Back in the day, former Sonics owner Barry Ackerley did two things to thwart the arrival of the NHL in Seattle.
The One You've Probably Heard
When Key Arena was remodeled in the mid-90's, he tooks steps to ensure that it would not be functional as an NHL arena. Most people believe it was because he saw the NHL as competition to his NBA franchise - competition to be squashed like a bug.
That's right. Ackerley was the Howard Lincoln of the Seattle SuperSonics in that regard.
The One You Might Not Have Heard
I was unaware of an earlier action until today when I read an article at seattlehockey.net, which you can read by clicking here and which was originally published in the NW Hockey Report.
In 1990, Ackerley pooled resources with Microsoft's Chris Larson to attempt to land an NHL expansion franchise. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Seattle was thought of as a mortal lock to get a team. The following passage from the article explains what happened.
The presentation to the Board of Governors took place on December 5. The Seattle contingent consisted of four representatives: MacFarland, Larson, Barry Ackerley, and Bill Lear, a financial advisor for Ackerley. They met for breakfast and discussed their strategy, then adjourned to a room to await their turn to present.
Gil Stein, Vice President and General Counsel of the NHL, came to escort the group to the meeting. Ackerley then made a strange request. He asked if he and Lear could speak to the Board first in private before the others did their portion of the presentation. It was a complete surprise - they had not discussed this over breakfast, but MacFarland and Larson reluctantly agreed. After all, the application was in Ackerley's name, so he had the final say. Ackerley and Lear proceeded to the meeting room with Stein while the others waited nervously for their turn. Ten minutes later Stein returned with a strange story. Apparently Ackerley introduced himself to the Board and informed them that the Seattle group was withdrawing its application. No reason was given. Ackerley and Lear then left the room through another exit.
If this account is true, does it get any more dastardly than that? He became part of a potential NHL ownership group just to torpedo it.
There is an argument to be made that, because of these two actions, Ackerley bears some responsibility for our current predicament - the absence of both the NBA and NHL. Had Ackerley allowed Key Arena to be configured for the NHL, it would've had a bigger footprint and would've been easier to modernize to NBA standards. We might never have lost the team. Thanks Barry.
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE NHL?
Fast forward to today.
NHL and NBA fans have been working together since the day Chris Hansen's name surfaced. We got an MOU approved together. We sit and wait for a franchise of either league together. We continue to work towards a shovel in the ground together. Why? We are in this together.
Sonics Rising is primarily a basketball site, but has become a place for both fan bases to gather. NHL fans are very welcome here and we will continue to discuss any news in the pursuit of both sports. Once again, we are in this together.
That said, we are curious about how our readers view the NHL.
Is it your primary sport? Is it a sport you would welcome with open arms and want to learn about? Is it just a means to get the arena built so you can have your Sonics back? Maybe you see the NBA as a way of getting an NHL arena built. Maybe you've got a bit of the Ackerley in you and your preference is for an NBA-only arena.
On a personal note, my preference is the NBA. At one time, I saw the NHL as a means to an end and nothing more. I'm in flux on that though. I still primarily want the Sonics back, but I think the NHL is a terrific sport and I could easily embrace a Seattle team, regardless of how long it takes for the NBA to pull its head out of its butt.
What about you? Discuss.
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