USA Hockey numbers are up

Continuing the steady growth of USA hockey memberships, the 2015-16 season saw close nationwideto 2% over last year. This is according to the USA Hockey Membership report released last week. Specifically in youth participation, which is a strong indicator of overall growth in the sport, USA Hockey has seen increases in participation while other sports are seeing declines in youth participation. Overall USA Hockey has seen steady growth as seen in percentage increase 8 out of the last 10 years.

USA Hockey is not a complete number of everyone who plays hockey but it can serve as a good proxy for the health of the sport in a particular area. It should be no surprise that Minnesota leads the nation in USA hockey membership considering they are the State of Hockey and what other state can compete with the all hair team?

Washington State

USA Hockey membership in Washington State have contributed to the increase by adding 421 members, which is the 9th highest increase across the nation.

increase by raw numbersIn spite of no NHL team, Washington State hockey membership is growing faster than the national average. USA Hockey memberships in Washington have increased 24% in 10 years, which is an average of 2.6% increase a year in those 10 years. (4.5% a year over last 3 years)

WA_numbers by year

Breaking it down by age group, you can see that all age groups have increased year over year.

Agedeltaspercent

Percentage wise, the 12 and under age groups are increasing the most rapidly which bodes well for the future. All age groups under 12 have seen over ~5% growth year over year. WA_Dashboard

I am very familiar with the Puget Sound hockey scene and can say without a doubt that we have a severe shortage of ice rinks in the area. Adult hockey leagues regularly have games at 11pm with no real options for people to find an earlier time to get on the ice. This is preventing a lot of people from playing and joining leagues. On the youth side, the leagues are doing a great job at getting more kids involved but the ice is getting more and more crowded. This is only going to get worse as Seattle continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the US.

If you are interested in playing in the area, here are a few links to some of the leagues around:

Youth Hockey

Adult Hockey

If you want a more state agnostic view of the USA Hockey numbers click here.

If you have any questions about hockey in the area or have additional information on some of the leagues across the state, feel free to email me at John@NHLtoSeattle.com.

 

 

Report: NHL expanding to Vegas

I imagine that everyone has heard this already but just in case you missed it. Based on a report out of the AP yesterday, the NHL intends to award Las Vegas an NHL franchise, provided they can come up with the $500M expansion fee.

Worst kept secret

This should not come as a surprise to anyone since the rumor since September was that vegasVegas had the inside track and the Canadian Dollar exchange rate was going to prevent Quebec City being awarded a franchise. As I mentioned in a post last week, this was the best possible outcome for our hopes of getting a franchise in Seattle. There is no way the NHL remains a 31 team league for long and with a clear opening in the west, Seattle has a great opportunity to jump back in the picture.

Still a long long way to go…

With all of that said, Seattle has a long way to go before we can be taken seriously. The biggest obstacle right now is an arena, as in there is none. There is not even a viable option being discussed. On top of that, in the last 5 years there was either reported or rumored to be 5 different ownership groups looking at bringing an NHL franchise to Seattle. In the last 6 months we have heard one word out of any of them and we might not know if any of them are still looking at the area. The longer this drags out, the more opportunity it gives places like Portland, Kansas City, or Houston a chance to put a plan together as well.

The arena is the blocker but the owner is the key. A motivated owner can really push to figure out an arena solution. Your move Coleman, Bartozek, Sperling, Levin or (owner to be named later).

 

Surprisingly busy week in NHL to Seattle news

A few events happened this week that might have a peripheral impact to Seattle’s NHL expansion hopes down the road.

First, let me be clear and set appropriate expectations. Seattle is not part of the current expansion process and will not get awarded a team any time soon. The league is evaluating two different NHL expansion application submissions from last summer, Quebec City and Las Vegas. Since late fall, the rumors and “sources” have foreshadowed that the NHL is leaning toward awarding a franchise to one team, Las Vegas.

Current expansion process

On Monday, Gary Bettman gave his annual state of the game address before Game 1 of the bettman_gary640Stanley Cup Playoffs where he said two items of note (regarding expansion):

  1. The league should be able to definitively announce their intent on the current expansion process by June 22nd.
  2. An announcement could have three different scenarios:
    • No expansion
    • Expansion by 1 team or 2 teams
    • Defer the expansion process further

That might not be the biggest news, but at least it implies some closure on the current process and, since Seattle is not part of the current process, it would be nice to see it closed. I have said it before, NHL to Seattle fans will be rooting for a 1 team expansion to Las Vegas. That will create a 31 team league with 15 in the West and 16 in the East. 31 teams doesn’t sound like a final number and I could almost guarantee they would go to 32 within a couple years of being at 31. Does that guarantee Seattle? No, but it does give an NHL ownership group time to figure out our little arena issue. It remains to be seen if those “ownership groups” are even still out there. Speculative, but I imagine any groups out there were waiting for the SODO outcome before putting in the hard work to figure out an alternative arena plan.

Quebec City & Quebecor

At a speaking engagement in Montreal, Brian Mulroney, the president of Quebecor and Quebec City NHL expansion applicant, reiterated his opinion that the time might not be right for the NHL to come back to Quebec City. It certainly feels like he is lowering quebecexpectations for fans to be a little more patient in their quest for the return of the Nordiques. It has never been stated, but I can’t help to think that he has been in regular communications with the NHL and has some idea how this current expansion process will fall out. If the league expands by 1 or defers the expansion process, it could give the Canadian Dollar some time to rebound which would lower their cost of expansion.  (The cost of expansion to Quebecor would be ~$650M CAD vs. $515M CAD just three years ago). Could this mean that Seattle and Quebec City compete for that 32 spot? Perhaps, but we should get more clarity by the 22nd and again we still need to figure out that small little arena issue.

Bettman talks Seattle

While speaking with Sportsnet 590, Gary Bettman talked a bit about Seattle. Greg Wyshynski summed it up nicely with a whole section on Seattle.

 “It’s not like we’re pining after Seattle. There were three different groups from three different places in Seattle saying they had interest, but nobody seemed to get their act together as far as a new arena” – Gary Bettman on Sportsnet 590

Bettman essentially says what we already know, but he is paying attention and remains positive on Seattle as a quality market. That might not mean much at this time but hopefully an ownership group emerges soon.

Our hope

To sum it up, our hopes are pinned on a 1 team expansion announcement from the NHL and a viable arena plan to come forward from an ownership group we have never heard of or haven’t heard from in a while. If it plays out, I don’t think there is anyway the arena will land in the Seattle city limits. It will require a much more agile city to get things done and in my opinion, the current Seattle City Council made it clear that they don’t want an arena.

Carolina on my mind

I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the current situation in Carolina. Most of you know by now that I have never been an advocate for relocation and Carolina is no different. It has been widely reported that Peter Karmanos has been trying to sell Carolina Hurricanes for a couple years now which has led to speculation over the last several months that they would be a relocation target to Quebec City. These reports have been refuted by the League and Karmanos himself, but this week, Peter Karmanos’s sons sued their father for failure to pay back a loan several years ago of over $100Million from the Karamano’s trust that was used to prop up the Hurricanes. That seems to shed a bit of light to how dire the situation may be in Carolina. How this plays out is anyone’s guess but if Karmanos can’t find a buyer that wants to keep the team in Carolina, I am sure Quebec City would pay above (the Carolina) market price. Because I hate the thought of relocation, I am going to put this as unlikely until we hear more.

Is Seattle’s SoDo arena dead?

The short answer is ‘Yes, SoDo arena is dead.’

As many of you know by now the Seattle City Council rejected the Occidental Street vacation in the SoDo district. This was largely thought to be the final hurdle in a 4-year process for Chris Hansen to have a shovel-ready arena site just south of Safeco field. SeattleArenaTraditionally, street vacation votes with such a glowing Environmental Impact Statement are seen as formalities. But that was not the case…

City council members that voted against the street vacation claimed the threat to Port of Seattle jobs without any data or explanation on how the arena would impact their jobs. The council members that voted no on the street vacation also claimed that since there is no NBA team in site, that there is no need to vacate the street to Chris Hansen. This is circular logic since we will never get a team if we don’t have a clear path for an arena. The entire vote was just political theater to say ‘no’ and I feel that Councilmember Sawant’s statement was the only ‘no’ vote that was sincere and transparent. As much as I disagree with her vote, I respect her honesty.

When everything was said and done, you have a City Council that refused to approve a street vacation for an Arena that had an overwhelmingly positive Environmental Impact Study in a location has the land and infrastructure to support large events. There is no realistic scenario I can see the city council reversing course on that location. Unless there is some kind of Lord of Light possibility I don’t see, I am declaring the SoDo location dead. Additionally, I am fairly convinced that if the Seattle City Council won’t approve the SoDo site, there is a slim to none chance that they will approve any other site in the City limits.

What’s next?

As crazy as it sounds, the ‘no’ vote could be a blessing for an NHL team coming to Seattle. Chris Hansen has made it clear that he doesn’t want to own an NHL team, but he is open to partnering with a potential NHL owner for a possible NHL first scenario in regards to the arena. There are/were 3 potential ownership groups (Levin, Bartoszek, and Coleman), but none of them have been able to reach terms. Without the prospects of an NBA team coming to Seattle anytime soon, an NHL owner would be at the mercy of the NBA PopulationMapsexpansion/relocation plans. With the SoDo arena plans dead, this could enabled other potential NHL ownership groups and local municipalities to come up with alternative plans. If you recall, last summer there were 4 potential NHL expansion application requests from the Seattle area. It is possible that one or more of those groups have been waiting to see how the Sodo arena plans played out to determine their next move?

I went on Q13 a couple weeks ago to discuss options and scenarios for an NHL first scenario outside Sodo. Additionally, Art Theil wrote a similar perspective on sportspressNW.

NHL Expansion Process

It is true that no Seattle group submitted an expansion application last June and that Bettman has been consistent in his messaging that Seattle will not be part of this expansion process. It is unclear how Seattle could get back in the discussion. The NHL is expected to announce expansion to Las Vegas and Las Vegas only which would create a league of 31 teams, 16 in the Eastern conference and 15 in the Western conference. This would give Seattle (or any other city) time to get their collective…stuff together for an arena plan and apply to the NHL to be that 32nd team. Wishful thinking, maybe but certainly a possibility.

Bottlenecks at the Port of Seattle

The Port of Seattle has been the most vocal opponent of the SoDo Arena plan since the plan was hatched over 4 years ago. In all their letters and statements the port has never once supplied any reliable data that shows any material impact of the street vacation of Occidental.

I drive by the port a couple times a week and I see the terrible lineup of trucks INSIDE the port walls. Of course they don’t want to reveal the wait times to get through the port or inside the port because it would poke holes in their argument. The reality is that their challenges lie inside the Port walls and Occidental is the least of their worries.

Here is a video I shot in the middle of the day last week. It starts on Alaska Way at the entrance of Terminal 46. It was 1.7 miles long and not one truck was moving.

I would love to understand how a truck waiting to get in the terminal for several hours is impacted by an Occidental street vacation.

On that same day I took a little stroll down Occidental to take a look at “all the traffic”.

Public hearing thank you…

Just wanted to drop a quick note to everyone who showed up at the City Council Public Hearing on the Occidental street vacation. It was great to see all the hockey folks come out of the woodwork and I loved meeting a few of you. Here are a couple articles on the even: Thiel: Arena debate sounds like a stalemate, CD: Arena’s Street Fight now officially in Final Rounds , Baker: Sonics fans, Port of Seattle state opposing views on Sodo arena

(Side note: we all need to get together more often.) FullSizeRender

westSeattle.png

..and of course big props to the Sonics faithful. I was not surprised but it was still impressive.

untitled.png

Well done everyone!