February 6, 2012

The NHL in Seattle is really about bringing the NBA back

Seattle sports-arena talks well under way, documents show
While many observers consider an NHL team, as well as concerts and entertainment events, to be a crucial component for the financial success of a new arena, the documents obtained by The Times focus on basketball.
Progress being made to acquire NBA, NHL teams
Obviously much still needs to be worked out, but an announcement of an arena plan and the opportunity to bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle could come as early as April, and this is no April Fools' joke.
Make no mistake; Seattle wants a basketball team first. Hockey might be nice, but they're still very upset over getting the Sonics stolen from them. So whenever anyone in the area talks about a new arena in Seattle, it's almost always about the NBA, not the NHL.

The bottom line is that NHL wants professional hockey in Seattle far more than Seattle wants professional hockey in Seattle.

It's a fact that I've known for years, but no one else seems to get it. I guess it's because they see that whole Vancouver/Seattle rivalry - which may or may not happen. I mean, Tampa Bay and Florida, while a comparable distance apart from Seattle and Vancouver if you include the border crossing issues, have almost no rivalry to speak of. Geographic proximity does not a rivalry make.

Sports in Seattle is always a risky proposal. The recreational focus of the area are the outdoors, not professional sports. If a team sucks, then people aren't going to bother going to pay to see them. They'll watch on TV or go out snowboarding or fishing or something.

The Seattle Thunderbirds, the WHL team that's been there since the 1970s, always had the hardest time getting people to games. Everyone knew about them, of course, but WHL hockey has always been more of an occasional event than a way of life. At least, while they were playing in Seattle. Now that they're in Kent in their own arena, I'm not sure if that's still the case.

The Everett Silvertips haven't even been around for 10 years, but they're a very successful WHL team. However, they're also not in Seattle and they had almost instant success when they opened shop. Kind of hard to not like a team that breaks 10 WHL records and making it to the WHL Final in its first season of operation, you know?

Besides, major junior fans are a special breed. Even with the NHL in town, they'll always prefer watching their major junior team over the NHL team. NHL fans are a completely different crowd of people from major junior fans, so there's really no telling how the fan base would be if Seattle gets an NHL team. Though, having seen the state of hockey in the area, I'm not exactly optimistic; I seriously suspect that they're going to be a very fickle crowd.

So with a potentially new team in Seattle, I was asked speculatively by John about going to head up that new blog for SB Nation. I totally expect that I'll be asked to run it for them; if they don't ask, I'd be completely surprised. Which means, of course, that I'd have to be dumping the Lightning to write about them.

In all honesty, I'm not sure that I could since I'm on the East Coast. I mean, regular game times would start at 10 or 10:30 pm my time. That three-hour time difference would be a killer. And trying to find local writers would be a bitch; obviously, I couldn't do it on my own from the very start.

I've already sent out some feelers to others about it. I couldn't run it on my own - that's obvious - but I could do something similar to what I'm doing now with John. So, we'll see how this pans out. I'd definitely like to be a part of it, but it may turn out that I'd be splitting time between the Lightning and this potential Seattle team, in the end.

First, we have to see if Phoenix ends up moving to Seattle, which we should know about in a few months. And then...we'll see about the rest. Not just the blog, but the potential arena as well.

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