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 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 Another reported delay in final EIS.
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.
From time to time I read something from NHL fans or hockey media types claiming that expansion will ruin the game because of parity or dilution of talent. I get pretty dismissive about their “arguments” as very few of these claims are based on facts or data. I decided to investigate it on my own. This will be the 1st post in a 3 part series that talks about why the league is ready for expansion. As with most of my posts, I tell the story with data.
Margin of Victory
Regular season games are getting tighter. Excluding ties, the margin of victory has declined since 97.
The standings are also getting tighter.
Some of the expansion efforts in the 90s contributed to the teams with less than 50 points in a season however if you look at the teams with 51 to 60 points between 1990 to 1997, they were well established teams (Leafs, Oilers, Islanders, Jets, Nords). Now it should also be pointed out that OT, Shootout rules and the rise of the 3 point game is also a contributing factor here.
Compared to other leagues, the NHL has produced the most unique champions over the last 15 years.
Last week, the US census bureau releases population data that stated Seattle has the biggest population boom of any major US city. Most of us Seattle hockey fans pointed to the data as another indicator of the opportunity for the NHL that lies in our region. We have also heard that most of the potential Seattle NHL ownership groups are only interested in a Seattle arena versus a Bellevue solution. I looked across the league to see where arenas were placed compared to the densest cities in the area. Excluding the New York Islanders who are moving to Brooklyn, only 3 teams play in arenas that are not located in the largest city (population) in the area: Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild. Everyone that has been following me knows that I am not Anti-Panthers or Anti-Coyotes. I believe in this sport very much and for the most part, think it can thrive anywhere with the right ownership team. That said, I would be negligent if I did not acknowledge that both the Panthers and Coyotes have both had some attendance issues as of late. I will come back to the Wild in a second but first lets dig into the arena location of the Panthers and the Coyotes.
As you can tell by looking at the map above, Florida plays in the city of Sunrise, which has a population of 90K and is about 30 miles away from the biggest metropolitan city in the area, Miami. You can also tell by looking at the map, Sunrise isn’t exactly surrounded by a bunch of medium size cities which cuts down on their potential customer base, particularly for mid week games. Observe the average attendance by Day of the week for the Florida Panthers. Generally speaking, mid week games are the lowest attended games. (The exception here is Wednesdays for 2013-14 season. The Panthers only had one Wednesday game this year and it was the day before Thanksgiving on November 27th.)
As most of you know, the Arizona (formally Phoenix) Coyotes play in Glendale, which is only about 10 miles from downtown Phoenix which has a whopping 1.5 Million people living in the area. I would argue that the Coyotes are actually better positioned in Glendale than the Panthers are in Sunrise. After being sold to new ownership group last summer, attendance was up 13% this year compared to 2011-12 (last full NHL Season).
The Minnesota wild play in St. Paul which is about 10 miles away from Minneapolis, the largest city in the area. Throwing the Minnesota Wild in this bucket is a bit of a stretch since the size of the cities are not that significant compared to Glendale or Sunrise but I think the Twin Cities are the closest comparison we have to the Puget Sound. The Twin Cities market is also roughly the same size as Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma and has all four major professional sports teams*, something we anticipate or anticipated getting here in Seattle. The Wild have never struggled for attendance and is probably a tough to compare hockey crazy Minnesotans to people in Florida and Arizona. It is also worth pointing out that Wild and Timberwolves play in different arenas. (*No disrespect to the Sounders, they are major in Seattle but very few markets have demonstrated even half the support we give it here so I am excluding them from the comparison since they are very unique to Seattle).
As you can see, Seattle is much bigger than Bellevue. Even if you add the surrounding suburban cities such as Redmond, Sammamish and Kirkland, you still only have 50% of the population of Seattle. Now the one thing that Bellevue has which is similar to St. Paul, several companies including Microsoft are located on the east side which would make going to a midweek game easy for the employees of those companies. I believe Bellevue can work but this might explain the strong preference for exploring a Seattle arena solution.
For those that don’t know, Seattle households with Xfinity (Comcast) service, get the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) channel. I don’t have the data, but I believe Comcast has the majority of the market in the area. It is rare that the same game is on NBC/NBCSC and CBC but when it happens, it is the big games like the Stanley Cup Finals or like last Wednesday, for the Winter Classic. So when Steve Lepore tweeted about the NBC Seattle ratings of the Winter Classic I was happy but I also knew that it was a little diluted due to this CBC factor.
Seattle: 2.3 rating for the 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. PT portion of the game. Sacramento was the only pacific time zone market with higher numbers.
— Steve Lepore (@stevelepore) January 2, 2014
I then posed the question to you Facebook followers to get a biased and unscientific sense of how much these ratings were diluted. I say biased because the masses that tune into the Classic are not the hardcore hockey fans. They probably don’t follow the Facebook page and might not even know that CBC exists on Comcast. Thank you all for responding and sharing your opinions. 64 people responded…here are the results and some of the best comments.
One thing is clear, we all hate the 6%ers….ok maybe we are just a little jealous. Here are some of the best comments people left on the facebook page: The CBC watchers are much more adamant about their broadcast choice:
I’m pretty consistent in choosing CBC unless I don’t have a choice. Feel they do a better job and you can see commercials for poutine pizza and McDonalds poutine! -Andy Eide
First and third NBC, intermissions and second CBC. – Pat Fredell
CBC, American coverage of events is so bad it’s offensive, it’s the only reason I pay for cable is for hockey on CBC – Brian Earl
CBC all the way. Doc Emrick makes me want to claw my ears off. LeeAnne Beres
I tend to go wherever Pierre McGuire isn’t. -Matt Ritchie
CBC…better broadcasters. Bar none. Appreciate NBC showing it though.-Dutch Evans
NBC have to listen to Doc and Eddie O. NBC had good intermission programming. Was going to flip to CBC to catch Don Cherry but forgot. – Rob Iacullo
From Seattle. Watched from the stands. Great time -JRe Sullivan
Watched at friends (65″ TV) who had Direct TV satellite dish, so NBC. DVR the game on CBC for repeat viewing -Norm Dupuis
CBC. There is no other option if you’re Canadian. -Darren Marr
CBC. When I can choose, its always Canadian coverage. -Patty Booker
My son and I were watching CBUT-better hockey commentators there and fewer commercials (and the ones that were on were Canadian and funny) -Jane Brosius
Better commentators on CBC? I think not! Doc Emrick called the game on NBC. Can’t get any better than Doc. -Dean Schmitz
NBC. don’t get CBC except for few games not don cherry fan so gotta go with NBC don’t have to listen to don cherry -Aaron Rivers
NBC Doc Emrick is the man – Tom Wiemann
There you have it. Split down the middle. One interesting side note is that with Rodgers Canadian TV deal, CBC might not carry the classic next year, so we might not have a choice next year.
I spent some time looking through twitter feeds and facebook posts to recap this busy year. 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 31 – Two 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.
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 Johnson, 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 27 – Multiple 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 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 the 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”.
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.
December 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.
There was a report over the weekend from the local and reliable reporter, Chris Daniels that the NHL is keeping an eye on the arena news. This isn’t really big news and isn’t materially different than the news from 6 weeks ago. It is getting a lot of attention because it is so timely because: a) nationally, a lot of the Hockey press returns from vacation and b) locally, there are two Seattle public meetings on the arena this week.
Here is the origin of the news that is getting picked up nationally. Everything else is really just a derivative of these pieces that are ultimately saying the same thing, from the same sources leveraging two different mediums:
- Chris Daniels Blog “Seattle, Portland frontrunners for NHL Expansion?”
- Seattle Arena faces another big week, NHL watching
Here are some select quotes:
“Sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, believe the NHL is now watching the status of the project, and gauging corporate and fan interest in a potential expansion franchise.” –Chris Daniels, King5
“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
I continue to think, no news is good news here as the league has been super silent on the whole situation which is exactly what we would expect. Bettman has acknowledged Seattle as an interesting market. That is more validation than I would expect from the NHL so let’s not get greedy. Once we get through the EIS process (Meeting on Thursday), doors could start to open to change the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to lead with hockey vs. follow the NBA into the arena as the current MOU states.
While I am at it, STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) has gathered enough signatures to put their Arena deal to public vote. I’ve moved on and would prefer looking forward vs. trying to salvage a past opportunity. That issue is complex and local to Sacramento and care not to influence or pay attention to their politics. Let’s move on.