Pacific Northwest Playoff Guide

Here is your completely biased and unapologetic pacific northwest guide to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins, all Stanley Cup Playoff teams have a northwest reason to root for on the team. Without further ado, here is your reason to root for <<Insert team name not named Pittsburgh Penguins here>>.

Anaheim Ducks

Assistant Coach Steve Konowalchuk, coached the Seattle Thunderbirds for 6 years. The Thunderbirds qualified for the WHL playoffs 5 out of the 6 years of his tenure includingimg_6513 two trips to the WHL Final capped off with winning their first WHL Championship in franchise history.

Boston Bruins

Defensemen Brandon Carlo played for the Tri-City Americans 2013-2016 and has been a reliable blue liner for the Bruins for the last two seasons. Unfortunately, Carlo fractured his ankle two weeks ago and baring a minor miracle, will not be playing in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche

Avs Head Coach, Jared Bednar, played for the Spokane Chiefs for 2ish years from 1991-1992. In his only complete season with the Chiefs, he amassed 200 penalty minutes in 62 games played. 8 other Chiefs had more PIMs that season. The most recent season, no player on the Chiefs had over 200 PIMs. Let’s just say it was a different game when Bednar played.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Let’s call the Bluejackets the little Winterhawks, or seth-jones-4_3_r536_c534would they be the big Winterhawks? NHL veteran and Blue Jackets Centerman, Brandon Dubinsky played 4 seasons with the Winterhawks. Oliver Bjorkstrand had monster numbers in his 3 seasons with Winterhawks from 2012-2015. Including playoffs, Bjorkstrand had 367 points over 252 games. Defenseman, Seth Jones played only one season with Portland but he had 56 points over 61 games and was drafted 4th overall the following summer. For basketball fans, Seth Jones’ father is former NBA standout Popeye Jones. The Blue Jackets also have former Murray_Ryan_11_12_6-1024x743Everett Silvertip, Ryan Murray. Murray played 4 seasons with the Tips from 2009-2013 and made the jump straight to the NHL.

LA Kings

Both NHL vets Brooks Laich and Nate Thompson played for Seattle Thunderbirds 2001-2003. Between the two of them, they have almost 1400 games in the NHL.

Minnesota Wild

Jared Spurgeon played 5 seasons with the Spokane Chiefs 2cce612df7841ee27b8aceb6da8ae886between 2005 and 2010. This late rounder (NHL draft) has over 500 games in the NHL and will need to be leaned on a bit more in the playoff with Ryan Suter’s injury. Nino Niederreiter played 2 years with the Portland Winterhawks between 2009-11. Matt Dumba joined the Winterhawks very briefly in 2013-14 for 26 games.

Nashville Predators

Ryan Johansen played 2 seasons with the Portland WInterhawks before jumping to the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. During the 2015-16 season he was traded in a Winterhawk for Winterhawk trade when Columbus sent him to Nashville for the aforementioned Seth Jones.

New Jersey Devils

Speedy winger Michael Grabner played 3 seasons with the Spokane Chiefs from 2004 to 2007. If the Devils plan to make a playoff run, they will need to get some additional scoring from someone not named Taylor Hall. Grabner might be a candidate to step up. Defenseman Mirco Mueller played 2 seasons with the Everett Silvertip in 2012-14. His NHL career has been a bit underwhelming but a strong playoff performance can turn that around in a hurry.

Philadelphia Flyers

radko gudasRadko Gudas played one season with the Everett Silvertips during the 2009-10 season. I think it is safe to say if the Flyers-Pens series to go medieval, Gudas will probably be at the center of it. Winger Taylor Leier played 3 seasons with Portland. His playing time might be limited but as the playoffs move on, injuries happen and that might create an opportunity for Leier.

Pittsburgh Penguins

I can find absolutely no ties to the Northwest on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster, coaching staff or equipment staff.

San Jose Sharks

Brendon Dillon played 4 years with the Seattle Thunderbirds Defender Brenden Dillon tries to get the puck to a teammate.despite being undrafted in the WHL Bantam draft. The great dane, Jannik Hansen averaged a point per game in his one and only season for Portland Winterhawks in 2005-06. Bonney Lake, WA native and recently signed Dylan Gambrell has joined the Sharks after his college season ended at University of Denver. Gambrell might not see a lot of ice time during the playoffs but it is great to see this native play in the NHL. Last but not least, Minnesota native Paul Martin visited the Angry Beaver a few years ago after the Phinney Ridge explosion closed the bar for a long time. That’s a gesture worth rooting for don’t you think?

Tampa Bay Lightning

spt_13_johnson_cover_2_t400Spokane born and raised Tyler Johnson went undrafted in the WHL bantam draft and NHL draft. He played with the Spokane Chiefs from 2007 to 2011. He has averaged over 20 goals a season in his first 5 full season in the NHL and has a knack for coming up huge in the playoffs, averaging close to a point per game in his 47 playoff games. Braydon Coburn played 4 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks from 2000-05. Last but not least assistant equipment guy, Jason Berger was the head equipment for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2007 to 2011.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Head Coach icon, Mike Babcock was the head coach patrick-marleaufor the Spokane Chiefs for 6 seasons from 1994-00. Patrick Marleau played 2 seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds from 1995-97. In his second season with the Tbirds, Patty had 125 points in 71 games.

Vegas Golden Knights

After starting the season in the minors, former Seattle Thunderbird, Shea Theodore ended with a great year with the big club amassing 29 points in 61 games. Theo played 3 full seasons with the Thunderbirds from 2011-2014.

Washington CapitalsOshieSeattleJr_large

Olympic hero TJ Oshie grew up in Mt Vernon, WA and played Seattle Junior hockey until he moved away to Warroad, Minnesota for high school for his hockey development. Up until Dylan Gambrell’s late season signing this year, he was the Seattle areas lone NHLer for many years.

Winnipeg Jets

Defenseman Joe Morrow played 4 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks from 2008-2012.

Summary

  • 1 former Tri-City American
  • 3 local born and raised Washingtonians
  • 3 former Everett Silvertips
  • 6 former Spokane Chiefs
  • 7 former Seattle Thunderbirds
  • 10 former Portland Winterhawks

2017-18 WHL Attendance Report

With the WHL playoffs starting up, I thought it would be fun to look at the WHL regular season attendance numbers.

Overall the league attendance was down 1% year over year for the second consecutive year.

1_WHL League Change in Attendance
Prince George, Edmonton, Vancouver and Red Dear are driving the numbers lower while the Kootenay and Swift Current are offsetting some of those declines with huge growth year over year. 39% and 25% respectfully.

2_Change in Attendance by team
% change doesn’t tell the whole story because Kootenay and Swift Current have relatively low attendance numbers and remain in the bottom 3 in attendance in the league. While Edmonton has declines but still have the highest average attendance in the league.
3_Attendance by team
As you can see by the visual, Seattle and Everett remain in the top half of the league for attendance. Both had strong years with 3% and 5% increase year over year. Seattle’s growth this year has been impressive considering they lost several talented skaters (including Future Calder Trophy winner, Mat Barzal) and are generally considered a team rebuilding.

4_Tips and Birds
If you are interested in how the other teams are doing since 2010-11 Season, I created this visual to show the % change in relative terms. Interesting that there are only a handful of teams, Including Seattle, that have more growth years than declining years.
5_Trends by team

TV markets

I also teased out the hypothetical regional TV markets with WHL teams to see how those teams draw compared to the rest of the league.

6_TV Markets
Impressive to see that both Portland and Spokane are in the top 5 in attendance. The existing hockey fans in those markets should create a great foundation for potential NHL TV ratings.

Future Analysis?

After doing this analysis I found myself asking for more. A key question I would love to answer is how many unique fans attend games per year. (i.e. the average is ~5,000, per game but over a season, how many different fans coming through the gate.) This metric could be a potential indicator of how many hockey fans already exist in their respective markets. Unless you work for the team, getting access to that data will be next to impossible…..but I won’t rule out doing some kind of modeling to project those metrics.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

What’s next?

Technically speaking, nothing changed last week. We have not been awarded a Atrium view from the southeastfranchise, yet, but if the league had any doubts of the support for the NHL in Seattle, I think they heard us loud and clear. We are more than capable of supporting it. After such a smashingly successful ticket drive last week, a lot of folks have been asking what’s next?

The League

It’s not clear that the league has everything it needs to make the decision at this point, but one thing they were most definitely looking at was the ticket drive. I think it is safe to say that we cleared that hurdle by a mile. I imagine there is still a healthy amount of due diligence the league must perform on the arena project and the financial viability of the owners, but I anticipate a lot of this work was completed when the NHL agreed to accept an application from the Seattle group. Let’s assume they complete their checklist, then all signs are pointing to a June announcement. One of the major (potential) owners of the franchise, David Bonderman said last week that he is hopeful for a response from the league in June. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson also mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that the success of the ticket drive could expedite the league’s response to the application with a potential response to June. Add to the fact that if they are going to announce something, they probably want to steer clear of the NHL Playoffs and make the announcement after a Board of Governors meeting between the NHL awards and the NHL Draft. The date for the awards has not been set, but the Draft is June 22nd and 23rd so let’s just circle the two days prior. Interesting to note is that the NHL Board of Governors approved Vegas Expansion on June 22nd 2016, ~15 months before the start of their first season 2017-18. If the NHL does indeed award Seattle a franchise this coming June, this over 2 years before puck drop in 2020. I’ve noted before that this process has been different than the Vegas process so there is no cause for concern.

Arena

One thing I am keeping my eye on is the continued progress of the arena permitting and contracting phase. It’s generally believed the ~2 year window to complete the arena is Interior seating bowl view – Hockey configurationaggressive, but doable. In order to hit the start of the 2020 season, we need to make sure the arena stays on track with a groundbreaking in October and November. Earlier this week, Chris Daniels reported that the Design Review process remains on track with no expected delays. It is these seemingly small events and processes that I am keeping my eye on to look for any delays. One thing to note is that a lot of the local businesses around the Seattle Center arena also want the project to be completed on time and open as quickly as possible.

 heli

Season Ticket Drive is March 1st!

It’s official! Seattle’s NHL season ticket drive will be launching March 1st. Today at Mayor Jenny Durkin’s State of the City Address she announced that the season ticket drive will launch March 1st with more information available at NHLSeattle.com.

This is the next big milestone in making NHL to Seattle a reality.

Is there a target number?

If there is a number, it hasn’t been shared. I feel it is more or less a moot point as I expect it to sell out based on a Nielsen report that cited 70,000 people “interested” in a NHL season tickets in the Seattle area. It is not clear if there will be any partial season ticket inside-Hockeyplans available out of the gate. If you want to be part of the inaugural season, then my advice would be to create your own season ticket group. (i.e. find 4 people that want a half season and then get 2 Season tickets.) Full season ticket holders generally get first selection of seats as well.

The Vegas Timeline

Comparing the Seattle process to the Vegas process is a bit of apples and oranges. Back in 2015, Vegas launched their ticket drive February 10th hitting their goal of 10,000 season ticket holders by March 23rd. Then, on June 24th, the NHL announced that it was accepting expansion applications that would due July 20th. The Vegas franchise would not officially be awarded for another year, in June of 2016.

The Seattle process is almost opposite. The application announcement has come before the ticket drive. On December 7th, the NHL announced that they would “accept and consider” expansion application from Seattle. Last week, on February 13th, the league confirmed that it had received the Seattle groups application.

Here is your action plan:

  1. Block your calendar for 10am on March 1st
  2. Peruse the NHLSeattle.com website
  3. Connect to the official NHL Seattle social media outlets:
    a. Instagram
    b. Facebook
    c. Twitter
  4. Plan your season ticket plan – If you are not planning on a full season ticket plan, talk to friends and coworkers about sharing a package. I don’t anticipate there will be any partial plans.
  5. Be at a computer on March 1st at 10 am.
  6. Start saving $

outside

Mayor: OVG has completed their application to the NHL

I will let the Mayor’s tweet do the talking….one step closer!

Update: Elliotte Friedman piled on that the actual application and deposit has been submitted to the NHL.

RMHC Hockey Challenge: February 24th

Over the last 14 years I’ve had the honor of playing in the Ronald McDonald House Hockey Challenge. This is an annual event put on by the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Ronald McDonald House of Western Washington and Alaska. If you don’t know what the_BLP2377 Ronald McDonald House is all about, you should. The Seattle Ronald McDonald House is a home-away-from-home for 700 families each year while their seriously ill child receives medical treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Some families stay for nights, some for months. The House is a warm, supportive and safe place during a very difficult time. Over the years I’ve met with families and discussed their stories and I can tell you it is one amazing charity that has a real impact on people’s lives.

The purpose of the Hockey Challenge is to raise money from the RMHC. This is the one time of year I ask for a little help. I am willing to match up to $1,000 of whatever is contributed in the next two weeks. As a bonus, if I can get over 50 donors, I will be putting in an additional $500. So if I can get 50 people to put in just $20, I will match $1,500. Let’s make it happen.RMHC

This year, the Hockey Challenge is on February 24th at ShoWare Arena in conjunction with the Seattle Thunderbirds-Everett SilverTips game. After the Thunderbirds game, a group of all-stars will take the ice for a fun game between local celebrities, former Thunderbirds and some former NHLs. I will be one of the pylons in the all-star game watching the former NHLs skate circles around me.

NHL Expansion Application is on track

A little bit of NHL to Seattle news came out of the weekend while the NHL Execs were in Tampa for the NHL all star game.

NHL Expansion Application is on track

  • Everything appears to be on track for the potential ownership group in Seattle tosubmit their application with the reported $10 Million application fee in the next few weeks.

Same expansion process as Vegas Golden Knights

It was also widely reported that the league is guaranteeing the same access to players in the expansion process as Vegas. (In case any of you were concerned about the early Golden Knights success might make the expansion player pool more restrictive.)

Season ticket drive update?inside-Hockey

More locally, still no updates on the ticket drive. If you missed my post from a few weeks ago, go check it out. I expect to start hearing more on the ticket drive once the application is submitted to Seattle.

In the meantime, here were some NHL to Seattle centric articles that were published over the last week:

Season Ticket Drive Thoughts

There is not a day that goes by that people don’t ask me about the season ticket drive. People hit me up on social media, text, email, and just about every hockey friend I run into asks me about it. I love that Seattle hockey fans are so excited about the possibility of an NHL hockey team coming to town. Let me share with you all the information that I DO know about the season ticket drive.

In a nutshell, I don’t know much on the ticket drive since not much has been announced since the league and city’s announcement on December 7th. What I do know is based on a combination of listening to everything that is being said publicly by people in the know, leveraging data and observed behavior of Vegas. I figured I would summarize my thoughts and findings here:

When will the season ticket drive launch?

No official timeline has been announced from OVG. Based on comments from last Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada, it would appear they want to put the Executive staff in place before finalizing and publishing any ticket drive timeline. That sounds like a February launch, but again, nothing official. I’ve been suggesting people to sign up for the NHLtoSeattle newsletter here. I don’t use it a lot, but intend to send out ticket drive details as more information is known.

Pricing & Down payment

Another hot topic is how much the tickets will cost. There has been no reporting or speculation on that…so let’s speculate. For starters, let’s look at tickets prices in Seattle for the NFL and MLB to get an idea on how Seattle stacks up as a sports ticketing market. The chart below plots the average ticket price by league and team.

NFL-MLB

As you can tell, Seattle as a market is right at the league median ($30 for MLB. $92 for the NFL). As a starting point, we might be able to anticipate Seattle’s NHL Ticket prices to be around the NHL median so now let’s look at the NHL ticket prices.

NHLticketprices

The median of the average ticket price is around $73 but as you can see, I teased out the Golden Knights to see how they compare as a first-year franchise with one of the smaller venues in the league. (The redeveloped Seattle Center arena will have close to the same capacity). Obviously, ticket prices will vary based on where you sit in the arena and as a good rule of thumb, I tend to think lower bowl between the blue lines could be double the average ticket price ($150 to $178), while upper deck could be half the average ($36 – $44).
As far as down payment or “pledge”, Vegas Golden Knights required a 10% commitment of the value of the season ticket package. This was refundable if the league chose not to expand to Vegas. I would anticipate something similar, so depending on your price point, multiply ticket price by the 44 games and then 10% of that would be your down payment.

Is there a sales target?

“Vegas wants hockey” was the Golden Knights ticket drive campaign. They had a stated goal of 10,000 season ticket holders when the campaign launched. To date there has been no reference to a goal for Seattle’s ticket drive. If there is one, I expect it to be announced by the time the campaign launches. No matter what the goal, I am fairly confident we will hit and hit it quickly. According to research I saw from Scarborough  from 2015, there is over 70,000 people “interested” in NHL season tickets in Seattle.

My recommendations for interested season ticket holders:

  • Join my mailing list. Once I find out more about the ticket drive, I will communicate Facebook, Twitter, blog and email. I don’t want interested folks to miss out.
  • Plan your season ticket plan. If you are like me, I am looking at creating a season ticket group that will sit together for games. Start talking with friends to make sure they sign up around the same time. I imagine there will be a process for selecting your seats based on when you sign up. In order to sit with or near friends, you probably need to get in the same window. I’ve also been talking to friends about full seasons, half season etc. I am already looking forward on having a draft to determine who gets what games.
  • Budget and Save. We are 30ish months away from buying our inaugural season tickets. I am a planner, so I am already putting money aside into my “NHL in Seattle fund”. I am sure I will be buying a jersey and going through plenty of face paint in the first season.

Would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

NHLtoSeattle 2017 News in Review

We entered 2017 without a whole lot going for us to bring the NHL to Seattle. SoDo Arena was largely dead and a lot of us where skeptical of a  potential redevelopment of KeyArena could accommodate a sheet of ice. If you want to see how gloom it looked at the end of 2016, take a look at my report card from last year. A lot has changed in 12 months….

Here is a timeline of activity over 2017:

January 17th – City of Seattle issues Request for Proposal (RFP) to redevelop KeyArena that could accommodate an NBA and NHL franchise. AEG and OVG are both expected to bid.
February 2nd – The SoDo group launches their PR campaign to counter the City’s efforts at KeyArena with an opinion piece in the Seattle Times from Russell Wilson.
February 4th – In out of town news, the Coyotes deal with ASU for a multi-sheet facility that would accommodate the Coyotes and Arizona State Sun Devils hockey is reported dead. (I am not a fan of relocation but I still pay attention to out of town news concerning fragile franchises.)
February 8th – The SoDo Group resubmits their application for Street Vacation.
February 10th – While speaking at a Sports Business Conference in Philadelphia, Bill Daly talks about Seattle and if a possible remodel of KeyArena could work for the NHL. 2012+NHL+Entry+Draft+Rounds+2+7+lyfx4JlSpv9l

“It would totally depend on the extent and substance of the renovations. Certainly, there’s been a lot of well-intended people who’ve wanted to build a new facility in Seattle, whether that’s a renovated KeyArena or an entirely new facility.
None of that has come to fruition, for whatever reason, so we’re not judging. But by the same token, it’s not something we can even get excited about unless and until something happens. And nothing has happened.”

March 16th – Tim Leiweke speaks to the Seattle times and among other things, says KeyArena remodel could be done in 3 years to accommodate the NBA and NHL. He also mentioned that an NHL team is more likely to come before NBA based on where the leagues are positioned. inside-Hockey
March 18th – a combined 14,162 people watch Junior hockey in the Seattle area. Both the Everett Silvertips (7,989) and Seattle Thunderbirds (6,173) had a home game.1512340_10153169894289145_4550175528159932028_n
March 26th – 100 years ago on this day, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup.
April 12th – As part of the responses to the KeyArena redevelopment RFP, both AEG and OVG name partners with hockey ties to their proposals. AEG added longtime rumored to be potential NHL Owner, Victor Coleman to group, while OVG adds Delaware North to their bid. Delaware North is owned by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. (James Dolan, Executive Chariman of MSG, was already part of OVG group.)
May 1st – Details of KeyArena redevelopment responses begin to circulate including endorsements by NBA and NHL executives.
May 9th – SoDo group continues their campaign against KeyArena. Hansen says KeyArena should be nitpicked like his proposal. outside
May 11th – Both OVG and AEG showcase their Arena proposals in an open house to the public at KEXP. This proved to be a nice opportunity for the public to interact with the two bidders to ask questions and provide feedback to the two bidders.
May 15th – The Seattle Thunderbirds claim their first WHL title in franchise history.
June 4th – After several days of speculation that the City of Seattle was leaning toward the OVG proposal, Seattle Partners (AEG) scorches the earth by issuing a statement saying they are pulling their bid.
June 7th – Mayors office selects OVG as primary negotiating party for KeyArena redevelopment.
On that same day, OVG announces an NHL ownership group have joined their proposal: David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer. In retrospect, this is probably the biggest indicators that we are primed to land an NHL team. 

July 20th – Reports that Houston Rockets owner, Les Alexander plans to sell the Rockets. Almost immediately, people start speculating it could mean that Houston could be the landing spot of the 32nd NHL franchise.
July 31st – Prospective NHL owner David Bonderman is spotted at Seattle City Hall.
September 5th – Houston Rockets owner, Les Alexander sells the Rockets to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2BillionKeyArena_SoDoGroup
September 7th – Just days before Memorandum of Understanding for KeyArena Remodel is expected to be delivered to Seattle City Council, the Sodo group proposes an alternative development plan for KeyArena. This would largely fall on deaf ears as a proposal that was not submitted in appropriate and legal channels.
September 12thMemorandum of Understanding is delivered to Seattle City Council with an intent to open October of 2020.
September 18th – OVG MOU continues to gain support from city council and the public at large.
October 11th – In an interview with CBS Houston, new Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta says he is open to the NHL. “I would put an NHL team here tomorrow, but this one has got to work.”
November 7th – During an Seattle Civic Arenas committee meeting, Council Member Mike O’Brien mentions the timeline is designed to get an NHL team by the start of the 2020 season.
November 15th – Katie Strang from the Athletic reports that the Houston Rockets owner Tilman Feritta met with the NHL on the prospects of bringing an NHL team to Houston. Talks seem early but after seeing Vegas get a franchise before Seattle, fans start to worry a bit.
December 2nd – The national hockey media begins reporting that Seattle will be discussed at the NHL Board of Governors meeting should the City Council approve the MOU for KeyArena just 3 days before BOG meeting. It’s almost as if this was planned all along…hmmm.
December 4thSeattle City Council approves the Oak View Groups $660Million Memorandum of Understanding to redevelop KeyArena to a state of the are Arena that can accommodate the NHL and NBA.
December 7th – At the NHL Board of Governors meeting, the NHL agrees to “accept and consider Seattle expansion application.” Mayor 20171209
December 15th – Potential NHL owner, David Bonderman meets with new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
December 29th – 710 ESPN declares the NHL’s formal interest in expanding to Seattle as the #1 Seattle sports story of 2017.

What do you got 2018?