I was poking around the internet as I sometimes do and while browsing Twitter feeds from NHL reporters I came across this article by Jeff Ponder at the Hockey Writers called ‘NHL Expansion Roundtable: Seattle’.
Now for those of you who don’t know me, I grew up in Seattle and spent the majority of my life there. I became a hockey fan there and followed the Vancouver Canucks pretty religiously. Around 2007 I moved to Phoenix and became an NHL reporter covering the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes for a few seasons before focusing on the NHL in general.
I wanted to provide my own insight into the questions that were asked to the roundtable because I know what the landscape was and is like in Seattle and I saw not only the Phoenix Coyotes behind the scenes for a few seasons but also saw the game of hockey grow from infancy to its current adolescence in Arizona.
Here are my own answers to the questions posed to the roundtable. For those of you who have been following me and my writing or stalk me here (or even on the Twitters) you probably already know what I’m going to discuss.
Seattle has not had a professional hockey team since the 1970s (the Seattle Totems). Would fans flock to games in Seattle?
They would at first but the key for a successful franchise in Seattle is to start with the absolute best minds in the front office from top to bottom. This is one of the main reasons why the Phoenix Coyotes got into all the trouble you read about in the news. Wayne Gretzky was running the show in Phoenix before and during the driving of the Phoenix Coyotes into the ground. He hired friends into key front office positions instead of the best hockey minds. Did you know Danny Briere was drafted by the Coyotes? Of course not because the Coyotes traded Briere away for what seemed like a bag of pucks or magic beans (I’m still trying to figure that one out).
The other key to starting a successful NHL franchise isn’t just putting butts in seats, its much more involved than just that. As I’ve seen in Phoenix over the years here, the other key to grow an NHL franchise is to grow the game of hockey in the community.
Other teams around the NHL have traditions of hockey that have extremely deep roots from kids all the way to college levels. In Phoenix, it’s taken the entire time of the franchise’s existence in Arizona for hockey to start sprouting roots. High School hockey is growing by leaps and bounds, players from the Phoenix area are getting recruited by major NCAA colleges, players have been drafted into the NHL, and every major college in Arizona (Arizona State, University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University) fields a club hockey team (Arizona State is the #1 ranked club team in the nation AND are the defending National Champions). For a franchise to be successful in Seattle, hockey is going to have to become as much of a tradition in the area as Football, Basketball, and Soccer is.
This is where your fan base is going to come from in addition to the current hockey fans in the area. I know the game of hockey is alive in Seattle but nowhere to where it can be in say 10 or 15 years.
A large majority of people in Seattle are Vancouver Canucks fans, as it is their closest team. How do you think this will affect the Canucks fan base, if at all?
One of the things that people outside the state of Washington do not realize is that the Vancouver feed of CBC is on all basic cable systems in Western Washington (at least it was before I moved away). I became a fan of the NHL and the Vancouver Canucks watching CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada while a student at the University of Washington. I personally used to drive to Vancouver and back in one night to go to games (playoffs were especially tough too).
During the 90’s and into the 2000’s it was very common to see residents of Washington State be Vancouver Canucks season ticket holders as well as fans from other teams that would travel to Vancouver to see the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, and other NHL teams play.
I think the thing that people don’t realize is if/when an NHL team comes to Seattle is that they’re going to have a HUGE influx of Canucks fans making the trip to Seattle for games because tickets there are some of the most expensive in the league. In Phoenix, we get HUGE influxes of fans from Detroit, Chicago (especially if the Blackhawks come to town during Spring Training – the Phoenix area is the Spring Training home to the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs), Vancouver, Toronto and so on. Most of the time this happens it’s because tickets in their respective home towns are so expensive.
What would be the best team name for the franchise?
Yeesh, all the good Seattle region related sports names have been taken. I think it’s pretty dumb to use the Metropolitans or Totems as and NHL team name. I think it’s time to come up with a team name that’s not region specific and can be something that could last generations. Also with a team name comes team colors. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE OH PLEASE STOP USING DIARRHEA GREEN AND BLUE FOR COLORS!!!! STOP THE INSANITY!!!
Rumors are swirling that the NBA is looking to return to the Seattle area, as well. Could both the NHL and NBA succeed in Seattle if they returned around the same time?
If they were both expansion franchises? The competition for getting people to come to games for two new teams would be astronomical. That said, I think it was extremely stupid for the potential NHL franchise owners and the City of Seattle to hinge a new arena on having BOTH the NBA and NHL bring franchises to town. I don’t have the time, tolerance, or patience to go over how insanely inept the local City, State, and County governments are (and have been over the years) being regarding this. They (the City of Seattle) let former Sonics owner Barry Ackerley build Key Arena into an NBA only arena (look how that worked out) and now they’re doing this? Stop worrying about getting re-elected all the time, grow a pair, and let the first league who is ready to come to Seattle come. Then build an arena for the NBA AND NHL. Seriously, the logic behind these moves/restrictions baffles me.