The NHL Expands to Seattle
Source: Stephen B. Morton/The Associated Press
Seattle is now part of the NHL family. On Tuesday Gary Bettman announced in a press conference that Seattle would be the league’s 32nd team and would start playing at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. This is the first time the NHL will come to Seattle but it’s the city’s second professional hockey team, as the Seattle Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-1924. During the teams nine seasons of operation, they won the Stanley Cup in 1917 and appeared in two more Stanley Cup Finals. The team folded in 1924 and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association would disband shortly after. Seattle became the first American city to win Lord Stanley Cup.
In recent years I’ve always felt Seattle should have a team in the NHL. Just like Houston (which could be a future home for the NHL) Seattle has had a rich history in hockey. Seattle has been on the hockey scene for over a century. Decades after the Metropolitans folded, the Seattle Totems were in the original Western Hockey League between 1944-1975. After the league folded, the junior Western Hockey League relocated the Kamloops Chiefs to Seattle. Since 1977 Seattle has been home to the WHL. It was the Seattle Breakers from 1977-85 and since changed its name to the Thunderbirds. The Seattle Thunderbirds are one the longest serving teams in the league's history. The Thunderbirds has an average of over 4000 fans a game at the Showare Centre in the past 5 seasons and last year average nearly 5000 fans. It was the most the team averaged since the 2000-01 season and that could be due to the buzz surrounding Seattle and the NHL the last couple of years. The Thunderbirds have been one of the staple teams in the WHL and should get a little of the credit for the NHL putting a hockey team in the State of Washington.
Seattle has loyal fans, no question about it. The Pacific Northwest has been a territory that the NHL has needed to tap in to for quite some time. Unlike Arizona and some of the other sunbelt teams (cough...cough) the Florida Panthers, Seattle is a sports market crazy town. The Seahawks have the loudest fans in the NFL, and the Mariners draw crowds too, bringing in over 2 million fans a season. Not bad considering the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since Ichiro’s rookie season. Let that sink in for a moment.
The lack of funding for a new arena cost the city’s beloved SuperSonics to move to Oklahoma City. Seattle Basketball fans will never rest until the Sonics come back home.
The Seattle Sounders have one of the most passionate fan bases in the league. Seriously their fans travel in bunches and I’ve seen many come to Toronto when Seattle plays the Reds.
Gary Bettman realized the NHL and Seattle would be a perfect match. Bettman knows that a professional hockey team in Seattle is going to be successful and a big money grab for league owners. It's not like when the NHL announced they were putting a team in Vegas. There were mixed reactions on whether or not hockey would work out in Sin City. So far it’s been a huge hit. With Seattle’s history between the city and the sport of hockey, this was a no-brainer. With Vancouver just north of the city and California down south, Seattle can build some nice rivalries in the future as well. The Key Arena will get some big upgrades before the team hits the ice in a few years making it suitable for the standards of today's NHL.
With Seattle coming into the league that means Quebec has to wait. It does suck that Quebec lost out at another chance at getting the Nordiques back, but it doesn’t mean they should lose all hope. Unfortunately, even though it's been over two decades since we've seen the Nordiques in the league last, the waiting game will have to continue. Though just like what happened with the Atlanta Thrashers going to Winnipeg the same thing could happen for Quebec.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been struggling recently in attendance, hitting close to last place the last few seasons and losing tons of money. The new owner, Thomas Dundon, plans on making the Hurricanes popular in North Carolina again, but if it continues to fail and Dundon starts losing some major cash the Hurricanes could be up for sale and possible relocation. The Florida Panthers are another team losing big money, suffering from terrible attendance every year, making them another option for relocation.
Expansion is another route for sure, and knowing Bettman’s love of expanding more teams into the league it’s a possibility. However, knowing that Carolina and Florida are in the Eastern Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising if either one of those teams ships off to Quebec. Nordique fans don’t fret just be patient for a little while longer.
Seattle deserves a hockey team and for the city and fans across the league, it’s a fun time. Now we wait on the team name, jerseys, and the expansion draft. 2021-22 just can’t come soon enough. Welcome to the NHL Seattle!