Hockey first! Hockey first!
This seems to be the new rally cry for those that want to see a new multi-purpose arena built in SODO. We recently celebrated the 1 year anniversary of the passage of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Chris Hansen’s ownership group, the City of Seattle, and King County. According to the current terms of the MOU, we are now left with 4 short years to acquire a basketball team.
Based upon the recent comments from out-going NBA Commissioner David Stern and in-coming Commissioner Adam Silver, it would appear that Seattle is still left without a dance partner. There is no team available today. They seem intent on ignoring Seattle for the time being. This leaves us looking for something positive to grab hold of – hockey. Officially, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, and NHL Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, have said that the NHL is not looking to expand. Privately, we have heard rumors that Commissioner Bettman is lobbying the NHL Board of Governors to award Seattle an expansion franchise. Mitch Levy of KJR Sports Radio felt confident enough in his sources to report that an expansion team would cost about $275 million and if approved could begin play during the 2014-15 season. Seattle was rumored to be a possible landing place when the Phoenix Coyotes were in jeopardy of moving. In 2009, the Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning played an exhibition game in Everett at the Comcast Arena. The game was an overwhelming success! All of this points to a growing hockey community in the Puget Sound area that would support the NHL if it were to decide to call Seattle home.
As we approach Election Day, we see a whole new crop of candidates that are running for Seattle’s Mayor and City Council, as well as the King County Council. While most of the candidates have expressed at least token support of the MOU and the arena process, the reality is we don’t know how new law makers will affect the work that has already been done. Will they work to undo the MOU? Hopefully, they will see the overwhelming response from Sonics and NHL fans as a mandate to honor the process that has been undertaken.
A new and maybe bigger question may be looming. If the NHL sees Seattle not only as a viable market, but as a truly desirable market, shouldn’t we look to amend the terms of the MOU to allow hockey to come first? The NHL’s recent re-alignment process has left the league with unbalanced divisions. A potential ownership group (lead by Ray Bartoszek) with deep pockets and a desire to work with Chris Hansen has emerged. The NHL has said that it would approve Key Arena as a temporary venue. Chris Hansen recently met with Bettman and Daly to update them on the progress of the arena process. The proverbial stars seem to be aligning. It appears that now would be the perfect time for the NHL to make a move to Seattle.
I say NOW is the time to move on hockey! Once the election cycle is settled, I think it is imperative for hockey and basketball fans alike to start a dialogue with our elected officials to encourage them to support a hockey first strategy. Let’s bring the NHL to Seattle. They will pave the way for the NBA to return the Sonics to the city that loves them. Hockey First! #NHL Seattle