For only $650 million, you can be the owner of the 32nd NHL franchise. And that franchise will be located in Seattle, Washington. Late last year, the NHL granted permission to begin the application process to create an expansion team in Seattle. The team’s potential ownership group hosted a season ticket drive, with a goal of selling 10,000 tickets. They matched that goal in less than 15 minutes, and sold 25,000 tickets in an hour. This kind of momentum will go a long way in ensuring Seattle will become the NHL’s 32nd team. Here are a few reasons to be excited, and one reason to not be, about Seattle being the NHL’s newest franchise.
Seattle currently has three major sports franchises; the Seattle Mariners (MLB), Seattle Seahawks (NFL), and Seattle Sounders (MLS). The Seahawks and Sounders are both known to have one of the most rabid fanbases in each of their respect leagues. The Pacific Northwest seems to have cultivated a sports culture that few other regions have. It seems as the NHL is willing to bank on that, disregarding Seattle’s stature as a non-traditional hockey market. But, if Seattle takes to hockey, you can bet on a sold-out arena every night. Which brings us to…
Seattle’s potential ownership group, the Oak View Group, which includes Hollywood Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, has just committed to spending $600 million renovating Seattle’s KeyArena. You don’t throw around that kind of cash if you don’t really care about the game. Seattle’s committed ownership and their plans invest in an arena, meet two of the NHL’s most important check marks in granting an expansion team. KeyArena was the former home of the Seattle Supersonics, and hasn’t had a stable tenant since.
Not only would Seattle give the NHL an even number of teams (Vegas was the 31st), but it would balance out both conferences at 16 each. The NHL could move Vegas or Calgary to the Central division and slide Seattle into the Pacific. This would create balance in each division and a potentially rivalry with Vancouver. This could make the Pacific division an absolute bloodbath, with Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Vegas (possibly), and Connor McDavid’s Oilers all in the same division. West coast hockey would be must-watch TV. However…
Seattle’s’ first season in the NHL probably wouldn’t be that successful on the ice. Everyone and their mother said that about Vegas this year, and boy were they wrong (me included). But let’s be real. Vegas caught lightning in a bottle. There is no chance another expansion team could come into the league and replicate the success of Vegas., The expansion draft rules were the most favorable in league history. Sure, it was no brainier to draft guys like James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury. Vegas definitely got lucky those guys were available. It was impressive to draft a hidden gem like Jonathan Marchessault. But it’s downright grand larceny to have teams give you assets to draft Williams Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Vegas traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft for Smith. Columbus GAVE Vegas a 2017 and 2019 first round pick to take Williams Karlsson and take on David Clarkson’s albatross of a contract. If anyone can replicate that success again they should be hired to the U.S. Department of Treasury so they can start fixing our national debt.
I’m a big fan of equality, and an uneven number of teams in the NHL bothers me. But for fans without OCD, the addition of Seattle would make for some interesting hockey and would introduce one of America’s best cities to hockey fans everywhere. I vote yes for Seattle’s inclusion in the NHL. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.