We all knew it was coming folks. After the denial of an expansion team to Quebec City by the NHL back in 2016 to defer to Las Vegas, Seattle was primed to have an expansion team land in their market. Adding a team in 2016 left the conferences lopsided as the West now had a division with an extra team, throwing playoffs and alignments a little out of whack. So there was bound to be another team, especially considering Seattle doesn’t have a major winter sports team in their market at this time.
Seattle was really the perfect choice for the NHL all along. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they were in the back of the league’s mind when the Las Vegas decision was made in 2016. First of all, Seattle is a market that is growing rapidly. With the tech boom of recent years, more and more major company’s are in Seattle. Of Fortune 500 companies Costco, Microsoft, Amazon, Paccar, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Expeditors International, and Weyerhaeuser all call Seattle home. Considering most jobs now are in tech or IT, many of these companies like Microsoft and Amazon are expanding in the area and bringing even more workers to Seattle and the West Coast.
Something I mentioned earlier also makes Seattle a great option for the NHL to put a team there. The city has no major professional winter sports teams in the area. Well yeah, you could argue the Seahawks are sort of a winter sports team, but what do you do once they don’t make the playoffs and the season ends in January? With a hockey team, Seattle now has teams to cheer for year round as they go from the Seahawks to the NHL team, to the Mariners. There will be no lull in sports interest in the city with a hockey team to enjoy during the end of winter.
Even where Seattle is located in the country makes it ideal for an expansion team. It’s a city that’s close enough to the border with Canada and Vancouver where it’ll attract both American and Canadian fans. (Also can you imagine the type of rivalry they’ll eventually have with the Canucks, especially if they nab one of their better players in the expansion draft?) It’s a city that’s getting increased travel interest as almost 40 million people visited the city in 2017. And that number is steadily rising by almost 3% every year, along with being named US News and World Report 16th best place to travel in the US. Seattle’s become a great tourist destination in the States, and what better than to have an NHL team there for visitors to come and watch?
Seattle also has a pretty strong hockey history looking back. Actually, the first professional sports team in Seattle was an ice hockey team. The Seattle Metropolitans played way back in 1915 to 1924 in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, one of the precursors to the modern day NHL. They even won a Stanley Cup in 1917 as the first American team to ever win a Cup. The Metropolitans actually were very successful, winning regular season titles in 1917, 1918, 1920, 1922, and 1924. Eventually, the team folded in 1924 as every other team in the PCHA had gone before them, which effectively folded the league completely. The city also kind of has a junior team in the Seattle Thunderbirds who play in the WHL, the western league of the top tier junior leagues in North America along with the OHL and QMJHL. They technically play in Kent, but it does show that the area is accepting and willing of having hockey in their market.
The last obvious reason to bring Seattle into the league next is that it brings the league back to even numbers. Now each conference has 16 teams, whereas before the Golden Knights the Eastern Conference had 16 teams while the Western Conference only had 14. And then the divisions in the conference get evened out as well. The West has always been unbalanced, even more so after the Golden Knights were added and left the Pacific Division with one more team than the Central. Now the Central will get Arizona added to their roster to even the division out while Seattle takes the Coyotes place. That makes standings easier and figuring out who’s going to the playoffs isn’t as much of a juggle.
It’s an exciting time to be an NHL fan with the league expansion in the past few years. Now is the fun of seeing what name Seattle goes with, a throwback to the Metropolitans and their history? Or what about the Totems as a nod to their longest professional team in the minor league WHA? You could also go with the Rainers as when you are outside the arena there’s a 50% chance or more you’ll be in the rain. And what will their jersey’s look like when the name is selected? Every other pro team in the city has green in their uniform, so do you go with that or something totally different? There are so many different options and details to come out in the next couple of years.
It’ll also change the landscape of the league. First, you have the all-out wild ride that is the expansion draft. Which as we saw with the Knights, should be a fun time seeing who Seattle is able to nab from others. Then once the team starts playing, you have a new dynamic in the Pacific Division. Who do they become rivals with? Vancouver is a likely candidate just due to proximity, but what about a rivalry with one of the California teams down the coast? Or even a rivalry with a Central Division opponent that’s intensified by only playing each other a few times. Does that also mean the schedule would change? Add another week of games to give everyone the opportunity to play one another or something along those lines.
Of course, Seattle has been ready for a winter sports team since the SuperSonics left back in 2008. The ticket drive the ownership group opened on March 1st of this year hit its initial goal of 10,000 deposits in 12 minutes and ended up having 25,000 deposits in the first day alone. They even had to cut off the ticket drive at 33,000 deposits less than a week later as they were getting so many interested parties. There’s currently a waitlist for those that didn’t get to make a deposit in that first week. Those in Seattle are ready for this team and immediately showed their commitment in early 2018.
There are so many possibilities of what the NHL will look like during the 2021-2022 season. I know I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen, and I hope you are excited too. Now it’s just a matter of time to see what next steps the team will take with an official franchise. They have a little more time now so don’t expect much soon outside of hiring a GM.
Oh also by chance if someone from the organization is reading this and they’re looking for a bright young mind who’s studied the game and successful social media engagement from NHL teams like the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, and Kings, give me a call. I’d pick up in a heartbeat. Here’s to the new era of 32 teams in the NHL starting in 2021!
See the original post by Liz Holbrook on the Midwest Communications Sports blog.