My second post to this site was “How does a city get an NHL team?” I posted it just about 2 years ago in January of 2012. It was poorly written and barely read by anyone outside of my household. In that post I laid out 3 pillars in getting a team. The pillars required were 1) An arena, 2) An owner & 3) A team. A strong and motivated ownership group can influence all three of those items. It is really that simple and for the most part, those principles are intact today. I wanted to revisit on how we are tracking against those items and the progress we have made against those pillars in 2013:
Where were we on 1/1/2013? The SonicsArena was the highlight of 2012 and to start 2013 this was in great shape. The MOU was signed and all the land in the SoDo was purchased. There were a couple outstanding items: Environmental Impact Study & ILWU lawsuit. Neither of them small, but there was a sense of optimism that this was moving through the process with no red flags. I would have given this a grade of B at this time last year based on the progress.
Where are we now? Back in 2013, the preliminary EIS study was published and public feedback session was conducted. The ILWU lawsuit was dismissed and the dismissal upheld in appeal. The preliminary EIS revealed no red flags and Peter Goldman has advocated to throw the EIS out…presumably because the ILWU was not happy with the (lack of) findings. We also saw design iterations with basketball and hockey layouts. Staying true to my conservative approach, until we get the Final EIS report, I refuse give this an A or A-. 2013 Grade: B+
Where were we on 1/1/2013? From an NHL perspective, this was our biggest question mark. We knew Don Levin was interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle, but the apparent divide between Levin and Hansen left us with a feeling that Levin was no longer in the picture. With no rumors of speculative ownership candidates, this left, us, NHL fans with a little despair. I would have given us an Incomplete Grade to start the year.
Where are we now? With nowhere to go but up, this is where we improved the most. In the June timeframe, we got wind of a potential ownership group consisting of Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza. They were rumored to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and then move them to Seattle should the city of Glendale not reach a lease agreement with Gosbee and LeBlanc. We all know that the Coyotes stayed in Glendale, but at least we know there is an interested party in bringing the NHL to Seattle. Fast forward to early December 2013 and low & behold, Jeremy Roenick is now identified as heading a separate ownership group interested in bringing a team to Seattle. Later that same week, Chris Daniels reported that there was a third group interested as well. It should be important to point out that we have never heard directly from any of these potential ownership groups. Bartoszek, Lanza & Roenick have not said a word on the topic which I like to believe is exactly how the NHL wants them to play it out. I give these guys an A for the way their playing it, but I give a slightly lower grade as there is still work to be done and we are all eager to hear how we can help the cause (like the Sonics faithful get from Hansen). 2013 Grade: B
Where were we on 1/1/2013? At this time last year, Greg Jamison had a deal in place with the League and the City of Glendale. All he needed to do is pull the money together from his ownership groups by the end of January 2013. Basically, the Coyotes were not an options for Seattle and with the contingency of the NBA team, the timing would not have been good for hockey anyway. Just 3 months earlier in October of 2012, the New York Islanders announced a deal to relocate the team to Brooklyn, so that team was off the table. We were also in the midst of a lockout, so any talk about adding teams via expansion when we had a broken financial model would have been laughed at. New Jersey had been struggling financially, but with their new arena, moving was not realistic either. People love to point to Florida as a candidate for relocation, including many of the readers and followers here, but that is highly unlikely. The Florida Panthers’ parent company owns the entire surrounding mall and makes money by driving people to the area, even if they are smaller crowds. Also important to point out is that we did not have the NHL realignment in place at that time, so all conferences were balanced. Wow…that’s a grim picture where we were at last year. Grade last year, solid D
Where are we now? Bettman and the league have finally acknowledged listening to expansion proposals. The league has dismissed any expansion for the 2014-15 season. I am convinced the league will expand, so that means there will be expansion teams available. Here is a great piece on the criteria of how cities stack up against the criteria laid out by the league which positions Seattle as a top candidate. 2013 Grade: B+
Here is a bunch of extra credit material that others provided for us:
“The research that I have seen tells me that it would be a very strong hockey market. …Obviously if there were a team in Seattle it would create a decent rivalry with their northern neighbor, namely Vancouver.” -Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner
“But I think it’s safe to say we’re very intrigued by the Pacific Northwest generally. Going forward I would expect that to the extent expansion comes into the picture or relocation is needed, I’m sure the Pacific Northwest is going to get serious consideration.” -Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner
“With the [new] arena in Seattle, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put hockey back into the Seattle/Portland marketplace and we have to make a commitment to that.” – Tim Leiweke, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment CEO
“There is a big interest of Hockey coming to this market.” – Chris Hansen, SonicsArena
“With how close in proximity Seattle is to Canada and their fan base, plus how hockey-crazy Canadians are, I bet they’d drive down for games and could develop a good rivalry with Vancouver. I still like to go back to the city and with all those great people, it’d definitely be a great destination for an NHL team.” -Brenden Dillon, Former Seattle Thunderbird and current Dallas Star
“That would be really special. When they were discussing all the Phoenix stuff earlier in the summer, that was sort of exciting because it would be great to go back there and play in front of a lot of people who supported you early in your career.” -Thomas Hickey, Former Seattle Thunderbird and current New York Islander