Who, what, where, when, how: Answering NHL-to-Seattle FAQs
Seattle and the NHL seem destined to figure this out. At this point, it would take a major misstep to derail the push for a 32nd team and for that team to not reside in the Washington hub.
Arena renovations are set to begin, local interest has been proven, and the NHL is talking about Seattle like it's going to happen. So, the expansion franchise appears to be on track.
Tuesday is a gigantic day for the prospective ownership group. Let's review that and answer other NHL-to-Seattle FAQs below:
When might Seattle get its team?
Seattle could have an NHL team as early as the 2020-21 season.
That's the hope, although the 2021-22 campaign might be the likelier scenario given a potential lockout.
On Tuesday, Seattle Hockey Partners (SHP) - the group trying to make the Pacific Northwest home to the NHL’s 32nd franchise - and the city’s mayor will be making an official presentation to the league's executive committee in New York City.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently said that if the executive committee approves SHP's pitch, an official expansion vote could occur at December’s board of governors meeting in Florida.
With apologies to Quebec City, Houston, and Kansas City, etc., Seattle is the lone city in the running for expansion, per Gary Bettman’s wishes. The commissioner seems set on finally touching down in the Emerald City.
Who is behind the expansion push?
The main names to know are private equity CEO David Bonderman, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, sports executive Tod Leiweke, and ex-NHL coach Dave Tippett.
Bonderman and Bruckheimer represent the ownership group, which also includes vice-chairman David Wright, whose family owns the famous Space Needle in Seattle. Meanwhile, CEO Leiweke and senior advisor Tippett, most recently the Arizona Coyotes' head coach from 2009-17, do most of the talking.
"I pledge to you a club that serves and makes our community better while pursuing the ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup back to Seattle,” Leiweke said in a letter to fans in April.
SHP is an extension of Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, an entertainment and sports facilities company founded by Tim Leiweke (Tod’s brother) and music executive Irving Azoff. Tim Leiweke has extensive experience running NHL clubs, as he previously presided over the Anschutz Entertainment Group (L.A. Kings) and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Toronto Maple Leafs).
At the moment, Tippett is the lone hockey-operations employee. He recently said the group plans to begin its search for a general manager in the spring.
What's the deal with the decrepit arena?
Significant renovations to KeyArena, the former home of the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics, are scheduled for a two-year period starting this month and finishing in October 2020.
Originally pegged at roughly $600 million, construction is now expected to cost around $700 million. The renos are being privately financed .
KeyArena’s iconic roof is being preserved, but that's about it. The building, which is located in the 74-acre downtown Seattle Center, will be redesigned for a hockey seating capacity of 17,400.
SHP launched a ticket drive in March, setting a goal of 10,000 deposits. It was met within 12 minutes and the drive swelled to more than 30,000 deposits by day’s end.
After the NHL team is up and running, ownership aspires to bring the NBA back, and join the A-list concert circuit.
Why believe in the Pacific Northwest market?
The market is practically screaming for a pro hockey team.
Statewide hockey registrations grew by 6.9 percent from 2016-17 to 2017-18, according to USA Hockey, which tied North Carolina for the fourth-highest increase in the country. In terms of raw numbers, the state ranked 17th out of 51 (DC included) with almost 9,900 players.
Interestingly, while the state of Washington doesn't have an NCAA Division I hockey program, it boasts four of the Western Hockey League's 22 teams.
The Seattle Thunderbirds play in Kent, which is about 20 miles south of the city center. The Everett Silvertips are 30 miles north, the Spokane Chiefs are 280 miles east, and the Tri-City Americans (of Kennewick) are 225 miles southeast. Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks in neighboring Oregon are the league’s only other American franchise.
Local groups in Seattle have tried to land an NHL franchise on a number of occasions, ultimately failing in 1974, 1990, 2007, 2011, and 2013.
Fun fact: The Seattle Metropolitans won the 1917 Stanley Cup as a member of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. They folded seven seasons later.
How will expansion affect my favorite team?
For one, it’ll make your owner richer. The NHL has stated that Seattle, if approved, will be sent a $650-million invoice. The Vegas Golden Knights paid $150 million less.
On a more relatable level, expansion will take a player from your team's roster and from the rosters of the 29 other clubs (Vegas will be excluded from the process). The same draft rules and parameters that were applied to the Golden Knights will likely be applied to Seattle.
On that note, Bettman and Daly relayed in May that they were pleased to see Vegas field a competitive lineup in Year 1.
Finally, let your imagination run wild about realignment possibilities, because adding Seattle to the mix would solve the current conference imbalance of 15 in the West and 16 in the East.
"It does provide alignment for the league," Daly told The Associated Press. "We’ve been misaligned for a couple years in the sense of more teams in the East and less in the West, so that would be a benefit if were to expand."
A popular post-realignment proposal is eight divisions with four teams apeice, a la the NFL.
Where is the nickname debate taking us?
Somewhere between the sea and green stuff ... maybe?
As detailed by DetroitHockey.net back in January, SHP lawyer Christina Song registered domains that represent "Sea Lions" and 12 other potential names, including Seals and Evergreens.
Here's the full list, in alphabetical order: Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Kraken, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems, and Whales.
SHP intends to engage fans with regards to the nickname when/if the franchise is granted. However, the governor of Washington called the team the Seattle Totems - the moniker of the former local minor-league hockey team - during a press conference in March. The blunder sent locals into a tizzy.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Times is wrapping up an "official(ly unofficial)" naming contest of its own. After a bracket-style process, only the Sockeyes and Totems remain.
John Matisz is theScore's national hockey writer. You can find him on Twitter @matiszjohn.