Yes, it’s foolish to read too much into a report that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly admitted that at least one group has discussed the possibility of bringing a team to Seattle. Daly was quick to say that the unnamed group wouldn’t be ready to make a move before the 2010-11 season starts, for one thing. It’s also true that the NHL has flirted with other markets without results so far, with Quebec City and Kansas City coming to mind.
So while it’s fun to imagine a marriage of grunge, over-priced coffee and hockey, it’s important to realize that it’s far from an impending reality. If nothing else, it’s a pretty interesting concept to consider, though. For the sake of fun, here are a few of the reasons why a Seattle team could work and some of the obstacles along the way.
Why a Seattle team could work
Canucks overflow?: The NHL has been reluctant to add another team in Toronto’s general area partially out of fear of how such a move would hurt the Buffalo Sabres franchise. Many hockey-starved fans will make the trip to the U.S. to catch Sabres games since Maple Leafs tickets are so tough to come by.
It’s likely that a Seattle-based franchise would enjoy a similar relationship. (While different Web sites provide a variety of results on the driving distance between the cities, it seems safe to say that the drive is less than 200 miles.)
A solid market in its own right: Seattle’s metropolitan area is the 15th-largest in the United States, while its 560K+ population would rank it right behind the Washington Capitals according to this table. We can quibble about the exact numbers from the 2010 Census, but the market seems to be showing promising signs of growth and already ranks as a nice home for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners.
Washington’s decent history with hockey: It’s important to factor a market’s history with the sport, too. Chris Daniels provides a quick summary of the sport’s history in the state of Washington.
Seattle has long been discussed in NHL circles. The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917. The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds have been successful at the Western Hockey League level.
Seattle’s biggest obstacle
One cannot discuss a possible NHL team in Seattle without referencing the ugly departure of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics, though. While there are a variety of factors that made that situation a little more complicated than a failed market, the one legitimate concern was the viability of Key Arena.
The arena’s capacity for basketball games is a little more than 17,000, but that total would probably be a bit lower for an NHL game. Hockey teams generate much of their revenue from the box office, so that might be a considerable turn-off.
But Daly says he still has concerns about a possible venue for an NHL Franchise.
“Key Arena is a difficult arena for hockey. How many of those seats would be obstructed view seats?” he said.
There might be some other problems with adding a Seattle team, but Key Arena would probably be the key stumbling block.
There are some significant reasons why a team would and would not work in Seattle, but it seems like an enticing possibility overall. While the city seemed unwilling to build an entirely new arena to keep the Sonics, there were signs that people were willing to renovate Key Arena to make it work. Maybe a renovated Key Arena wouldn’t be an ideal fit for a new or relocated team, but there’s a lot to like about the idea of an NHL team coming to Seattle anyway.