How does a city get an NHL team?

The key for any city to get an NHL Team is to:

1) have an arena

2) have a willing and able owner or ownership group

3) have an available team either through relocation or expansion.

It pretty much needs to happen in that order the right ownership group can influence all of them. ATL to Winnipeg had all three. PHO to Winnipeg had the first two.

  • Seattle is the 14th largest metropolitan area in the states by population, only Houston and now Atlanta are bigger cities without NHL Teams. Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa, Pitt, Denver, Columbus, Nashville, Buffalo, Raleigh all have NHL Teams in smaller cities. My thought is an NHL Team in Seattle would be very similar to St. Louis and Denver. Minn, Buff & Pitt are hockey towns and not really comparable. Nash & Raleigh are great showcases that an NHL team can thrive in a non-traditional hockey market with a strong ownership group. Jury is still out for Columbus and Tampa Bay.
  • Seattle is very appealing from a corporate sponsorship perspective since so many companies have headquarters here. This makes it much more appealing for a more sustainable business for ownership groups.
  • NHL fans tend to be higher educated and wealthier compared to other professional sports….Seattle has similar demographics.

Other items/theories:

  • Tampa Bay, Florida and Phoenix are the most likely franchises to move in the next 2 to 5 years. (I believe Florida is less likely to move with a local ownership group) It may sound crazy but I think the New York Islanders could be a franchise that could be sold and moved.
  • No data to support this but based on my completely unscientific assessment, it feels like there are a lot of Canadians in the Puget Sound thus increasing the % of potential hockey fans in the area vs. other US cities like Houston. (I also feel there are a lot of people from Michigan but that could because I hang out with hockey players.)
  • Vancouver Canucks have some of the highest ticket prices in the league so just basic supply and demand would keep prices a little elevated compared to places like Nash, LA, TB (all places that you can find close to $25 face value tix). I’m implying that people would be coming south over the border for a more affordable game and/or people would not travel north for Van games as often.
  • This a small and growing trend of (professional) hockey players coming from non-traditional hockey player markets in the states. I would have to search for the stories but last NHL draft had someone from Vegas, Phoenix and maybe LA taken in the first round or two. This is good for the popularity of hockey in the states. I’ve wanted to analyze the US Junior squad as well. (I know quantity of players from these markets is still tiny compared to Minn, Mass and Mich).
  • Controversial topic & My opinion only: Because of the last collective bargaining agreement (Salary Cap), the economics for mid to lower market cities and ownerships makes franchises more sustainable. Interesting question to explore is could Winnipeg support a team if the team payroll was 10Mil higher?  (watch the TSN why not Canada)
  • OkCity and KC used to be frontrunners for NHL Teams since they have arenas…that talk has gone very quiet in the last 3 years, probably because they lack an ownership group.

Seattle can support a Hockey team

 There is no doubt in my mind that Seattle can support a hockey team and within 5 years I believe there will be a team here. As I begin this blog I am going to go deep in a couple areas to see if the data can support (or conflict with) my claim.

In a nutshell:

1) Seattle is the 12 biggest US TV market

2) Seattle has a large population of wealthy individuals that are a target demographic of NHL Fans

3) The region has a large amount of companies headquartered here to support the arena in sponsorship, executive suites & general support for the team

4) The region is extremely supportive of their local teams. (Do you know that the sounders have 2 times the MLS league average for attendance? I imagine as we dig into the Mariners you will see similar type phenomenon in spite of their losing seasons)

5) My theory is also there are a lot of Canadians here. Largely driven by the tech sector as well as the proximity to Canada. This doesn’t mean they are all hockey fans but I think it improves their chances.

I will start to dig into data to help understand the numbers and supportability of hockey in the region. A couple things that I will look into is how the seattle youth and adult hockey leagues compare to other cities. Do we have more adults and children playing hockey in the puget sound compared to San Jose, Nashville, Dallas & Columbus?

The biggest reason there is no team here is because of the lack of Arena. From time to time I will dig into some of the stadium politics and economics at play. There has been a lot of traction here over the last 6 months.

If you have ideas, thoughts, reactions or issues, send them my way.