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Ex-Seattle mayor: 'Most people don't realize how close we were to actually getting an NHL team'

Steven Bisig / USA Today

NHL expansion and relocation often involves lengthy closed-door negotiations with no public indication that a deal is imminent until it is official.

The secretive process makes it difficult to tell whether or not rumored markets were ever close to landing a franchise or not, but former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn insists the reports about his city receiving a team almost came to fruition.

“Most people don’t realize how close we were to actually getting an NHL team,’’ McGinn told the Seattle Times.

Rather than an expansion franchise, the NHL team McGinn is referring to is the Arizona Coyotes. The team was known as the Phoenix Coyotes 15 months ago, when it appeared their new arena lease agreement would not pass a Glendale city council vote. A backup plan was reportedly in place to sell the Coyotes to a pair of New York investment bankers, who would then relocate the team to Seattle.

“I understood that if Glendale didn’t proceed, that we could get an NHL team,’’ McGinn said.

The Seattle team would have played at KeyArena, the former home of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, until a new facility could be completed. The city lost out on a bid to regain an NBA basketball team when the league foiled their attempts to relocate the Sacramento Kings prior the Coyotes negotiations.

"There wasn't any of the same energy from the media around the NHL team," McGinn said. "But in many respects, the NHL team was closer."

The 4-3 vote that approved the Coyotes new arena lease ended any speculation about the team moving to Seattle, but the Pacific Division could have looked very different today if that vote - now the subject of an investigation by the Arizona attorney general - went the other way.

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