In the last couple of weeks, Seattle Times sports business reporter Geoff Baker has been a real tease with these Seattle NHL expansion rumors. He's shown us just enough leg to get us interested, maybe to just above the ankle.
It started with an article about the NHL's interest in Seattle, including favorable, but non-committal comments from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Buried near the end of that article was a paragraph that revealed something startling. Sources had been telling him that expansion discussions had been ongoing behind the scenes to the point where fees were being negotiated.
He followed it up the next week in an interview with a Canadian radio station in which he revealed something even more startling. Steve Ballmer was one of three potential ownership groups. This is the one that got us all hot and bothered about the potential arrival of the NHL. It's the revelation that got us talking about team names, expansion drafts, and arena timelines again.
Well, after returning from his trip to Vancouver with a Seattle sports delegation that went north to find out what it takes to run a successful NHL operation, Mr. Baker gave us another update on Thursday. This time, he's actually showing us some thigh.
I definitely encourage you to read the entire article for yourself, but here are the most interesting points:
- The trip went very well and optimism is running very high.
- The three ownership groups are New York investment banker Ray Bartoszek, Chicago businessman Don Levin, and ... wait for it ... the duo of Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen. No one is certain if Ballmer and Hansen have fully decided to go for it or not. It seems it would be with the hope of luring an NBA franchise later on.
- Bartoszek and the Ballmer-Hansen group would intend to play in a Sodo arena, while Levin still has Bellevue on his mind.
- The NHL is expected to issue a "letter of intent" to one of the three ownership groups announcing their commitment to expand to Seattle. This would be accompanied by a news conference of some kind.
- The commitment would be contingent on Seattle finalizing an arena solution within six months of the announcement.
- Any expansion franchise would begin play in the 2015-16 season and would likely spend two seasons at KeyArena.
- There seems to be growing political support for this in Seattle.
Speaking of politics, Baker quoted none other than King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn in the piece. Remember him? He was the one who skipped meetings during the original arena process, didn't seem to get the need for an arena, voted no the first time around, and only voted yes in the end when it was clear he would lose. Well, Dunn was part of the delegation and seems to have awoken from his long slumber. Check out this quote:
"We learned a lot about the sport and a little bit about the relationship between Seattle and Vancouver,'' said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who, like a handful in the delegation, had never been to an NHL game. "I think it got a lot of people on this trip thinking seriously about whether they want to bring a hockey franchise to Seattle and also whether we want to invest in the necessary infrastructure, like an arena.''
I don't know why Dunn didn't want to think about this a couple of years ago, but I'm just going to embrace the fact that he's thinking about it now. Let's hope that translates into a yes vote when we need it.
So this is sounding very positive. I can't wait to hear the next bit of news. Come on, Baker. Show us some skin.