and NHL and NBA team comes to town, and the Thunderbirds are all back of the bus again.

    That being said hockey has been in Seattle since 1977, they absolutely would be a nice addition to the NHL.

  3. jimw81 - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    anyone notice the grin on bettman’s face about this issue at the post-lockout press conference?

  4. mrteevee - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    There aren’t too many cities that go crazy for soccer and Seattle is one of them. I don’t see why they wouldn’t enjoy a niche sport like hockey.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Again, CHL has been there since ’77, Seattle has been a member on the WHL for a long time.

  5. bo1210 - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Would make for a good “border war” with the Canucks, though a relocated team would make that a solid rivalry quicker than an expansion team would.

  6. steelers88 - Jan 22, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Um which team would the NHL move?

    • dbara43 - Jan 23, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      Columbus, New Jersey, Dallas (owned by a Vancouver businessman and no natural rivals within several hundred miles), Anaheim, Carolina, Florida… anybody playing to less than 90% of capacity looks vulnerable to me.


  7. nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 22, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    You can win a bar bet with this one: What was the first US city to be home to a Stanley Cup champion? Yup, Seattle. That said, Seattle fans can be pretty fickle. From what I can tell, 2001 was the most recent year that the WHL Thunderbirds averaged even 5,000 fans a game. Down in the low 4,000’s of late. Perhaps an NHL team would attract Vancouver area fans who can’t afford Canucks tickets.

    • tegyorit - Jan 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM

      This is partly to do with the Seattle Metro area adding a second WHL team then (The Everett Silvertips). Everett and Seattle combine for almost 10,000 in attendance not including teams from nearby Tricities, or minor league teams in Wenatchee, Yakima, Tacoma…BCHL team in Bellingham and hockey fans in Portland (All of which regularly pack the houses for NFL and MLB).

      The old NBA rivalry with Vancouver in the 90s, and the Cascadia Cup in MLS all but guarantees NHL fireworks between the border cities.

      Seattle will support hockey with a fervor, bring on the team!

    • badintent - Jan 23, 2013 at 2:33 AM

      Long lists of Vancouver folks that can afford tickets but are on waiting list.Plus , this willl be a natura,l great local rivalry between these teams like montreal and toronto, rangers and islanders,pens and flyers. Bettman has this on fast track, more NHLPA jobs more TV ratings, more $$$$$

      Kiro5 news showed the proposed area , uses rain water collected from roof to create giant water fountains with lights to create great images. nice !

  8. lesleyvissersfacelift - Jan 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Phoenix out of the mix? If so, Florida is still out there. Then there’s Dallas, Anaheim, Tampa. Give Columbus a mulligan. But there’s still enough to move teams to Seattle and Quebec. Now, who will move to Portland or Saskatoon? Or Halifax?

    • tbbolts91 - Jan 22, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      Oh yeah let’s just go and hate Tampa…

      • dbara43 - Jan 23, 2013 at 8:37 PM

        Tod Leiwike (sp.?) used to be President of the Seahawks. Don’t think he’s not talking in his brother’s ear.

    • ethanmacleod1685 - Jan 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      Not Dallas!

    • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 22, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Halifax can’t support a team

  9. steelers88 - Jan 22, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    I think Tampa should stay and Florida and Anahiem should move. Tampa has a pretty good fanbase.

    • chelseax11 - Jan 22, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      Agreed. I actually live smack in the middle of Tampa and Sunrise/Miami. I see Lightning support almost every day, but I rarely see any Panthers stuff. It’s nothing like the big franchises, but Tampa just seems to have more support from my 2 year experience living here (I’m a Pittsburgh transplant/Pens fan). Tampa has better attendance and a longer shelf-life right now, imo. Stamkos is only beginning his ascent to superstardom. He’ll be an easier guy to market and he fits that bill of guys like Crosby, Toews, etc. that brought fans into their respective markets.

    • leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Jan 23, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      The Lightning are easily the best fanbase of the 3 teams down here. Rays fans are extremely fickle and too lazy to cross a bridge, while Bucs fans are equally fickle and the majority of the stadium is full of people who just show up to get sloshed. Obviously both fanbases have their dedicated fans too, but that applies to literally every team, and as one of those dedicated fans I am often finding myself very frustrated with my fellow Bucs and Rays “fans” who do a lot more whining than attending.

      Lightning fans are not perfect by any means, but we’re certainly more dedicated and knowledgeable on average than the average Bucs/Rays fan, and the fanbase is growing. We lost about 100 season ticket holders during the lockout but gained 850. Excitement about the team is definitely growing and attendance is very solid.

      Florida, on the other hand, obviously has major attendance issues. Unfortunately, moving them would of course make Tampa’s road trips even longer. We’re already getting moved to a conference with mostly northeastern teams, and if the Panthers move Toronto would actually be the closest team to us(assuming they don’t further adjust the conferences).

      If such a move were to be made, the rarely mentioned Kansas City market might become a little more logical. Assuming 32 teams(2 expansions and at least a Panthers move), you could see something like Nashville and Carolina moving to our conference with KC replacing Nashville in that conference and perhaps a Quebec moving to replace Carolina. Personally I think there are several markets more deserving than Kansas City, but at some point logistics have to be considered if Florida gets moved.

      • ussportsfanuk - Jan 23, 2013 at 6:12 AM

        I think the travelling could be big issue for the Lightning. I’ve attempted a realignment plan on my blog which seems to be better for the southern teams in terms of travel.

  10. giantssb42champs - Jan 22, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Will the islanders move?

    • really999 - Jan 22, 2013 at 11:42 PM

      Yes. To Brooklyn in a couple years. So they are off the table.

  11. mnwildfan15 - Jan 22, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    Dallas(NORM GREEN STILL SUCKS), the panthers, San Jose,phoenix, pretty much anywhere that doesn’t have natural ice outside shouldn’t have a team.

  12. jkulha86 - Jan 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    Seems like the most logical choices to relocate would be Phoenix, Florida, and Dallas. Phoenix is pretty obvious, and even with a potential buyer in Jamison, he is having a hard time finding enough money to buy them, how can he maintain the yearly cost of owning a franchise year after year? Florida just has little fan support. Miami is focused on the Heat and the Dolphins. I think if Dallas builds a contender then obviously attendance will go up. They were among the leagues best in attendance when they had Modano and Brett Hull. No chance Carolina or Tampa move. I am born and raised in Pittsburgh, but lived in Raleigh for 5 years and Hurricane fans definitely pack the RBC Center. Also spent time in Tampa and I’ve been to Lightning games and they have a lot of dedicated fans, and the game day experience at Tampa Bay Times Forum is actually really good.

    • ussportsfanuk - Jan 23, 2013 at 6:16 AM

      Think the Stars would be helped by being in a division with more interesting games and the chance to reignite old division rivalries. On my attempted realignment plan I have them in a division where they would be playing big market teams more regularly.

  13. canadabaseball - Jan 22, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Alright before we forget there is still places that have had NHL franchises that have been successfu. Qubec and I still think Hartford could work, I don’t know about saskatawoon or Halifax but I think all of those Mabye even Seattle would be better then Florida , Tampa , columbis , Dallas almost all southern us teams should move north

  14. ussportsfanuk - Jan 23, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    I think Seattle could be a good destination for the NHL and that them and Quebec should be the first choices for a relocated franchise.

  15. steelers88 - Jan 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    How about instead of moving a team to a state or Province maybe the NHL should think about moving teams like Coloumbus, Florida, Anahiem, and Dallas to Europe.

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