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Potential new NHL and NBA ownership groups begin to emerge

Jac Sperling
Jac Sperling
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Geoff Baker just dropped the bomb.

Baker announced, at least in part, the major players involved in trying to bring the NHL and NBA to Seattle. This isn't Chris Hansen and his group, we know all about them. These are the shadow groups we've been hearing about, looking at locations in Bellevue and Tukwila.

In his new article, Baker let the cat out of the bag, announcing that Ray Bartoszek is still involved in trying to bring hockey to the Emerald City. Bartoszek was part of a group trying to bring the Phoenix (nee Arizona) Coyotes to Seattle until the Glendale council decided to approve a tax to keep the team there. Naming Bartoszek isn't exactly ground breaking or unexpected, but Baker says that Bartoszek is the head of a group that may, or may not, include Thomas Tull. Bartoszek apparently approached Tull in recent months, but a spokesperson for Tull had no comment and it's unclear if Tull would join Bartoszek, as he has been approached by several groups, according to Baker.

Bartoszek could not be reached for comment as he is currently on vacation. He is expected to make a formal announcement when he returns in March or April. According to Baker, Bartoszek's preferred location is David Sabey's land in Tukwila. Sabey's spokesperson, Jim Kneeland, said that Sabey would like to develop his land into a corporate campus, which could include an arena. Sabey has not yet been approached about his land, but this is most likely because Bartoszek is still assembling investors.

Another name that is involved, per the article, is Jac Sperling. Sperling is a sports power broker, having run the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) during the NBA's ownership of that franchise. He also helped broker the NHL's expansion to Minnesota, creating the Minnesota Wild, of which Sperling is currently the vice chairman. Sperling also has a long running relationship with Tod Leiweke, former Seattle Seahawks president and current CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke said he is not part of any new ownership group.

IntraVest, an Arizona-based development company, has land in Bellevue that it would like to sell to a potential ownership group for an arena, according to their senior partner Mason Cave. However, according to Cave, Sperling is compiling a group to own a team, but not the arena land, making Sabey's land the most likely spot for this group as well.

While nothing is official just yet, it's interesting to hear these names involved, especially someone as powerful in the sports world as Sperling. Until either Sperling or Bartoszek formally announce their groups and make their intentions known, Chris Hansen is still the man to beat. But he certainly must be looking over his shoulder right now.