BY Art Thiel 03:52PM 07/08/2011

Thiel: NHL, NBA in Bellevue a formidable deed

Chicago businessman, and minor league hockey owner, kindles arena hopes. But do sports fans here want to hijack teams from two cities to make it work?

Recent rumblings indicate a hockey arena may be built on the Eastside. Would it work like it does in Vancouver? / Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Before this sports market begins scavenging the NHL for teams to poach for a new arena rumored to be pursued by a Chicago businessman, some questions need to be asked.

None of the questions, however, will include where to build it. Since Sonics owner Clay Bennett went through the options about an Eastside arena in 2006 and feigned sticker shock, commercial real estate has fallen faster than Chone Figgins’ batting average. Affordable space could be found in the middle of Bellevue Square.

According to sources familiar with the current conversations, however, the most likely spot remains as it has for years: The 75 acres east of I-405 near Bel-Red Road, the old Safeway distribution center.

KeyArena? So over. So second-tier. Somewhere else in Seattle? Too far from the money on the Eastside, even after a new 520 bridge.

The main question: Who would want to own an NHL franchise here?

Maybe an outsider.

When the Cubs were put up for sale by the Tribune Co., Don Levin was an early pursuer, but was outbid by the Ricketts family. His passion, however, is hockey. Since 1994-95, he has owned the minor league Chicago Wolves, who have won four titles in the old International Hockey League and current American Hockey League.

Levin this week was identified by KIRO-TV as having had conversations with people here in business and government about creating an arena and finding an NHL tenant.

Levin’s minor-league team Friday was named winner of the AHL’s sponsorship sales award for the second consecutive year, setting club records for corporate revenue and partnerships, up 15 percent from a year ago in a bad economy in a busy sports town. Apparently he knows how to light the lamp in the minors.

“He has a great passion for the game,” former Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter Len Ziehm wrote in an email, “and it wouldn’t surprise me if he got something done there.”

Not that there aren’t plenty of local wealthies capable of indulging a sports passion. Seattle’s John McCaw, of the McCaw wireless empire, owned all or part of the Canucks from 1997 to 2006. We all know about Steve Ballmer, as well as John Stanton, a minority owner of the Mariners and a big shareholder in the Sonics who voted against the sale to Bennett.

Nor is there an absence of hockey fans, from longtimers who remember the glory years of the 1960s Seattle Totems to newbies energized by the neighbor Canucks’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals (as well as the opportunity to loot downtown stores).

But are there enough owners and fans, even without competition from the NBA in the same season, to financially sustain an expensive enterprise that still isn’t popular enough to get a substantive U.S. national TV contract?

The lifeblood of any big-time sport these days is a big TV contract. As seen recently, the Pac-12 Conference athletic departments fixed a lot of their financial worries through the whopper $3 billion deal with ESPN and Fox, which included creation of the conference’s own network.

The NHL trumpeted in April a new deal with NBC/Universal valued at $2 billion. But the money is spread over 10 years, making the average value of the 10-year deal $200 million a year. Under the old deal, the NHL was getting $80 million. Improvement, yes, but still only about $4 million per team.

Comparatively for its networks rights, the NFL gets about $3 billion a year, the NBA just shy of $1 billion, and MLB gets about $450 million, with local revenues for the 162-game schedule a larger factor.

As with the NBA, the bottom tier of franchises are unstable. Just last month, the NHL Board of Governors approved the move of the Thrashers franchise from a market of five million in Atlanta to Winnipeg, a city of less than 700,000, primarily for a big reason the NBA let the Sonics go to Oklahoma City – despite the small market size, there’s no competition for the pro sports dollar.

In a time of economic travail, do not underestimate the lure of the one-horse town.

It’s true that hockey was never embraced in Atlanta. Fans there never did figure out which division of Southeastern Conference college football the team belonged. And the NHL already there failed before (remember the Flames, from 1972-80?).

In Arizona, the city of Glendale just approved a subsidy of $25 million for the Coyotes, which were bought out of bankruptcy court by the NHL, to cover any season-ending losses for the 2011-12 campaign. Imagine how that would go over in Seattle or Bellevue.

Both franchises were horribly managed. But the fact remains that the NHL is still a niche sport in many parts of the country, and is now stuck for 10 years in a TV contract of limited value. About the only way a Bellevue arena project would be viable is to get a second tenant, an NBA team.

You may have heard that, because 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams lost money last year, the league is in a lockout until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. By all indications, fans can cross off Kobe Bryant for a season, unless he plays in Rome, Istanbul or Kabul.

And the NHL has an expiring CBA after next season. This was the league that canceled the 2004-05 season to get a new CBA that both sides are increasingly unhappy with, particularly after the opening this summer of free agency dropped jaws across North America as hockey fans watched good money go to so many mediocre players.

Does a Bellevue arena project, completely financed privately, start this year, knowing that one or both potential prime tenants may need two years to resolve work stoppages?

Wow. That is some serious risk-taking. But that’s what rich guys do.

For the fans, there is a question they must answer: How would you feel if your town did to another city what Oklahoma City did to Seattle? Not once, but twice. Perhaps simultaneously.

Surely, one of the teams will have to be named Pirates.


YourThoughts

  • tedzed

    It’s not so much about losing the Sonics as it’s about how Seattle lost the Sonics. Bennett and company lied about their intentions when buying the team, and everyone knew it from the day that Schultz stepped up to the podium to make the announcement, cloaked in a sea of sad balloons. Everything after that was just a slow, painful twist of the knife. 

    Bring on the new team(s). 

  • tedzed

    It’s not so much about losing the Sonics as it’s about how Seattle lost the Sonics. Bennett and company lied about their intentions when buying the team, and everyone knew it from the day that Schultz stepped up to the podium to make the announcement, cloaked in a sea of sad balloons. Everything after that was just a slow, painful twist of the knife. 

    Bring on the new team(s). 

  • Michael Kaiser

    I wonder why Portland apparently never has gone hard for an NHL franchise.  I bet one would have made it as well as the Blazers.  Portland is no more a hockey-bastion than it is the type of urban city with a storied history of hoops, etc. but look what the Blazers have done.  (one horse town?)
    Ya, I think now is the time to go for the teams.  Even if there are lockouts or lost seasons we would be building a new arena during that time anyway.  Starting getting the teams lined up now before new collective bargaining agreements, etc. are put in place that will make an existing owner think he has a better chance of making a go of it in the city he already is in.
    And as I clearly know all there is to know about all facets of all sports, I would be willing to double up and be GM of both franchises, just to save the owners a little money.

    • Anonymous

      Portland actually does have a growing hockey scene, there has been a lot of investment in youth hockey and making it accessible to kids. Great support there and has been some pretty regular grumblings about getting a team.

  • Michael Kaiser

    I wonder why Portland apparently never has gone hard for an NHL franchise.  I bet one would have made it as well as the Blazers.  Portland is no more a hockey-bastion than it is the type of urban city with a storied history of hoops, etc. but look what the Blazers have done.  (one horse town?)
    Ya, I think now is the time to go for the teams.  Even if there are lockouts or lost seasons we would be building a new arena during that time anyway.  Starting getting the teams lined up now before new collective bargaining agreements, etc. are put in place that will make an existing owner think he has a better chance of making a go of it in the city he already is in.
    And as I clearly know all there is to know about all facets of all sports, I would be willing to double up and be GM of both franchises, just to save the owners a little money.

    • somethingbasic

      Portland actually does have a growing hockey scene, there has been a lot of investment in youth hockey and making it accessible to kids. Great support there and has been some pretty regular grumblings about getting a team.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure why Mr Thiel is so sour on the NHL.  Most teams actually do make money in NHL. Phoenix had WAY more issues than attendance. The way the deal with the arena and lease wasn’t going to work even with solid fan support. The last CBA was great for the league and there is not much fear out there about getting another one done.  Also a big group he left out of hockey fans in the area are the transplants, there are more of us than people realize.

    The big thing I don’t understand is, why does every sport need to be as profitable as the NFL? Hockey is a great sport and frankly is hard to follow passionately without a home town team, but once you get to a couple of home games, you’ll be hooked. A sport doesn’t need to be a huge money maker to inspire the passion for sport. And for me that’s the key to any sport, passion.

    • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

       Thiel just doesn’t like hockey. He won’t come out and say it, but he clearly doesn’t care. He’s said in the past that nobody has ever been interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle. Yet in another article on this website about Guyle Fielder mentioned in detail a pair of attempts to bring the NHL to Seattle that failed due to a) a business man who couldn’t get his act together (in the 1970′s) and b) Barry Ackerley basically torpedoing a bid back in the early 90′s just before it was announced that his plans for a new arena where Safeco Field sits today had been replaced by plans to renovate the KeyArena from an old piece of garbage into an newer, yet worse piece of garbage.

      For Mr. Thiel, hockey and the idea of bringing an NHL team to the Seattle area is kind of like running into a little spider in a wide open field somewhere. It’s harmless and probably won’t effect you one way or the other. Yet there is this instinct inside of you that automatically hates that spider and your first instinct is to step on it so you can kill it. I think the evidence in my little theory is justified in how he not only basically urinates all over the idea of an NHL team coming to the Seattle area, but it’s also very evident that he doesn’t do much homework on the NHL or hockey itself before he writes his column in order to relieve himself.

      I hope we get both an NHL and an NBA team back up here. That way while the NBA team struggles and draws flies while the NHL team gets into the playoffs and really shows this area what exciting, don’t know what you’re gonna get next playoff action is all about and has this city buzzing like crazy we can all hear Mr. Thiel’s theories as to why the NHL still isn’t working up here. Then we can all laugh a hearty laugh and say “we told you so.” I enjoy getting satisfaction like that when it comes to my wacky predictions :)

      • Michael Kaiser

        I think Art might be more partial, for several reasons, to basketball and is afraid if we get the NHL we will not get the NBA back because arguably it might stretch the resources of this area to try and support both the NBA and the NHL.  Heck, have you ever seen Art?  He must have played lots of hoops in his day.  Maybe he still does.

  • somethingbasic

    Not sure why Mr Thiel is so sour on the NHL.  Most teams actually do make money in NHL. Phoenix had WAY more issues than attendance. The way the deal with the arena and lease wasn’t going to work even with solid fan support. The last CBA was great for the league and there is not much fear out there about getting another one done.  Also a big group he left out of hockey fans in the area are the transplants, there are more of us than people realize.

    The big thing I don’t understand is, why does every sport need to be as profitable as the NFL? Hockey is a great sport and frankly is hard to follow passionately without a home town team, but once you get to a couple of home games, you’ll be hooked. A sport doesn’t need to be a huge money maker to inspire the passion for sport. And for me that’s the key to any sport, passion.

    • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

       Thiel just doesn’t like hockey. He won’t come out and say it, but he clearly doesn’t care. He’s said in the past that nobody has ever been interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle. Yet in another article on this website about Guyle Fielder mentioned in detail a pair of attempts to bring the NHL to Seattle that failed due to a) a business man who couldn’t get his act together (in the 1970′s) and b) Barry Ackerley basically torpedoing a bid back in the early 90′s just before it was announced that his plans for a new arena where Safeco Field sits today had been replaced by plans to renovate the KeyArena from an old piece of garbage into an newer, yet worse piece of garbage.

      For Mr. Thiel, hockey and the idea of bringing an NHL team to the Seattle area is kind of like running into a little spider in a wide open field somewhere. It’s harmless and probably won’t effect you one way or the other. Yet there is this instinct inside of you that automatically hates that spider and your first instinct is to step on it so you can kill it. I think the evidence in my little theory is justified in how he not only basically urinates all over the idea of an NHL team coming to the Seattle area, but it’s also very evident that he doesn’t do much homework on the NHL or hockey itself before he writes his column in order to relieve himself.

      I hope we get both an NHL and an NBA team back up here. That way while the NBA team struggles and draws flies while the NHL team gets into the playoffs and really shows this area what exciting, don’t know what you’re gonna get next playoff action is all about and has this city buzzing like crazy we can all hear Mr. Thiel’s theories as to why the NHL still isn’t working up here. Then we can all laugh a hearty laugh and say “we told you so.” I enjoy getting satisfaction like that when it comes to my wacky predictions :)

      • Michael Kaiser

        I think Art might be more partial, for several reasons, to basketball and is afraid if we get the NHL we will not get the NBA back because arguably it might stretch the resources of this area to try and support both the NBA and the NHL.  Heck, have you ever seen Art?  He must have played lots of hoops in his day.  Maybe he still does.

  • Tom George

    I’ve said it before on this page and I’ll say it again; the NHL would be wildly popular here in the Seattle area. Even more so than the NBA ever has been or ever will be. Of course, this is difficult to prove with hard evidence when you consider the area has never had a chance to prove itself as an NHL viable market for too many reasons to begin listing here (*cough* the KeyArena sucks *cough* Barry Ackerly is a greedy weasel *cough*). But there are several nights during the hockey season when the Thunderbirds draw 4000 people to their games and the Silvertips draw 6000 fans to their games. Which, if you do the math, is 10,000 people in this general area watching junior hockey (not too surprised you left the major juniors out of this article…you know…the NHL’s equivalent of what college is to football and basketball). And NHL preseason games have fared alright around these parts, too.

    Not to mention that during the playoff season just mere months ago I heard a lot more buzz among people concerning the NHL playoffs than the NBA playoffs. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people utter the words “I hope they bring an NHL team here instead of an NBA team.” As I said one other time on a post on here, did you ever think that the Sounders would be as wildly popular as they are right now? Even I admit that I thought the Sounders would be like any other MLS team in that they would be lucky to draw 10,000 people per game. But Soccer Nation around here is loud and proud. And I think an NHL team would be even more popular than an MLS team.

    And unlike the Sonics, there are several NHL teams that just aren’t that popular in the towns they’re currently in. As for Atlanta moving to Winnipeg, I think the reasons for that are many-fold. The main one being that Atlanta certainly isn’t a hockey town by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, they have a lot of competition for the sports dollar in the ATL. But the bottom line is that people don’t grow up there playing hockey like they do other sports. Winnipeg on the other hand…it’s freakin’ Canada. You could put an NHL team in Yellowknife and it would be more popular and profitable than a team in Atlanta ever could or would be.

    I also think it would be awesome if an NHL team moved to Portland. To answer a question brought up in the comments section below – there were a few groups looking to bring an NHL team to Portland. The closest it came was in the early 2000′s when the Penguins almost moved there from Pittsburgh, but were saved when Mario Lemieux led a group that bought them at the last minute. Although the actual dream of getting them to play in PDX was still a tough one to overcome since Paul Allen didn’t much care for the idea of the Blazers having competition for the sports dollar. But then when the Blazers really went downhill, apparently Allen was more open to the idea of sharing the Rose Garden with an NHL team. Of course, this is also right around the time the economy tanked here in the good ol’ USA. Still, from everything I’ve heard, there are still people interested in potentially purchasing an NHL team and moving it to Portland.

    And as I’ve also said on this site before; an NHL rivalry between Seattle and Portland would be 100x’s more popular than an NBA rivalry between the two cities ever would be. Traditional sports writers such as Art Thiel will argue that point on the opposite side until the cows come home. But again, let’s face it, there wasn’t ever much buzz leading up to the next Sonics/Blazers game around here back in the day. It might as well have been the Bucks or Magic coming to town. But when the T-Birds and Winterhawks are set to play, all of a sudden ticket sales spike for a game between those two teams.

    And there are plenty of NHL teams in current cities that would be prime candidates to move up here and could accommodate both cities. The New York Islanders currently play in a barn that is arguable worse than the KeyArena (although it’s better for hockey than the Key is). The Florida Panthers suffer the same way Atlanta did in that they are in the deep south, they’ve sucked for years and nobody cares about them. The Phoenix Coyotes are the western United States version of Atlanta and Miami. Toss in teams that are barely hanging on to a thread like Nashville and Carolina and you have plenty of organizations out there that could quench the northwests thirst for an NHL team.

    I certainly hope the Seattle area gets both an NBA and NHL team in any new building that may be built. But frankly, if I had my choice, I would take an NHL team over an NBA team any day of the week.

    • Michael Kaiser

      With regard to hockey rivalries between Portland and Seattle, I remember the Breakers games with the Portland, especially on a friday night, were some of the funnest things I did in high school.  And some times a hockey game even broke out.

      • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

         Whether it was the Metropolitans vs. Rosebuds, Totems vs. Buckaroos or Breakers/Thunderbirds vs. Winterhawks, Seattle and Portland have an awesome (almost) 100 year hockey rivalry. Portland was the first American team to play for the Stanley Cup and Seattle was the first American team to win it. I’m also sure that if you ask most basketball fans around here what their favorite moments of the Sonics/Blazers rivalry were, most of the answers would go along the lines of “uhhhhhh”, “errrrrrr”, “that one time when Payton made that awesome pass and either Kemp or Cage dunked it” and other statements along those lines. And at the same time, you could go up to any number of Thunderbirds or Winterhawks fans and ask them what their favorite moment of that rivalry was and you would get a plethora of extremely detailed stories. Some would involve the playoffs, some would involve exciting comebacks and some would involve some sort of brawl. No matter, that’s one awesome advantage that hockey has over basketball; just like baseball and football, hockey games create memories. And basketball really doesn’t. Maybe a cool dunk here and there and if your team plays in a major market these days and wins a championship. But that’s about it.

        • http://twitter.com/brettb3 brett burton

          Sounds like you just don’t like basketball, which is fine.  But it creates memories just like any other sport.  There have been plenty of great Sonics moments over the years.  The reason the Sonics and Blazers weren’t a great rivalry is because both teams were rarely good at the same time, and they hardly ever met in the playoffs.  It has nothing to do with the sport itself.

          • Michael Kaiser

            Doesn’t wash.  The Sonics and Blazers met roughly six times a season for decades.  The Breakers and Thunderbirds did not forge their intense rivalries in the playoffs, but rather during the season.  And I don’t recall many great Breakers’ clubs.  And actually, the Blazers won the championship the year before the Sonics went to the championship and lost and two years before the Sonics won it.  So they were talented–at a very high level–at the same time.

          • http://twitter.com/brettb3 brett burton

            Okay, maybe one or two seasons out of their entire history were they both elite at the same time.  The point still stands.  There were very few epic battles between the franchises.

          • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

             I actually like basketball quite a bit. I was a Sonics fan and was more angry than upset when they left town (I always thought it was inevitable…especially after they just renovated the KeyArena. The surprise wasn’t that it happened – it’s that it took so long). But unlike the NBA, parity runs wild in the NHL almost every year. Yeah, you have your teams that are almost always in the playoffs and make deep runs more often than not. But it’s also always possible that an 8 seed can upset a 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs. It does happen once every other blue moon in the NBA (off the top of my head, I think it’s happened twice that I can recall). But heading into the NBA playoffs, you can choose 4 or 5 teams that you think could win the championship and you’ll probably be right with one of those. In the NHL, though, the odds are still pretty good that you’ll be right with one of those 4 or 5 choices, but the probability is a lot higher that you could completely miss than it is in the NBA.

            The Sonics and Blazers were never among the “elite” teams in the NBA at the same time during their respective tenures (outside of the late 70′s when they won their titles and maybe for a season or two as the Drexler led Blazers were coming off a couple of Finals appearances as the Sonics were beginning to become the dominant team in the west in the early-mid 90′s). But they were usually playoff caliber teams at the same time. Yet there was always a lot more buzz whenever the Lakers would come to town. Of course, sometimes this is justified. But in most other sports there is a ton of hype when classic rivals hit the field/court/ice against each other regardless if it’s the regular season or the playoffs. And that never really hit much of a fever pitch with the Sonics and Blazers.

    • Crazychar7

      “the NHL would be wildly popular here in the Seattle area. Even more so than the NBA ever has been or ever will be”
      Were you here in the mid ’90s?  Can’t imagine any team/sport being more popular than the Sonics were in the middle of that decade.

      • Michael Kaiser

        Try the Sonics in the late 70′s and early 80′s.  That is when they also moved to the Kingdome and had games with 50k+ fans.  But things constantly change.  Who would have thought back then that there would be hardly a wimper when the team left town a quarter-of-a-century later.  I would like to see the NBA back here, but I also would like to give the NHL a shot.

      • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

         I’m not saying the Sonics weren’t popular. But you watch…if an NHL team makes a deep run or two into the playoffs, the buzz around here will be just as high if not higher than the Sonics were in the 90′s. I have lot’s of friends in the New England area and they were actually more into the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup this year than they were when the Celtics won the NBA championship 3 or 4 years ago. Even Bob Ryan and Peter Gammons (two great columnists from the Boston area) have said that playoff runs by the Bruins are followed more passionately than playoff runs by the Celtics. Maybe it’s just because the Bruins haven’t won as often as the Celtics. Or maybe it’s because the NHL playoffs have more drama than the NBA playoffs. Either which way, after following sports around here for so many years, I honestly think an NHL team would wind up being more popular than an NBA team in the long run.

  • Tom George

    I’ve said it before on this page and I’ll say it again; the NHL would be wildly popular here in the Seattle area. Even more so than the NBA ever has been or ever will be. Of course, this is difficult to prove with hard evidence when you consider the area has never had a chance to prove itself as an NHL viable market for too many reasons to begin listing here (*cough* the KeyArena sucks *cough* Barry Ackerly is a greedy weasel *cough*). But there are several nights during the hockey season when the Thunderbirds draw 4000 people to their games and the Silvertips draw 6000 fans to their games. Which, if you do the math, is 10,000 people in this general area watching junior hockey (not too surprised you left the major juniors out of this article…you know…the NHL’s equivalent of what college is to football and basketball). And NHL preseason games have fared alright around these parts, too.

    Not to mention that during the playoff season just mere months ago I heard a lot more buzz among people concerning the NHL playoffs than the NBA playoffs. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people utter the words “I hope they bring an NHL team here instead of an NBA team.” As I said one other time on a post on here, did you ever think that the Sounders would be as wildly popular as they are right now? Even I admit that I thought the Sounders would be like any other MLS team in that they would be lucky to draw 10,000 people per game. But Soccer Nation around here is loud and proud. And I think an NHL team would be even more popular than an MLS team.

    And unlike the Sonics, there are several NHL teams that just aren’t that popular in the towns they’re currently in. As for Atlanta moving to Winnipeg, I think the reasons for that are many-fold. The main one being that Atlanta certainly isn’t a hockey town by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, they have a lot of competition for the sports dollar in the ATL. But the bottom line is that people don’t grow up there playing hockey like they do other sports. Winnipeg on the other hand…it’s freakin’ Canada. You could put an NHL team in Yellowknife and it would be more popular and profitable than a team in Atlanta ever could or would be.

    I also think it would be awesome if an NHL team moved to Portland. To answer a question brought up in the comments section below – there were a few groups looking to bring an NHL team to Portland. The closest it came was in the early 2000′s when the Penguins almost moved there from Pittsburgh, but were saved when Mario Lemieux led a group that bought them at the last minute. Although the actual dream of getting them to play in PDX was still a tough one to overcome since Paul Allen didn’t much care for the idea of the Blazers having competition for the sports dollar. But then when the Blazers really went downhill, apparently Allen was more open to the idea of sharing the Rose Garden with an NHL team. Of course, this is also right around the time the economy tanked here in the good ol’ USA. Still, from everything I’ve heard, there are still people interested in potentially purchasing an NHL team and moving it to Portland.

    And as I’ve also said on this site before; an NHL rivalry between Seattle and Portland would be 100x’s more popular than an NBA rivalry between the two cities ever would be. Traditional sports writers such as Art Thiel will argue that point on the opposite side until the cows come home. But again, let’s face it, there wasn’t ever much buzz leading up to the next Sonics/Blazers game around here back in the day. It might as well have been the Bucks or Magic coming to town. But when the T-Birds and Winterhawks are set to play, all of a sudden ticket sales spike for a game between those two teams.

    And there are plenty of NHL teams in current cities that would be prime candidates to move up here and could accommodate both cities. The New York Islanders currently play in a barn that is arguable worse than the KeyArena (although it’s better for hockey than the Key is). The Florida Panthers suffer the same way Atlanta did in that they are in the deep south, they’ve sucked for years and nobody cares about them. The Phoenix Coyotes are the western United States version of Atlanta and Miami. Toss in teams that are barely hanging on to a thread like Nashville and Carolina and you have plenty of organizations out there that could quench the northwests thirst for an NHL team.

    I certainly hope the Seattle area gets both an NBA and NHL team in any new building that may be built. But frankly, if I had my choice, I would take an NHL team over an NBA team any day of the week.

    • Michael Kaiser

      With regard to hockey rivalries between Portland and Seattle, I remember the Breakers games with the Portland, especially on a friday night, were some of the funnest things I did in high school.  And some times a hockey game even broke out.

      • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

         Whether it was the Metropolitans vs. Rosebuds, Totems vs. Buckaroos or Breakers/Thunderbirds vs. Winterhawks, Seattle and Portland have an awesome (almost) 100 year hockey rivalry. Portland was the first American team to play for the Stanley Cup and Seattle was the first American team to win it. I’m also sure that if you ask most basketball fans around here what their favorite moments of the Sonics/Blazers rivalry were, most of the answers would go along the lines of “uhhhhhh”, “errrrrrr”, “that one time when Payton made that awesome pass and either Kemp or Cage dunked it” and other statements along those lines. And at the same time, you could go up to any number of Thunderbirds or Winterhawks fans and ask them what their favorite moment of that rivalry was and you would get a plethora of extremely detailed stories. Some would involve the playoffs, some would involve exciting comebacks and some would involve some sort of brawl. No matter, that’s one awesome advantage that hockey has over basketball; just like baseball and football, hockey games create memories. And basketball really doesn’t. Maybe a cool dunk here and there and if your team plays in a major market these days and wins a championship. But that’s about it.

        • http://twitter.com/brettb3 brett burton

          Sounds like you just don’t like basketball, which is fine.  But it creates memories just like any other sport.  There have been plenty of great Sonics moments over the years.  The reason the Sonics and Blazers weren’t a great rivalry is because both teams were rarely good at the same time, and they hardly ever met in the playoffs.  It has nothing to do with the sport itself.

          • Michael Kaiser

            Doesn’t wash.  The Sonics and Blazers met roughly six times a season for decades.  The Breakers and Thunderbirds did not forge their intense rivalries in the playoffs, but rather during the season.  And I don’t recall many great Breakers’ clubs.  And actually, the Blazers won the championship the year before the Sonics went to the championship and lost and two years before the Sonics won it.  So they were talented–at a very high level–at the same time.

          • http://twitter.com/brettb3 brett burton

            Okay, maybe one or two seasons out of their entire history were they both elite at the same time.  The point still stands.  There were very few epic battles between the franchises.

          • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

             I actually like basketball quite a bit. I was a Sonics fan and was more angry than upset when they left town (I always thought it was inevitable…especially after they just renovated the KeyArena. The surprise wasn’t that it happened – it’s that it took so long). But unlike the NBA, parity runs wild in the NHL almost every year. Yeah, you have your teams that are almost always in the playoffs and make deep runs more often than not. But it’s also always possible that an 8 seed can upset a 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs. It does happen once every other blue moon in the NBA (off the top of my head, I think it’s happened twice that I can recall). But heading into the NBA playoffs, you can choose 4 or 5 teams that you think could win the championship and you’ll probably be right with one of those. In the NHL, though, the odds are still pretty good that you’ll be right with one of those 4 or 5 choices, but the probability is a lot higher that you could completely miss than it is in the NBA.

            The Sonics and Blazers were never among the “elite” teams in the NBA at the same time during their respective tenures (outside of the late 70′s when they won their titles and maybe for a season or two as the Drexler led Blazers were coming off a couple of Finals appearances as the Sonics were beginning to become the dominant team in the west in the early-mid 90′s). But they were usually playoff caliber teams at the same time. Yet there was always a lot more buzz whenever the Lakers would come to town. Of course, sometimes this is justified. But in most other sports there is a ton of hype when classic rivals hit the field/court/ice against each other regardless if it’s the regular season or the playoffs. And that never really hit much of a fever pitch with the Sonics and Blazers.

    • Crazychar7

      “the NHL would be wildly popular here in the Seattle area. Even more so than the NBA ever has been or ever will be”
      Were you here in the mid ’90s?  Can’t imagine any team/sport being more popular than the Sonics were in the middle of that decade.

      • Michael Kaiser

        Try the Sonics in the late 70′s and early 80′s.  That is when they also moved to the Kingdome and had games with 50k+ fans.  But things constantly change.  Who would have thought back then that there would be hardly a wimper when the team left town a quarter-of-a-century later.  I would like to see the NBA back here, but I also would like to give the NHL a shot.

      • http://www.examiner.com/roller-derby-in-seattle/tom-george Tom George

         I’m not saying the Sonics weren’t popular. But you watch…if an NHL team makes a deep run or two into the playoffs, the buzz around here will be just as high if not higher than the Sonics were in the 90′s. I have lot’s of friends in the New England area and they were actually more into the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup this year than they were when the Celtics won the NBA championship 3 or 4 years ago. Even Bob Ryan and Peter Gammons (two great columnists from the Boston area) have said that playoff runs by the Bruins are followed more passionately than playoff runs by the Celtics. Maybe it’s just because the Bruins haven’t won as often as the Celtics. Or maybe it’s because the NHL playoffs have more drama than the NBA playoffs. Either which way, after following sports around here for so many years, I honestly think an NHL team would wind up being more popular than an NBA team in the long run.

  • Sjt20

    It sounds like Mr Tiel doesn’t want either the NBA or the NHL because it is too risky financially for the people putting the arena deal together. He also would not approve of getting any existing teams to move here because it isn’t morally correct. This is the second time he has kind of thrown a wet blanket on the new arena enthusiasm. He is sort of being the anti-Steve Kelley in this argument. I like basketball and hockey. I don’t think that this market should be without a winter sport. I also don’t care if we have to lure one or two teams from other places. It has happened to us twice(pilots,sonics). Unless we wait for expanson teams, if either league ever expands again, this is how it has to be done.

  • Sjt20

    It sounds like Mr Tiel doesn’t want either the NBA or the NHL because it is too risky financially for the people putting the arena deal together. He also would not approve of getting any existing teams to move here because it isn’t morally correct. This is the second time he has kind of thrown a wet blanket on the new arena enthusiasm. He is sort of being the anti-Steve Kelley in this argument. I like basketball and hockey. I don’t think that this market should be without a winter sport. I also don’t care if we have to lure one or two teams from other places. It has happened to us twice(pilots,sonics). Unless we wait for expanson teams, if either league ever expands again, this is how it has to be done.

  • silverdawg

    I could easily see it at the Safeway location with light rail passing right thru to Microsoft campus from Seattle down to Redmond. Unfotunately, we will continue to see endless gridlock on 405 & 520 til eternity…..We’ll need a lot more mass transit in the next 10 years (HA HA) and some better mentalities to keep some of the Porche’s & BMW’s in their garages or we may as well not even consider the idea.

    • Mike

      The latest is NBA in Sonics coming back. Yes!! Will they play in Seattle? NO! Will they play Bellevue? YES!  Will hockey be coming to Seattle area? YES! What team will it be? Columbus Blue Jackets.  

      Looks like Phoenix Coyotes are headed to Hamilton. Florida Panthers to Quebec City.

      You have at least 4 people that want to be owners. Steve Ballmer from Microsoft, Levin guy from Chicago and 2 mystery people..one from Seattle and another from California.

      The new arena from what I am told is suppose to be over 600,000 sq ft. Not enough space at Key Arena for that! The NBA has said they don’t want a team in the City of Seattle. David Stern wants it in Bellevue. Currently, Key Arena is up for sale for $53 million on loop net but looks like there is no way it will happen on City of Seattle side. NHL says they want a new arena for the new Seattle NHL team as well. City of Seattle wants someone to revamp Seattle Center. Won’t happen!

      Safeway area won’t be chosen. Safeway makes ice cream on one side and they sold the other side to a SF real estate firm. The Bellevue Auto Row will be a problem because there are 9 owners. Have to agree with all 9 of them. Renton is still available on the waterfront and so is Muckleshoot casino area. Doubt that will happen! Even down by the airport by where you can watch the planes land on north side of airport is available. Boeing, I think, have a warehouse there.Some people like the idea on 6th and Massachusetts. Somehow the Eastside will work! Light rail just has to be put there! Best place is the Bellevue Auto Row. Both end of the street lead to the freeway!
      The Sonics will come back. It is not when but who will bring them. 

  • silverdawg

    I could easily see it at the Safeway location with light rail passing right thru to Microsoft campus from Seattle down to Redmond. Unfotunately, we will continue to see endless gridlock on 405 & 520 til eternity…..We’ll need a lot more mass transit in the next 10 years (HA HA) and some better mentalities to keep some of the Porche’s & BMW’s in their garages or we may as well not even consider the idea.

    • Mike

      The latest is NBA in Sonics coming back. Yes!! Will they play in Seattle? NO! Will they play Bellevue? YES!  Will hockey be coming to Seattle area? YES! What team will it be? Columbus Blue Jackets.  

      Looks like Phoenix Coyotes are headed to Hamilton. Florida Panthers to Quebec City.

      You have at least 4 people that want to be owners. Steve Ballmer from Microsoft, Levin guy from Chicago and 2 mystery people..one from Seattle and another from California.

      The new arena from what I am told is suppose to be over 600,000 sq ft. Not enough space at Key Arena for that! The NBA has said they don’t want a team in the City of Seattle. David Stern wants it in Bellevue. Currently, Key Arena is up for sale for $53 million on loop net but looks like there is no way it will happen on City of Seattle side. NHL says they want a new arena for the new Seattle NHL team as well. City of Seattle wants someone to revamp Seattle Center. Won’t happen!

      Safeway area won’t be chosen. Safeway makes ice cream on one side and they sold the other side to a SF real estate firm. The Bellevue Auto Row will be a problem because there are 9 owners. Have to agree with all 9 of them. Renton is still available on the waterfront and so is Muckleshoot casino area. Doubt that will happen! Even down by the airport by where you can watch the planes land on north side of airport is available. Boeing, I think, have a warehouse there.Some people like the idea on 6th and Massachusetts. Somehow the Eastside will work! Light rail just has to be put there! Best place is the Bellevue Auto Row. Both end of the street lead to the freeway!
      The Sonics will come back. It is not when but who will bring them. 

  • Jerry

    I don’t blame the city of Oklahoma City for taking the Sonics from us.  I blame the coffee sucking Sonics owner who sold the franchise to a guy who wanted to move them there.   I have no moral problem with suddenly receiving a team from some other sucking owner trying to make a buck by ripping the heart out of their community. 
    We must remember – the cities and the people do not own their home town teams, we just pay their salaries, buy their stadiums and worship the fake grass, hard wood or ice they walk. run or skate on.
      
    So send us your crap teams that are losing money.  We will build you a home.  

       

  • Jerry

    I don’t blame the city of Oklahoma City for taking the Sonics from us.  I blame the coffee sucking Sonics owner who sold the franchise to a guy who wanted to move them there.   I have no moral problem with suddenly receiving a team from some other sucking owner trying to make a buck by ripping the heart out of their community. 
    We must remember – the cities and the people do not own their home town teams, we just pay their salaries, buy their stadiums and worship the fake grass, hard wood or ice they walk. run or skate on.
      
    So send us your crap teams that are losing money.  We will build you a home.  

       

  • Gordo Glickman

    Too bad Seattle and Portland aren’t BOTH in the NHL.  Portland (along with Seattle, presumably) wanted the old Western Hockey League of the ’60s to enter the NHL together, as a league–that would mean not just LA, the Bay Area, and Vancouver in the NHL, but the Emerald and Rose cities as well.  It is a bitter pill for NW hockey fans in the U.S., but it’s also been the NHL’s loss as well.  No NHL team in Seattle OR Portland?  Really?  The NHL is ignoring a sizable chunk of people in these parts.

  • Gordo Glickman

    Too bad Seattle and Portland aren’t BOTH in the NHL.  Portland (along with Seattle, presumably) wanted the old Western Hockey League of the ’60s to enter the NHL together, as a league–that would mean not just LA, the Bay Area, and Vancouver in the NHL, but the Emerald and Rose cities as well.  It is a bitter pill for NW hockey fans in the U.S., but it’s also been the NHL’s loss as well.  No NHL team in Seattle OR Portland?  Really?  The NHL is ignoring a sizable chunk of people in these parts.