BY Art Thiel 05:23PM 06/24/2015

NHL ready for expansion, but is Seattle?

The NHL formally opened the door to expansion. Commissioner Gary Bettman said at league meetings in Las Vegas Wednesday that applications from interested owners and cities will be taken from July 6 through Aug. 10, although teams likely would not begin play until the 2017-18 season.

Bettman mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas and Quebec City as having the most interest. But Seattle, in terms of an NHL arena, is a deep third behind the other two, which have arenas underway with no promise of a team.

The Seattle market has two competing plans: One is by Seattle native Chris Hansen, which has been underway for four years but has not made a formal pitch to city officials, who are participants, for a hockey team ahead of a basketball team. The other one is recent, by Connecticut investment banker Ray Bartoszek, who has bought land in Tukwila and plans to build his project without public funding.

The NHL has not expanded since 2000, but a new collective bargaining agreement and a new TV contract has caused Bettman to place an expansion fee of $500 million, considered steep for a league that two years ago had franchise sales for under $200 million.

Both arena projects are said to be around $500 million, meaning that the total investment is about $1 billion.

Hansen said he has no interest in hockey by himself, but would be willing to partner with a prospective NHL owner as long as he accepts the terms and conditions set forth by the city and King County. Bartoszek considered partnering with Hansen, but broke away to go on his own.

Another interested NHL owner, Victor Coleman, also has not yet reached any deal with Hansen.

The NHL is excited about the Seattle market, far larger than Las Vegas and Quebec City, and in the West where the 30-team league needs two teams to make pair of 16 team conferences.

But a viable arena project trumps all, and the market has yet to green-light one.



  • Topcatone

    Tukwila ????? it downtown like Nashville did…

    • Jamo57

      I agree but I have a feeling Tukwila is much more likely to get their ducks in a row in time than the City of Seattle is.

      • art thiel

        Still will be impressed if Barto pays $1B for the works.

    • art thiel

      In 20 years, Tukwila will be downtown.

  • Glenn Mitchell

    So Vegas has an arena, 11,500 ticket deposits and owners (Maloof’s and Foley). Vegas seems a lock. So who gets door #2?

    Quebec City has an arena but do they have owners in place? IMO if the NHL really wants a team in Quebec they would have found a way to get one there already, and of course the NHL wants a clean east-west split. QC would not solve that. Palpable? Yes. Sexy? No. Preferable to the NHL? No. Yawn.

    The NHL in Portland, Not an ideal situation, but again, at least there is an arena, and a nice one. What about owners? And would new owners pony up $500,000,000 to compete against the Blazers? Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

    Kansas City is the 31st largest TV market. Yes they have an arena but I do not think

    the NHL is excited about KC, although like Seattle, the winter calender is free. $500,000,000 for a team in KC? Would KC die hard football and baseball fans give hockey a look? Possibly I suppose but once again $500Million for the right to answer that question seems a bit steep for me.

    And I also hear Southern Ontario. What would they call the team ‘The Southern Ontario WTHISO’s’ (Where The Hell Is Southern Ontario!) There are already teams in Toronto & Buffalo, the two worst franchises in terms of wins & losses in the league in that region. NHL does not want to make it three. Not going to happen here.

    Funny then that all roads seems to lead to Seattle with its 14th largest TV market, northwest location, free winter calender, upscale population base and thriving economy compared to other cities. Yet there is no arena or confirmed owner, something every single other potential applicant has at least one of.

    • Kirkland

      The Seattle hockey fans I know seem to think that QC and Portland would be relocation only. Quebec expansion would imbalance the Eastern and Western Conferences, and Paul Allen (the likely owner of Portland NHL) seems to think $500M is too much for a new team but $150M or so to move a team to the Moda Center makes better business sense.

      KC would like a team (instant rivalry with the St. Louis Blues), but I’m not sure about ownership interest for a new or moved team, and apparent ly their arena turns a profit without a regular sports tenant.

      A second Toronto team would work, I think. With close to 10 million people in driving distance, there’s more than enough demand to support a second team. “If New York can support three teams, why can’t we?”, Southern Ontarians often say, and it’s hard to argue.

      As for us? I think if the Sodo Arena gets approved (early August is the date, I understand?), the plane’s on the runway. It’s just a matter of getting an ownership group and handling the inevitable lawsuit from the Port.

      • art thiel

        Not sure I see an ultra liberal city council going for Hansen’s deal. Not saying things can’t change, but not in an election year for all positions.

    • art thiel

      Nice summary, Glenn. I think QC will be taken more seriously after the small market success of thr ‘Pegs.

  • Howard Wells

    why not Las Vegas and Quebec City as expansion teams and Seattle getting the Arizona Coyotes to transfer..since Glendale just kicked them out of the arena there….or flip Vegas and Seattle?

    • Kirkland

      Don’t move the ‘Yotes just yet; they got an injunction against the Glendale eviction, and it’s possible they could work with the Suns for a replacement to America West Arena in Phoenix, or another building in Scottsdale, where most of their fans were in the first place. (And where they SHOULD’VE moved in the first place, but that’s another story …)

      • art thiel

        No more ice palaces in Phoenix. It’ll be 100 degrees there next Christmas.

    • art thiel

      Possible. But Seattle still doesn’t have an arena or an owner.

  • Jamo57

    Just make it abundantly clear to the NHL, our sheet of ice will be “poa annua-free”!

    I wonder how the Ms will further alienate the PNW sports fan in this new chapter.

    • art thiel

      NHL can have only one choice: Bent grass.

  • jafabian

    IMO, Quebec will get a team. NHL likes to tease Vegas but won’t go there and Seattle has nothing in place to make the NHL want to come here. If there was an ownership group with a plan in place then maybe it happens but there’s nothing concrete.

    The NHL makes noise but IMO they won’t hold up Seattle about an arena if there’s a target date for a new one.

  • Jeff Shope

    is the city of seattle ready? No too many idiot liberal/socialists in govt there but maybe outside seattle where it’s not so politically wacko

    • MarkS

      Politics has less to do with it than money. The reason Bartoszek has Tukwila’s ear is he claims to be able to do it all with his own money. Whether he’ll be able to do so remains to be seen.