Report: Gretzky joins group wanting NHL team in Seattle

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The movement to bring National Hockey League action to the Pacific Northwest may have gotten a big boost.

Wayne Gretzky has reportedly joined a group aiming to bring an NHL team to Seattle, per the New York Post. The report comes just months after the NHL downplayed a visit by commissioner Gary Bettman to Seattle, as the commish said he and Bill Daly were only there to “find out what the building story was.”

Here’s more on the Gretzky angle, from the Post:

It is not known if the Gretzky group or either of the other two groups are eyeing an expansion team or hope to move an existing team to the Pacific Northwest.

A move to buy a Seattle team would mark at least the second time the 53-year-old Hall of Famer tried to become an NHL owner.

In 2011, Gretzky partnered with Providence Equity Partners, a New York private-equity firm, in a $1.5 billion bid for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA Toronto Raptors.

However, the NHL rejected the group’s offer because it would have been structured as a leveraged buyout with debt levels higher than 50 percent of the franchise value — which is against NHL rules.

The arena situation in Seattle is fuzzy, to say the least. Following his visit in May, Bettman said the following:

“We weren’t there campaigning, we weren’t asking for anything, and that’s been misreported. Based on the level of interest we’re getting from lots of people in Seattle and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about the building, we decided ‘Let’s go find out for ourselves what the story is with the building.’

“And there’s no prospect of a building right now.”

The guy behind the proposed building is investor Chris Hansen, who currently holds the rights with the city of Seattle to build a new arena. Hansen, however, said he isn’t going to move forward with the building until he gets an NBA franchise.

Following the Bettman visit, there was another development on the arena front — Steve Ballmer, one of Hansen’s biggest financial partners, successfully bid to purchase the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers*. Despite that perceived setback, Hansen insisted he remained committed to building in Seattle.

“I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle,” Hansen explained, per KING5 News. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.”

It’ll be curious to see what Gretzky’s influence will play in this situation — if it plays at all (or, if the reports of his actual involvement prove accurate.)

*This bid is now tied up in something of a legal mess, of course.