Last Friday, while Seattle was engrossed with a certain weekend event in Arizona, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat down for an interview with TSN1040 in Vancouver. They talked about a variety of things, so listening to the entire interview would be worth your while.
Somewhere around the 9:20 mark, the discussion turned to the effort to bring a franchise to Seattle. He talked about some things that he always talks about. For instance, the league is only listening to expressions of interest, Seattle is an intriguing market, and Seattle doesn't have a building. In addition to that, however, he said some things that make you go hmmm.
I think the possibility of Seattle is intriguing. We're not ready to expand. We're only listening to expressions of interest. We're getting lots of expressions of interest from a variety of places, including lots from Seattle in different areas. Their building situation is uncertain.
Lots of interest from Seattle "in different areas"? Hmmm.
Let's take a step back. With respect to the success and viability of any franchise, there are three critical components. One is the market, and we'll use Vancouver as an example. Great market. Great hockey town. Great sports town. Two is having a first class facility and Rogers Center is wonderful. Three is ownership and I think this franchise is fortunate here to have the commitment of a family like the Aquilinis. They have the commitment to the community, the resources, the passion.
So now, if you want to apply that to Seattle, they've got a few people who are interested in owning a franchise. We've got a market that I think we all think would be a terrific hockey town, particularly creating a Pacific Northwest rivalry. But there's no building (he said with a frustrated laugh) and there's very little certainty about a building at this point.
There are still multiple Seattle groups interested in an NHL franchise? Hmmm.
The mayor of Seattle came to visit me in New York, at his request, a week or so ago and they're trying to sort it out. The person who had the right ... had the agreement ... with the city ... exclusive agreement to build an arena ... was lusting after an NBA franchise. It doesn't look like he's getting one and he didn't seem prepared to move forward with a hockey team, even though other people would like to build the building and have the the hockey team. So it's going to have to sort itself out .
Is Bettman saying he's frustrated with Chris Hansen? Is he trying to light a fire under him? Is he trying to stir interest in going around him? Other people, as in more than one? Hmmm.
We've also gotten interest from people who think maybe they should build the building in Bellevue and we've also heard from people who think that they should build the building in Tukwila, which until all this started I never heard of, but I understand is a very interesting, exciting place with the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. There is STILL a group trying to get something done in Bellevue? And from whose nether region did Tukwila pop out as a potential location? Hmmm.
For a guy who isn't considering expansion, he seems to spend a lot of time thinking about it, but what Bettman is clearly saying here is that there are still competing ownership groups who are interested in different locations in the Puget Sound area. This is jives with what Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a Yahoo Sports article last week.
Mayor Ed Murray recently told local media in Seattle that he had met with both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and with Bettman. He said Bettman told him the NHL wants to place a team in Seattle if the city had a building ready for one.
Which is the catch: Chris Hansen, the potential owner of an NBA franchise in Seattle, has a memorandum of understanding with the city in which funding will be released for an arena if he acquires an NBA team first. Murray said changing the MOU for an NHL-first arena would be determined by "a potential financial model proposition penciled out" by interested parties.
Hansen's MOU runs out in 2017. Is this now a waiting game for the NHL until a new one can be submitted? "Not necessarily," said Daly. "There are a couple of variations that are interesting in the Seattle mix. I just don't know how it'll play out at this point."
The NHL might not necessarily wait for completion of the SoDo arena MOU with a hockey-first modification? A "couple of variations" being considered? Hmmm.
If I worked for Seattle's Department of Planning and Development, would this serve as motivation to put my foot on the gas pedal of the SoDo arena FEIS? If I were Hansen or a member of the Seattle City Council, would this serve as motivation to make an NHL-first change to the MOU? Hmmm.
UPDATE, 11:10 AM
Our friend Chris Daniels is now reporting on this at King5.com. He added some context.
An Eastside architect told KING 5 in December that his company had been approached to survey potential arena sites in Bellevue, Tukwila and Auburn, but viewed the discussions as "preliminary".
A Tukwila city official also acknowledged back in December of meeting with that architect multiple times, but also claimed any sort of arena plan was "premature."