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.

The Sacramento Kings news and what it means to a potential NHL team in Seattle

Key Arena

This is the hockey configiration inside the Key Arena. The far end is closed off.

As I imagine most of your Seattle readers and even fringe NBA fans, news broke yesterday that the Maloofs are close to selling the Sacramento Kings to Seattle SoDo Arena backed group led by Chris Hansen & Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The intent of the purchase will be to move the team next season to play in Key Arena while the SoDo Arena is built. This is obviously huge news for the City of Seattle and the huge Sonics fan base. As I’ve said numerous times here before, an NBA team is a prerequisite to getting an NHL Team. Why? Well we don’t have an arena for them to play in and the SoDo Arena is really tied to the Hansen group’s financing deal with the city. In that deal, the arena cannot break ground until an NBA team is procured for the Seattle. (I actually cannot recall if it is specific to an “NBA” team but I know Hansen does not want to be an NHL owner). Also important to realize is that the Key Arena is not a good temporary facility for hockey. Because of the small footprint, part of the arena must be closed off (I’ve included an old grainy picture from a game I played in 7 or so years ago in the Key).

Take a look at some of Hansen’s comments made to a radio show in the summer. He has said that it is probably ideal for hockey to come a couple years after the NBA because of the Key Arena facilities. I also recall an interview Gord Brown, one of the owners from the T-Birds, gave about a year ago where basically said there is no way the NHL would play a season in Key Arena. The interview was about this time last year but I have no clue what radio show it was on.

So this all sounds great but it is important to remember that this deal for the Sacramento Kings is not done and the Maloofs have not been the most forthright negotiator so let’s not get overly excited here. It should also pointed out that the news triggered Kevin Johnson, ex-NBA star and Mayor of Sacramento, to hold a press conference saying that they will “fight like crazy” to keep the team in Sacramento including finding a local ownership group.

In something that even surprised me, yesterday a reported asked Gary Bettman about the possibilities of a team in Seattle. His response was pretty much as you would expect: “Not something we’re focused on or considering right now”. Keep in mind that the CBA has not been signed and the schedule isn’t even out yet so I would be shocked if he would have commented with substance on the topic. Audio here: relocation comes up around the 10 minute mark and the question on Seattle comes up around the 14 minute mark.

Here is some other important info that I was able to aggregate:

  • Kevin Johnson will be looking for a mix of local buyers and out of the area investors that will keep the team in Sacramento
  • The rumored price the Hansen/Ballmer team are offering up is 500Million. Forbes has the Kings valued at 300M
  • According to sources, the Maloofs will retain a small ownership position in the Kings/Sonics
  • Deal calls for them playing in Key Arena to start the 2013/14 season
  • NBA has a relocation application process that would require a team to file before March 1st

This is all great news even if nothing is finalized but let us remember there are fans on the other side of this potential deal so be respectful. I wish there was another way.

January 11th UPDATE: According to Matt  Steinmetz, a San Francisco NBA beat writer, the deal is done. 525Million with no ownership for the Maloofs.  https://twitter.com/MSteinmetzCSN/status/289786204034052096