NHL To Seattle 2016 News in Review

From a league level, we entered the beginning of 2016 with some outstanding questions on the two NHL expansion applications from Quebec and Las Vegas. Meanwhile, locally we were still waiting on the outcome of the final street vacation on the SoDo arena.
January 14th Rumors start to circulate that the falling Canadian Dollar could adversely impact Quebec City’s NHL Expansion bid. In hindsight, this is early foreshadowing that would slowly gain steam as the league got closer to the final expansion announcement.
January 25th Slowly but surely, the final stages of the SoDo Arena street vacation vote start to materialize.
January 27th Gary Bettman references Seattle as an intriguing NHL market. At this point, the ship had sailed on expansion for this round but encouraging to know that Bettman still acknowledges Seattle as a solid market for an NHL franchise.
February 13th  Reports come out that the KeyArena could be remodeled to accommodate both NHL and NBA. Seattle times begins to push this as a better option than SoDo.
February 22nd In a response to the Seattle Times editorial, council member Tim Burgess sharply response and criticizes the Seattle Times for inaccurate reporting.
March 15th The city council conducts a public hearing on the Sodo Arena Occidental Street Vacation.
March 16th In a small blurb of Elliote Friedmans weekly column, it is revealed that Chris Hansen remains in contact with the NHL. This isn’t a game changer but important to know that communication lines remain open.
April 6th City of Seattle Transportation committee hears final presentation on Occidental Ave street vacation for the SoDo Arena. SeattleArena
April 20th Occidental Ave street vacation vote scheduled for Seattle City Council on May 2nd.
May 2nd The Occidental street vacation fails in full City Council meeting by a vote of 4 to 5. The street vacation would have been the last hurdle to have a shovel ready SoDo arena.
May 4th Theories start to circulate that the failed street vacation might break the implied monopoly the Hansen group had on arena options in the area.
May 23rd After the fallout of the denied Occidental street vacation, I claim the SoDo arena dead. (I hope I am wrong. Even though there has been plenty of activity in SoDo over the second half of 2016, it is still not clear how this street gets approved.)
June 22nd NHL awards the 31st franchise in league history to the Las Vegas for play to begin in the 2017-18 Season. Quebec City is not awarded a franchise. Under the circumstance this could be the best possible outcome for Seattle (or any other city looking to land an NHL team someday).
August 4th Communications between the Port of Seattle (staunch opponent of arena) and the Seattle Times Editor Frank Blethen reveal that the Times was working on a $290,000 PR campaign story for the Port at the same time the Seattle Times launched an editorial campaign against the SoDo Arena. If you ever wanted to know why the Seattle Times was so against the SoDo Arena, now you know.
September 22nd News reveals the Hansen group continues to accumulate land in Sodo. A strong signal that they have not given up on a SoDo arena.
October 25th Hansen group offers the City of Seattle a 100% private financing arena with more infrastructure invested in the SoDo area. (I still think this is much ado about nothing since without an NBA team the group would not get any financing anyway.)
October 27th Seattle Times reveals that the City of Seattle will open up a Request for Proposal for a (major) renovation of KeyArena that could accommodate a potential NBA or NHL team.
October 28th A small blurb in a wrap up article of the week reveals that Victor Coleman is still interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle area.
November 14th In an announcement that will certainly help the PR efforts in SoDo, Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson announces that he has joined the Hansen Group to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.
November 15th Bettman confirms that the NHL is not looking at Seattle without an arena. A statement that surprised absolutely no one.
November 18th News reveals that current Carolina Hurricanes owner, Peter Karmanos wants to sell the Canes, even if it means relocation. As expected, this report is quickly denied by the league and Hurricanes management. If this ever were to come to fruition, the probable landing spot would be Quebec City. This would maintain a 15 teams in the west and 16 teams in the east.
December 15th The Oak View Group, headed up by industry vet Tim Leiweke, do a PR tour with local media outlets that reveal their intent on the KeyArena RFP process. The group mentions that they are in communications with both the NBA and NHL on their plans. They also reveal that they will not be owners of either an NBA or NHL franchise at KeyArena.

2014 in NHL to Seattle news

January 1st Ed Murray is sworn in as the new mayor of Seattle. During his campaign, Murray pledge to support the current arena MOU but he is not as big of an advocate as the prior Mayor Mike McGinn.

January 30th While sitting on a panel and speaking to students, the Winnipeg Jets Chairman says Seattle is a priority for the NHL via expansion or relocation. He also said Greater Toronto Area could probably hold 2 more teams & Quebec would be great, but neither are top priority for NHL. Separately, assistant GM to the Boston Celtics says the NBA expansion (in the US) is unlikely in 5 years. He later qualified the statement as his opinion and not based on any NBA HQ information.

February 1st David Stern retires. Seattle basketball fans rejoice.

February 2nd Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl. 3 days later close to 750,000 fans trek downtown Seattle for the parade. #SportsTown.

February 3rd NHL Expansion talk begins to heat up. While talking to TVA Sports, Gary Bettman had some responses to expansion talk: “we aren’t there yet” “lots of places have expressed interest” “we are always listening”. (These would be common quotes over the reminder of the season).

February 12th New NBA commissioner Adam Silver clearly states there are no plans to expand.

February 13th NHL says Seattle would be a “good hockey market”.  Two days later, Former Seattle Junior Hockey Player TJ Oshie wins a big Olympic game for US in a shootout against Russia.

February 26th A Seattle delegation of business folks plus city and county officials visit Vancouver and attend a Canucks game to learn more about what it would look like should Seattle land an NHL team.

March 17th The first reported delay of the current Environmental Impact Statement for the SoDo Arena. IMHO the EIS is not the long pole here but it is part of the process. The city will not kick in any financing without a team. http://www.king5.com/story/local/2014/12/29/13403682/ I posted this image on March 17th…sadly, not much has changed (except for the Ballmer thing).

March 18th Seattle City Council president, Tim Burgess states that they will not change the MOU (for a NHL first scenario) stating that the tax revenues would be 50% less.  It is unclear how those numbers are calculated when the NHL has higher ticket prices and higher attendance than the NBA.

April 26th Seattle Times reports that Ray Bartoszek is looking at options since the SoDo site is tied so heavily to the NBA which doesn’t appear to be headed to Seattle anytime soon.

May 13th In one of the strongest signs of the NHL’s interest in Seattle, it is reported that Gary Bettman and Bill Daly met with City and County officials in Seattle. By all reports, it sounded like a disappointing meeting for the NHL brass as the arena situation was described as “unsettling” by Daly.

May 15th As a follow up to the NHL and mayor meeting, Victor Coleman and Jonathan Glaser emerge as a new ownership group vying for an NHL team in Seattle.  Coleman and Glaser with in the meeting with the Mayor, Bettman and Daly. They appear to be the front runners for owning a team in Seattle.

May 29th Steve Ballmer starts the process of buying the Los Angeles Clippers. This should be seen as a neutral to slightly negative on Seattle’s pursuit of getting an NBA team.

June 2nd Prospective Seattle Supersonics owner and the man leading the SoDoArena, Chris Hansen sits down with Chris Daniels of King5 and says that an NHL first scenario would require a potential NHL owner to put in a combination of more money and more risk. (Sorry, link has changed since I originally posted).

June 9th Posted the results from the 1st NHL to Seattle Survey. ~35% of respondents in King, Pierce or Snohomish county say they would be season ticket holders.

June 10th Chris Hansen signs an option for more land in SoDo area near proposed Arena. It is speculated this was done to accommodate some of the EIS feedback received to accommodate more parking.

June 26th NHL Board of Governors meeting comes and goes with no expansion announcement.

 July 31st AHockeyView_SonicLevel3nother reported delay in final EIS.

 August 11th Toronto Blue Jays came to town and out come the Canadians.

 August 26th Report surfaces that the NHL will expand by 4 teams in 2017. NHL would come out to deny it and I had my doubts about the original source.

August 28th In an interview with KJR, Steve Ballmer says, “ there is a guy pushing hard for hockey (in Seattle)”. ~58 minute mark.

September 30th Chris Hansen submits final paper work for EIS.

October 24th Although rumored for months, the first legitimate report of Vegas being a potential NHL mark surfaces.

November 25th Sports Business Journal post their annual reader survey. 43% of readers think Seattle is the most viable market for an NHL team.

December 3rd I wrote this interesting post that sizes up the Seattle Market.

December 8th NHL gives approval to prospective NHL Vegas owners to begin season ticket drive.  No other markets are mentioned.

That leaves us here…which is pretty much where we started the year.


Quick thoughts on Ballmer’s pursuit of the Clippers

As most of you are aware, Steve Ballmer is placing a bid on the Los Angeles Clippers. I have had some discussions in various social networksbllmnba9087 and “real world” conversations about it and figured I should jot something down. There are two schools of thought on the impact that a successful purchase of the Clippers will have on the return of the Sonics: 1) Hurts the bid to bring the NBA back to Seattle and 2) No impact to the SoDo Arena plans. To get the narrative on those two opinions, enter our two favorite journalists, Geoff Baker with the first perspective and Chris Daniels issuing the later point of view. One thing I would like to call out is that it is great to have two people covering this story with a somewhat different approach. I saw somewhat because they are not contradicting, they are just coming from two different angles, both of which can and are probably right. Both articles (and video) are worth reading but at a high level, Baker says that if Ballmer’s bid for the Clippers is successful, that investment gap will need to be filled. Meanwhile Daniel’s suggest that gap will not be too hard to fill.

My take

The likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. There aren’t too many people in the world worth $20 Billion that can fill Ballmer’s shoes, actually there are only 35 of them in the world and only two that live in the Puget Sound. Obviously it is not a requirement to find someone worth $20 Billion but it was nice to have that kind of backstop behind you for the franchise. The bigger issue to me is what that says about the prospects of the Sonics returning to Seattle. Baring a failure of an Arena plan in Milwaukee, this implies we are probably over 4 years away from seeing the Sonics in Seattle. If the outlook was better, I think Ballmer would have waited. The positive of Ballmer becoming the owner of LA Clippers is he would have a vote on expansion and/or relocation of a team for Seattle. All that said, what I will miss most about the departure of Ballmer from the Sonics Ownership group is his local ties and civic leadership. The man was passionate about the Sonics before they left and would have loved to see him be involved in the team.

Wait….this isn’t NBAtoSeattle.

Damn…you got me. You are right, this is not NBAtoSeattle. We know the Seattle NBA Group has been driving the bus on this project for a while they have welcomed us hockey fans for the ride from the very beginning. The potential Ballmer departure from the project is probably a net neutral. I think the prospects of the NBA returning to Seattle only helps the NHLtoSeattle’s chances so if it is a slight negative for NBA, it is a slight negative for the NHL. Oh and we still have the issue of the MOU that will still need to be changed for an NHL first scenario. Which leads me to think of the positive spin on this scenario. The departure of Ballmer could open the door for an NHL friendly partner to fill the gap left by Ballmer that might help kick start the NHL first Arena process. Either way, I am supportive of all SonicsArena efforts and will continue to support them regardless if and when the NHL comes to Seattle in the process.

A timeline view of 2013 in NHL to Seattle news

I spent some time looking through twitter feeds and facebook posts to recap this busy logo red 2year. There were more events, quotes and news worthy items than is listed below. I tried to keep it high level and focused on events that shaped the NHL to Seattle news. Nothing on Markam, Las Vegas and very little on Quebec news. If you have questions or feedback on items I am missing, let me know.

January 21 – Announcement that a deal is in place for the sale of the Sacramento Kings being to Hansen-Ballmer group with intent to move to Seattle. Subject to NBA Board of Governors approval.

January 22 – Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announces pledge to keep Kings in Sacramento.

January 28 – Coyotes deal with Greg Jamison falls through. NHL says they are still committed to Glendale. At this time, NHL to Seattle is secondary to NBA team but with rumblings on the Kings, the door starts to open for Coyotes moving to Seattle.

January 29 – Paul Kelly, former NHLPA Executive Director, says to a media scrum in Toronto, long term plan was to get the NHL to 32 teams.

January 31Two separate reports that the league would prefer to relocate a team to Seattle and expand to Quebec City & Toronto.

February 22 – ILWU lawsuit against City of Seattle regarding SoDo Arena plan dismissed.

February 26 – ESPN Radio reports Seattle is favorite city for expansion or possible relocation for NHL.HockeyView_MainConcourse

March 5 – Seattle Arena design passed by review panel.

March 7 – NHL & NHLPA agree on NHL realignment plan. The 4 division alignment two eastern divisions with 8 teams and two western divisions with 7 teams. Adding more speculation that the league would like to add two more teams in the west.

March 9 – Stern publically states Sacramento Kings Ownership Group deal too low which opens the door for a higher bid. This could be perceived as the moment Stern is guiding the Sac group to keep the team in Sacramento.

March – Tough to nail down exact date but the Mayor of Sacramento, Kevin mayor_kevin_johnsonJohnson, announces several “whales” of potential owners. The whales started with Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and ended with Vivek Randive.

March 23 – Mayor Kevin Johnson announces arena deal. The key here is that the potential Kings owner will not be part of the funding plan.

March 27Multiple reports that Leblanc and Gosbee are lead group to purchase the Coyotes with the intent to keep the team in Glendale.

March 27 – 7% Minority Stake of Sacramento Kings that was auctioned off in Bankruptcy court was sold to Chris Hansen.

April 7 – Gary Bettman states that preliminary research that he has seen indicates that Seattle would be a “very strong hockey market“. (This could be the first time I heard Bettman mention Seattle.)

April 8 – Ron Burkle is officially out of Sacramento Kings ownership group due to conflict of interest based on NBA League rules.

April 12 – Local Sacramento ownership group announces plan to keep Kings in Sacramento and match dollar for dollar the Hansen-Ballmer deal.

May 10 – Hansen/Ballmer increase bid for Sacramento Kings by 75Million.NBA

May 15 – NBA Board of Governors reject sale of Sacramento Kings to Hansen-Ballmer group.

May 18 – I did not win powerball so officially announce that I will not be part of any ownership group trying to bring an NHL team to Seattle.

May 25 – NHL and Renaissance Sports Group (Gosbee/LeBlanc) have a contingent deal in place to purchase Phoenix Coyotes.

June 4 – Herb Kohl says new arena will see to it that Bucks stay in Milwaukee. This begins Kohl’s public appeal to get some kind of arena subsidies from the state of Wisconsin.

June 12 – Ken Campbell from the Hockey News, reports that Phoenix Coyotes would move to Seattle and not Quebec should the City of Glendale not reach a lease agreement with LeBlanc and Gosbee.

June 14 – On Hockey Night in Canada’s Hot Stove, Elliotte Freidman from the CBC reveals that the Vancouver Canucks were blocked from moving their AHL affiliate to Key Arena. Additionally Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza are identified as potential ownership group that would move the Coyotes to Seattle.

June 15 – Chris Daniels confirms that a potential NHL ownership group has met with Seattle City officials & the Mayor McGinn had a phone call with the NHL offices and states that Seattle is a plan B scenario.

June 17 – Reports surface that Jeremy Roenick will lead hockey operations for Bartoszek/Lanza group.

June 21 – Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn tweets that he is confident that Key Arena will be ready to host NHL 2013-14 season if necessary.

July 2 – City of Glendale approves lease agreement with prospective Phoenix Coyotes owners Leblanc & Gosbee. Coyotes are staying in Glendale.

July 24 – NHL Deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, says the Pacific Northwest will get serious consideration in the2012+NHL+Entry+Draft+Rounds+2+7+lyfx4JlSpv9l future in case of a relocation or expansion scenario

August 1 – Report out of Portland is that Paul Allen might be interested in NHL franchise with the intent to have a team in Portland.

August 6 – Peter Steinbrueck defeated in Seattle Mayoral August Primary election. Steinbrueck was an opponent in the SoDo Arena plan.

August 15 – City of Seattle publishes first draft of Environmental Impact Study of Sodo arena. Proponents claim no red flags while opposition states assumptions are bad and should be thrown out.

September 9 – Sonics Arena rebranded to Seattle Arena in new design mockups. No official reason for change but hockey fans view this as a sign that hockey could lead the way to get shovels in the ground.

September 26 – Chris Hansen meets with NHL leaders in New York City. Meetings are downplayed and Bettman says they are “routine” and “people should not look into it”.

BV1kIHACUAAn1PoOctober 5 – ESPN Magazine publishes results from NHL Player Survey. Results for “Which city deserves a new NHL Franchise?”: Seattle #1 with 37%, followed by Quebec City at 27%.

October 29 – Maple Leafs CEO & Powerhouse NHL Executive Tim Leiweke says NHL has a once in a lifetime opportunity to put the NHL in Seattle.

November 5 – Ed Murray elected as new mayor of Seattle. Murray’s campaign message on SoDo Arena was that he will support the MOU that was signed by Seattle City Council.

November 9 – Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban states to the Dallas Morning News that he is open to NBA expansion. States, it’s a “good chance” of it happening.

Voila_Capture746December 3 – Reported that there are 3 groups interested in bringing an NHL Franchise to Seattle. Jeremy Roenick is identified as heading up one of the groups and was seen in Seattle, presumably to meet with Hansen.

December 10 – Bettman confirms there is interest in expansion and says they are listening. Reiterates that there is no prioritized list at NHL headquarters.

Sacramento Kings Ownership Showdown in NYC

As most of you know, yesterday was the big showdown pitch meetings between Seattle and Sacramento for the Kings. As expected, we didn’t get much as meetings were behind closed doors and Stern did show his cards. I watched most of the three press conferences and here are the major things that I took away that could impact the situation.

  1. Stern shot down any talk of expansion citing it was not prudent to split their auxiliary revenues by adding a couple more teams.NBA
  2. The decision could go past the original said deadline of the NBA BOG meeting April 18th. If the Coyotes are an option for Seattle, this starts to impact that timeline where Seattle might not be a reasonable option.
  3. Sac ownership group did not match the Seattle offer price of the Kings. It should be noted that Stern was asked about this outside of his press conference (by Chris Daniels) and Stern implied that it would not be a deciding factor. I don’t know if this is really the case as Stern might eliminate that issue in the press to make sure he doesn’t tip the way he is leaning.

There is so much public and political posturing in these things it is really hard to gauge what is really going on so take everything you read and watch with a grain of salt. As usual, I love Neil deMause’s write up at Field of Schemes. It is definitely slanted but it isn’t the typical over positive Sports Coverage that you will read everywhere else. Hard for me to predict what will happen over the next 3 weeks other than I expect a lot of lawsuits in Sacramento and expedited resolution to any lawsuits or studies we have here in Seattle. Hold on tight…stay positive and try to be level headed to things that are reported.

Hansen talks about where we are at with hockey in Seattle

Just a quick note on some of remarks around NHL I caught on KJR yesterday when Chris Hansen called in to their show. You can listen to it here: http://www.sportsradiokjr.com/player/?station=KJR-AM&program_name=podcast&program_id=softy.xml&mid=22279286 I enjoyed the entire piece but if you want to just listen to the hockey comments, it starts roughly at the 21:45 remark.

Here are the main comments:

“There are several people interested in bringing hockey to Seattle.”

“We want to find a great ownership group that is passionate about hockey as we are about basketball.”

“There are good people that are focused on keeping Seattle for the long-term and are not just out of town owners looking for the best market without a long term commitment.”

“Optimal solution for them would be to probably come a little later, maybe like a year or two”

“Key Arena is a tough place to play. It is only 10,000 Seats”

“Hockey is more dependent on Arena revenue.”

“Really tough for them (a hockey team) to play in KeyArena for 3 years”

I’ve assumed that the Hansen groups has some dialogue with potential or existing NHL owners and it is great to hear it validated. For the out of towners that might not hear all the comments and remarks that Hansen & even public officials are making but the NHL is very much part of the conversation and mentioned all the time. The Sonics, for good reason, are driving the bus and dominate conversations but the NHL is much more than an afterthought.

Data Data Data….on the Public Hearing.

Here is my quick assesment of the public hearing tonight (7/19).

For the most part, the issues at hand require so much research, nothing can really be learned at these things because there are biases and claims that can’t really be answered or addressed in this forum. One thing it does provide is an opportunity for council members to take their constituents pulse on the matter. Hopefully they got something out of it and it was useful.

I really wished I would have recorded all the “coulds”, “mights” and “mays” in Tay Yoshitani’s comments to the councils. There were a lot and he never said, it would cost jobs once.

Here is the tally that I took during the event:

A couple notes and comments on my tally:

  • Pro:Industry or Con:Industry pretty much mean that the person was representing a trade of sorts. The pro’s were construction, sheet medal, painters etc., where the con’s were probably tied to the port in some fashion but did not mention it the port.
  • Pro: Sonics Fan is probably doing a disservice to the category because there were a lot of sonics fans that brought up good arguments citing the deal that should have been in the Pro: General category. There was some obvious fans that just wanted the Sonics back in this category.
  • Pro: General are those that had a multiple set of arguments, usually well-constructed and fairly fact based.
  • NEU: General were mostly the 17 members of the Seattle Stage Hands Organization/Union. Most of them mentioned opposing privatization of Key Arena and Seattle Center. I am unaware if this is part of the MOU so if someone knows, please let me know. I felt their stance was relatively neutral here other than they want their interests heard…which they were.
  • Con: Port – well you probably know this one. Anytime the Port came up or the reference to Longshoreman came up I coded the speaker in this category. (By the way, how awesome would the name Longshoreman be for a Seattle NHL team?)
  • Con: General were comments generalizing the arguments against it or the more time, “what’s the rush” category.

Here is the summary in pie chart form: