Seattle

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

NHL wants Seattle, but is the Emerald City a hockeytown?

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By Tim Booth (AP Sports Writer)

KENT, Wash. (AP) — They showed up on a Tuesday night in early January to enjoy the 2-for-1 beers and hot dogs, the free parking, the $15 tickets a few rows off the ice and the chance to chant ”Portland sucks,” for three hours.

Some of the more than 5,000 people in attendance wore the jerseys of the Islanders, Sharks, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Bruins, Canucks, Golden Knights and of course, the hometown Seattle Thunderbirds of the junior-level Western Hockey League. Someday it may be the Sasquatch, Totems or Sockeyes or whatever a potential future NHL franchise in Seattle ends up adopting as its nickname.

This scene plays out regularly inside the ShoWare Center, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Seattle. Junior hockey in Seattle has a storied history. Hockey’s history in the Emerald City dates back more than a century to when the Seattle Metropolitans hoisted the 1917 Stanley Cup.

All indications are that the NHL and Seattle are on the verge of a marriage sometime in 2018. The arrival of an NHL franchise – likely in 2020 or 2021 depending on construction of a remodeled Seattle Center arena – will fill a void in the gloomy months of the sports calendar and drop the NHL into the biggest market in the country without a winter sports team.

But can a booming Seattle eventually become a hockeytown?

”It’s the last place in the United States in my opinion to catch on to hockey,” said former Philadelphia Flyers general manager and current Thunderbirds GM Russ Farwell.

”Everyone assumes that because we’re close to Canada we’re into hockey and that’s not the case,” Farwell continued. ”There is no reason this can’t be a good hockey town and I think there is a lot of pluses.”

The first test of Seattle’s willingness to embrace the NHL will arrive in the coming months when the prospective NHL ownership group begins a season-ticket drive, the same way the league tested Las Vegas.

But finding a foothold in Seattle will be an examination of how starved fans are for another team. Basketball is embedded in the DNA of the region thanks to 41 years of the SuperSonics until 2008 and a lengthy history of producing NBA talent. When the rain of the fall and winter drive young athletes inside, they grab a basketball and head for the nearest gym to play pickup games.

Basketball courts and coffee shops seem to be on every corner, but ice rinks are scarce.

”The chance to participate and stay involved and play the game needs ice rinks and that’s all it would take,” Farwell said. ”There’s no reason this couldn’t be grown to be a good hockey city and center and stuff but it’s not automatic and it’s not just going to happen.”

Any NHL team in Seattle would find a completely different landscape than a decade ago when the Sonics and NBA moved to Oklahoma City and the city lost its winter sports outlet.

Seattle’s skyline is filled with as many construction cranes as snowcapped peaks in the surrounding mountains. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook. The amount of wealth now in the Seattle market is part of the reason Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke has regularly called Seattle ”a brilliant marketplace” and one of the most enticing expansion opportunities in pro sports history.

Seattle has become a city of transplants due to the booming local economy. A hockey franchise would provide those newcomers a team to rally around, much like what happened when the Sounders of the MLS arrived in 2009.

But it’s a different sports marketplace than a decade ago, when ticket sales and television revenues were driving franchise success. The globalization of sports due to technology has become a challenge for all leagues, said Jennifer Hoffman of the College of Education at the University of Washington.

”I think the question about our population is what sports are they interested in? And that’s going to be a challenge for all of our franchises, our big franchises and our smaller ones,” Hoffman said. ”It’s not a Seattle phenomenon but we’re a good case for this point in history where digital transition is really occurring and it’s really hard to know who your fans are and where they are.”

John Barr believes there are plenty of potential hockey fans in the Seattle market. A Bay Area transplant, Barr has become the voice of hockey fans with his NHLtoSeattle.com website and social accounts. Barr got hooked on the sport while attending San Jose games when the Sharks arrived the Bay Area. He’s regularly makes trips to Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville and Las Vegas for games.

”The Seahawks run this town and I think a lion share of people obviously want the Sonics back,” Barr said. ”I totally understand the hierarchy there, but I just think this is a great opportunity for the area to have the NHL and have a winter sport.”

Season tickets are just one of several significant obstacles. Arena construction won’t begin until later this year with an ambitious goal of completion in late 2020. There are also transportation issues near the arena site.

And the franchise needs to be awarded in the first place. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn’t even entertain discussion about Seattle recently.

”The application has not yet been filed so any speculation about Seattle is, at this point, a little premature,” Bettman said.

In the corner of his office, Thunderbirds Vice President Colin Campbell has a photo of Wayne Gretzky in the foreground with Campbell behind the glass. He grew up in Edmonton and was a Zamboni driver for the Oilers in his younger years. Now he ponders the future of hockey in Seattle with the NHL on the horizon.

”It always amazed me when I first got here that people didn’t even know there was a hockey team in town. Well, that’s still the case,” said Campbell, who moved to Seattle in 1995. ”It’s still out there, and yet we’re doing very well in this building and everything is going good. But it’s a big market, it’s a tough market to reach … so with an NHL team coming in and working together it will create new opportunities to grow.”

Kraken? Totems? New domains raise interesting Seattle possibilities

Oak View Group
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It’s all in the name. A domain name.

As DetroitHockey.net’s Clark Rasmussen points out, even though a Seattle franchise hasn’t been announced yet, it hasn’t stopped some interesting speculation as to what that team would be called if and when that announcement comes.

The Seattle Kraken? Totems? Rainers? They’re all interesting (and perhaps potential) possibilities for what would be the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

Rasmussen has been following the registration of domain names for websites that are cropping up over the past several weeks. Many, he says, are bought by “known domain speculators” looking to make a quick buck if their speculation turns out to be accurate.

But Rasmussen stumbled upon something a little meatier on Thursday.

“By my count, 38 domains representing 13 different possible names were registered under the name of Christina Song,” Rasmussen wrote on his blog. “Ms. Song, according to her LinkedIn profile, is General Counsel at Oak View Group, who won the bid to redevelop Seattle’s Key Arena on December 4. The domains were registered via an email address for a lawyer at Gibson Dunn. That firm assisted Oak View Group in the Key Arena bid process.”

Rasmussen isn’t new to this. He did some great work in the lead up to the naming of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Rasmussen is quick to point out that 13 names that were registered don’t necessarily mean one of them will be the chosen name for the new club.

“The franchise hasn’t even been applied for,” he writes, noting that the ownership group hasn’t even been formed yet. “There is the distinct possibility that this is nothing. That said, someone so close to the process applying for so many related domains is worth noting.”

Indeed.

The names Rasmussen found were:

Seattle Cougars
Seattle Eagles
Seattle Emeralds
Seattle Evergreens
Seattle Firebirds
Seattle Kraken
Seattle Rainiers
Seattle Renegades
Seattle Sea Lions
Seattle Seals
Seattle Sockeyes
Seattle Totems
Seattle Whales

In an update to his original story later on Friday, Rasmussen identified 38 domains that were registered on Thursday for two years.

They are:

seattle-cougars.com
seattlecougarshockey.com
seattleeagles.com
seattle-eagles.com
seattleeagleshockey.com
emeraldshockey.com
seattle-emeralds.com
seattleemeraldshockey.com
evergreenshockey.com
seattleevergreens.com
seattle-evergreens.com
seattleevergreenshockey.com
firebirdshockey.com
seattlefirebirds.com
seattle-firebirds.com
seattlefirebirdshockey.com
seattle-kraken.com
seattlekrakenhockey.com
rainiershockey.com
seattle-rainiers.com
seattlerainiershockey.com
seattlerenegades.com
seattle-renegades.com
seattlerenegadeshockey.com
sealionshockey.com
seattle-sealions.com
seattle-sea-lions.com
seattlesealionshockey.com
seattleseals.com
seattle-seals.com
seattlesealshockey.com
seattle-sockeyes.com
seattlesockeyeshockey.com
seattle-totems.com
whaleshockey.com
seattlewhales.com
seattle-whales.com
seattlewhaleshockey.com


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Senators win, Subban from center, Lehtonen notches 300th win

Getty Images
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Players of the Night: 

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators: It’s been a struggle for Ryan this season. He came into the game with just as single goal in 21 games but left with two in 22 while also adding an assist to help the Senators avoid a six-game losing streak.

Tyler Pitlick, Dallas Stars: Pitlick scored twice, bookending Dallas’s five goals in a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.

P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators: If you continue reading (and you should) you will see Subban’s goal that came from quite a distance. The defenseman notched two in a ___ win against the Vancouver Canucks, powering the Preds to their ninth win in their past 12 games.

Highlights of the Night: 

Brad Marchand fought off Mike Green, and then did this to win in overtime:

Dylan Larkin. Breakway. Shorthanded. Backhand.

Blunder of the Night: 

Yikes, Anders Nilsson. Bravo, P.K.

Factoids of the Night: 

Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen killed two birds with one stone on Wednesday:

Filip Forsberg accomplished an impressive feat for the second time in his career.

MISC: 

Scores: 

Senators 3, Rangers 2

Stars 5, Islanders 2

Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)

Predators 7, Canucks 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Panthers’ owner uncertain of future in Florida

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Doug Cifu wants to keep the Panthers in Florida, but the way things are going, it’s just not sustainable.

Speaking to Fox Sports last weekend, Cifu, who along with business partner Vinnie Viola purchased the team for $230 million last September, is uncertain of where the team will be in 5-10 years.

“The arena and the team have lost a significant amount of money year over year for the last 10-plus years and the current business model is not sustainable,” Cifu said.

According to The Hockey News, the team claims to lose $30 million a year and have debt on their arena, which is leased to the Panthers until 2028, of about $250 million.

The story adds Broward County mayor Barbara Sharief and the county have hired a consultant who is looking into the possibility of allowing the Panthers out of their arena lease and the opportunity to relocate.

The results of that report are expected in October.

“We have kept our end of the bargain by signing six free agents on July 1 to more than $60 million of contracts and resigning some key young players to multi-year deals,” Cifu added.

Per CapGeek, the Panthers have over $65 million committed in player contracts for the upcoming season.

The Toronto Sun reported that the Panthers averaged 14,177 fans per game last season, which ranks 29th in the league.

In terms of potential cities for relocation, a report out of Seattle last week suggested real estate mogul Victor J. Coleman has begun discussions with Seattle business man Chris Hansen on agreement to allow an NHL team to play in his proposed SoDo Arena.

“We get lots of expressions of interest — whether it’s from Quebec City, Seattle, Las Vegas, or Kansas City — and we’re listening, but we haven’t enacted a formal process to begin considering expansion,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Sun April. “That’s not something we’re intent on doing right now, but we are listening.”

Quebec City may also be a viable option with a new $400 million arena set to open next year.

Related: Report: Devils to lose money in 2014-15

 

Report: L.A.-based real estate tycoon wants to bring NHL to Seattle

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The continuing dalliances between the NHL and the City of Seattle have continued this week and now there’s a name to go with the faces seen in Washington recently.

Chris Daniels of KING 5 News reports Los Angeles-based real estate tycoon Victor Coleman was part of the NHL group that met with Seattle officials on May 6. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly visited Seattle last week and Coleman was part of that contingency.

As Jason theorized in this piece, the group may have been there to see if a new arena could be built with the NHL wanting to go there. Turns out that may have been the case and Mayor Ed Murray and City Council President Tim Burgess aren’t interested.

Perhaps Coleman is the guy to help bring money forward to make it work.

According to Daniels, Coleman has an array of holdings to his name including 26 properties, two movie studios, plus four buildings in Seattle and another in a neighboring city. If he’s got the cash to go with the property, there might be something to build on, but it’s up to the Seattle city leaders to be open to making it work.