HOCKEY COMES TO SEATTLE?
Seattle might be getting a hockey team.
The National Hockey League (NHL) and its longtime commissioner Gary Bettman have decided to test the waters in the great Northwest.
Come on in, Gary; the water’s cold, but that’s how you make ice.
The Oak View Group (OVG), an entertainment and sports facilities company that owns KeyArena, led by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, has plans to bring a new team to Seattle by 2020 as well as to update the arena itself.
OVG backers David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer (yes, that Jerry Bruckheimer), who say they would like to eventually own an NBA team along with an NHL one, submitted the franchise’s application. Leiweke has been named president and CEO of the potential hockey franchise, and personally promised that the OVG would bring at least one new team to play in KeyArena.
Seattle did have a professional hockey team that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-1924, joining Victoria, Vancouver and Portland. They were able to compete at the highest level during that time period due to their strategy of buying up some of the best players from Toronto’s team.
The Seattle Metropolitans, known as the Mets (in honor of the Metropolitan Building Company and whose name predates the New York Mets by 47 years), won the Stanley Cup in the 1916-1917 season, defeating the Montreal Canadiens.
They were the first American team to win the venerable trophy, but their victory often gets lost in history due to the NHL not officially forming until the following season. Therefore, official NHL lists of Stanley Cup champions don’t recognize the Metropolitans’ achievement in their annals.
Note: This means that Seattle can add a hockey championship to its trophy case alongside the 1979 SuperSonics and the 2005 and 2010 Storm in basketball, the 2013 Seahawks in football and the 2016 Sounders in soccer.
The Mets also played the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals in the NHL’s second year, the 1918-1919 season. And they didn’t lose.
The finals ended with each team at two wins and one draw. Why, you might ask?
Just a little thing called the Spanish flu — the series had to be abandoned due to an outbreak. Players from both teams became ill, and a member of the Canadiens, Joe Hall, actually died.
It was the only time that the Stanley Cup was not awarded to any team, other than when the 2004-2005 season was canceled.
Since then, the success of hockey teams in Seattle has fluctuated, ranging from professional teams outside the NHL to numerous amateur teams.
Professional teams in Seattle over the years have gone by a variety of monikers such as the Eskimos and the Sea Hawks, with one franchise enduring 31 years and four name changes.
From its genesis, the Ironmen begat the Bombers begat the Americans begat the Totems, which started 1958. That iteration lasted 17 years, until a failed NHL bid and accumulating debt led to the team closing up shop in 1975.
The year 1977 saw the Kamloops Chiefs, a junior hockey team from Canada, relocate to Seattle and change their name to the Breakers. Eight years later, they became the Thunderbirds. Comprised of 16-21 year old boys, they continued on to compete today in the Western Hockey League.
In order to gauge interest, the OVG gave Seattleites a chance to put a deposit down for future season tickets.
According to KING 5 News, in the first 12 minutes of sales, Seattle hockey fans bought 10,000 such deposits. By the end of the first hour, that number reached 25,000.
Bettman said the expansion process with Seattle would operate in the same fashion as the NHL’s latest expansion in Las Vegas, which also started with a season ticket drive to gauge interest in the team.
CBS Sports reported that it took Las Vegas two days to reach 5,000 deposits, and two months to reach 9,000.
Las Vegas became the newest expansion team in the NHL this year, and they are already performing extremely well in the extreme heat.
“Metropolitans” doesn’t come up on the final list of 13 names which were registered by the OVG as potential options.
According to Las Vegas oddsmakers Bovada, as of March 16, the top three most likely names for Seattle’s new team are the Emeralds, Totems and Kraken. Less likely appellations include the Seals, Whales and Sockeyes.
It still remains to be seen whether Seattle’s protracted wait for an NHL team will finally end.
Bettman stands out even among his fellow much-despised professional sports commissioners. He has presided over multiple lockouts and has moved teams from cities with real hockey fan bases to cities in the American South and Southwest. Winnipeg to Phoenix, Hartford, Conn. to Raleigh, N.C., Minneapolis to Dallas and Quebec to Denver.
Indeed, when the Arizona Coyotes ownership hit problematic times in 2013 and considered not re-signing their arena’s lease, they floated Seattle as a potential destination.
Bettman oversaw the creation of expansion teams in cities like Nashville, Atlanta and most recently Las Vegas, none of which have a rich history of being hockey towns.
After the SuperSonics left/were ripped away by oil money, karma dictates that some good ol’ fashioned sticks on the ice and an arena full of cheering fans would finally balance out the Emerald City.
Currently, there are 31 teams in the NHL.
The OVG expects the decision to be made in June.