BY Art Thiel 08:26PM 03/01/2018

Thiel: 30,000 deposits in a day for NHL tickets

The marketplace shocked even bombastic Tim Leiweke when 30,000 responded in one day to requests for deposits for the potential 2020 arrival of hockey.

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke takes in the view from the Space Needle roof with prospective NHL team co-owner Jerry Bruckheimer. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

It is early in his career as a pro sports owner in Seattle — actually, he hasn’t officially donned the tinfoil hat yet — but it was nevertheless important to understand the manner and fitness of Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer for the task. So the critical question had to be asked of the prospective co-owner of Seattle’s pending bid to be the NHL’s 32nd  franchise.

How were the chicken wings at the Angry Beaver bar in Greenwood?

“They were great,” he said, beaming. “Had two trays.”

The answer was good. His proposal advances.

Bruckheimer, Oak View Group majordomo Tim Leiweke and several others involved in the audacious proposal to spend $1.3 billion to put biscuits in baskets here found themselves Wednesday night at Seattle’s primary (only?) neighborhood hockey bar.

For a couple of hours, they ate, drank and schmoozed with the locals, like plain folks. They even watched the NHL game on the bar’s screens. By good fortune, the Red Wings from Bruckheimer’s home town of Detroit were playing. Then there was bad fortune.

“They lost,” he said, appearing to have taken it hard.

But that was the last of the bad news in Bruckheimer’s first visit to Seattle since 2006, when he helped promote Glory Road, a film he co-produced about the all-black Texas Western basketball team that upset all-white Kentucky in 1966.

By late Thursday morning, Bruckheimer, Leiweke and a gaggle of media were on the roof of the under-renovation Space Needle — not the observation deck, the roof — to raise a flag, “NHL 2020,” to celebrate a remarkable feat in Seattle sports history.

Twelve minutes after the NHLSeattle.com website opened its portal for business at 10 a.m. to seek money for a franchise in 2020, the goal of 10,000 refundable deposits for season tickets ($500 for a seat, $1,000 for a suite) was reached, Leiweke reported.

In 2015, when the prospective expansion team in Las Vegas did the same thing, they reached 5,000 in the first day, but took six weeks to get 10,000.

By the close of business Thursday, more than 30,000 deposits were recorded. The entirety of the slapshot crowd was slackjawed.

“I think it is an unbelievably great message to send back to the National Hockey League, and for that matter, the sports industry,” said Leiweke as rare March sunshine and a light breeze blessed the moment at 570 feet. “I’m extremely pleased and blown away by the response. It’s beyond anyone’s wildest imagination of what we could have done here.”

Bruckheimer admitted surprise too, although he’s well-experienced in reading the entertainment world’s passions.

“I look at this town and its pent-up demand, I look at what the Seahawks and Sounders are doing,” he said. “I knew there was a demand for a winter sport, and hockey is the greatest sport there is. The best. I knew we would do well, just not quite this fast. This is thrilling for the city of Seattle and anyone who likes live entertainment.

“The city was a flyover for a lot of bands because the acoustics (of KeyArena) weren’t good. They didn’t want to play here. Now you’re going to get every band who tours to come to this city. We’re thrilled.”

OVG plans to keep open the portal through the close of business Friday, even though the capacity for the arena remake is 17,500. A wait list will be created, and some attrition will take place. Some customers who secured a priority number may want only partial season tickets, which will return tickets to the available pool.

“We’re committed to making sure everyone on the list gets to be part of our first year,” Leiweke said. “We’ll figure it out.”

One significant difference between the cities’ ticket drives was that the Vegas ownership restricted depositors to local addresses. The franchise wanted preference given for year-round residents and workers in a metro area already awash in tourists from around the nation and the world.

In Seattle, all sports teams draw fans from Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, as well as Canada, so no restrictions were warranted. A presumption all along has been that Canadians will arrive in droves to watch their teams engage in the national religion while hanging out in Seattle on days like Thursday.

Beside blowing the doors off expectations for deposits, two other key points regarding the the project emerged in interviews over 24 hours in Vancouver and Seattle.

The NHL, which is considering the Seattle application but won’t vote on acceptance until an owners meeting in June, has committed to stocking another expansion franchise in the same generous terms that have allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to become one of the top teams in the NHL in their inaugural season. At a steep entry fee of $650 million, $150 million more than Las Vegas paid, there was little choice.

Entering games Thursday, the Knights lead the Pacific Division with 87 points, three behind league-leading Tampa Bay.

“We would anticipate that the terms of an expansion draft for a 32nd team would be the same as they were for Las Vegas,” commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at the league’s announcement of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver Wednesday. “Obviously, we have to go through a process with Seattle, similar to Las Vegas. Expansion is an important decision. A Pacific Northwest rivalry with Vancouver would be terrific. We first have to make sure a potential franchise will be successful.”

Thursday’s developments helped drive the latter conditional well down the fairway.

The other point is that Bruckheimer and his partner, investor and 1963 University of Washington grad David Bonderman, are also interested in bidding on an NBA franchise if and when one becomes available by relocation or expansion.

While those hoops possibilities are likely well beyond the project’s opening in October 2020 for hockey, it potentially resolves a question of whether an NBA owner would want to be a third party in the building behind music concerts and the NHL.

Bonderman is already a minority owner of the NBA Boston Celtics and would relinquish his shares to be owner of the returning Sonics.

“It makes a lot of sense, actually,’’ Bonderman told the Seattle Times. “And if there’s a franchise on offer, we would be in the thick of the fray trying to bring it home to Seattle.

“I think it’s fair to say that everybody I’ve talked to among the NBA owners think that we’re doing the right thing by coming to Seattle. A lot of them said, ‘Why hockey? Why not NBA?’ And what we said to them is, ‘We love hockey and it’s the place to start here.’ ’’

Bruckheimer and Bonderman have been a tandem in pursuit of hockey for about 15 years and are known to owners in both leagues. If they help take the slings and arrows of redeveloping a 55-year-old arena for $660 million-plus in a public park in a congested urban village to launch an expansion hockey team, they will have earned the respect and admiration of their fellow billionaires.

If they pull it off, Thursday will go down as a pivot point in Seattle’s sports history.

“I’m an optimistic guy to begin with,” said Leiweke, “but who in their right minds would even think to do a project like this?

“Even I am shocked and at the amount of passion and support this community showed toward this idea.”

Lamp looks lit.

The NHL 2020 flag was hoisted atop the Space Needle Thursday. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest


YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Another step closer for the Seattle Iceworms winning the Stanley Cup.

    • art thiel

      Iceworms is beginning to grow on me. In me?

      • Ron

        Ice worms are the cutest worms you will ever see. Please don’t link them to disgusting parasites like tapeworms and pinworms.

    • DB

      Ice worm cocktails at the concession stands!! Robert Service would love it!

      • Ron

        Thanks for the lesson. Just googled that and learned something new.

        • art thiel

          Any writing that begins, “Me and the boys were whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon . . .” is worth reading to the end.

  • Sam Base

    Great showing by the sports fans of Seattle today. I have a feeling it’s not going to take Seattle’s new hockey team 18 years to make the playoffs like it did the Mariners.

    • art thiel

      I believe it was 15. But now it’s 16 gone from the playoffs. Don’t you enjoy how nature always finds a balance?

  • WestCoastBias79

    Get footage on David Stern trying to navigate a football field full of upturned rakes with a blindfold on, and today is an even better day.

    • art thiel

      Now there’s a visual to cheer everyone in Seattle.

    • Theyfinallyfiredcable

      I would pay cash- money to watch that WestCoast ! Pay-per-view , and no first round knockouts like the Tyson matches – I wanna see the whole 100yds with that buffoon being smacked upside the head with each and every rake ! At the end , he gets popped by Bobby Wagner and turned around to run the gauntlet all over again . Great idea ..

  • Kirkland

    40,000 enablers of civic bullies, a sexual predtor ex mayor, and a promoter who told us a few months ago the NBA wasn’t coming, and to a terrible location. Disgusted beyond belief. I’ve wanted a hockey team here for secades, but the only way I’ll buy season tickets is if Leiwicke departs this group and they sell to someone who moves the team anywhere else in the city. I hope this blows up on their faces.

    • art thiel

      My biggest question is earlier: What happens to traffic when the new 99 tunnel opens this fall with no access to downtown/Center?. How will the surface streets accommodate drivers who want to avoid the tunnel tolls?

      • Greg Noson

        Interesting thought sir. I will gladly pay…my TNB toll is 2-300 per month anyway. What’s a few more bucks to go to a game

        • art thiel

          You are fortunate to have the income to not care.

  • Effzee

    Welp… I misread the demand for hockey, that’s for sure. I would like to throw the name Fireblades out there. The Seattle Fireblades has a nice ring to it. Its kind of like the Thunderbirds, but different.

    • Husky73

      Totems.

  • StephenBody

    Like MANY people, I slapped down the plastic, yesterday, and laid out for two season ticket deposits. My wife wanted it, so I went along. And, if my beloved Blackhawks happen to show up, on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon, when I can schlep from Tacoma to Queen Anne, I’ll do it. And I’ll become a HUGE fan of the team. But I’m not doing this with blinders on. There is STILL no answer on what the Oak View Group has to say about traffic, urban density, and access to the new arena. And there is STILL – and always will be – NO CONCEIVABLE WAY to solve those problems. Ultimately, the horror of trying to get in and out of QA will mean that this arena and this team will become a sort of clubhouse for affluent downtown Seattleites or those who work in the immediate area and don’t mind taking two hours to get home at 10 p.m. There IS NO SOLUTION to this, None possible, aside from MAYBE a tunnel plan that’s two to three times the size of the existing bus tunnel and the city and state will NEVER pay for that or endure the disruption of its construction. because I love my wife and she wants this, I will put on my Big Boy pants and get us in and out of Queen Anne, a couple of times a year. But neither I nor ANY fervent hockey fans who do not live within a walk of the arena will be able to make that round trip often. And this is TOTALLY the result of a fat-headed, blind, clueless, self-important bunch of transient stewards of a city whose growth comes second to their massive egos and covert interests. These simps insisted on Key Arena, ONLY so they could be right. They’re not. And when this situation reveals itself to be a debacle, those same people are going to HEAR ABOUT IT…LOUDLY.

    • Kirkland

      I recently went to the Seattle Center for a play, and used the bus and monorail. It was painless … for a Sunday afternoon. If it were for a game? Forget it. The monorail badly needs a facelift, and there’s nowhere to park. I walked around after the play, and other than the big garage North of Mercer and the small one near the Science Center, the only lots are small ones for shops, groceries and cafés. This is a disaster waiting to happen, like the 1995 renovation.

      • art thiel

        The plan is for you game attendees to reserve a parking stall with an app so there’s no more circling. Is that acceptable?

        • Kirkland

          N/A. I always take the bus or Link. Which brings up another headache altogether for that location …

        • StephenBody

          Ah, yes, the use of technology to appear as if a problem is being addressed, when it’s really solving nothing. For about the 100th time, where to park in LQA is NOT the flippin’ problem. Getting into LQA IS. An app that locates parking spots does NOTHING to address the problem of all that city traffic and how to get into one of the most densely populated and traffic-intensive parts of the entire city. All this BS of bus to rideshare to Uber to….all those are VEHICLES; vehicles that have to navigate the same streets that your car would. And MOST of the traffic that makes this so difficult is not even related to the games. It’s regular rush-hour and weekend traffic. How about if we just all agree that we’re either going to grit our teeth and go – or not go. I have a BIG TV – and put up with it as long as we can and just STOP trying to pretend that there will ever be any easy way of doing this?

          • art thiel

            The TV/streaming will be the choice of many. The business problem is that the NHL TV revs are not close to the other major sports, so they need full houses.

    • art thiel

      Well, then, you’re clear about that point. I gather Tim Leiweke shouldn’t bring up drones and the Monorail to you.

      How about the Sounder train from Tacoma to King Street Station, then a ride-share to the Center?

      • StephenBody

        I have a wife in a wheelchair. The more different modes of transportation we have to use, the greater chance that we won’t go at all. And where is the rideshare going to drive? Down those same streets that are hopelessly jammed by regular city traffic. LQA is a main artery for people going to Upper Queen Anne, east into SLU, and in and out of the businesses that are not NHL related. I’ve been in QA on a Saturday night at 11:30 when there is no event and still took twenty minutes to get down to Denny. We were going to sign up for the club seats, mainly because of priority parking but then realized that that doesn’t solve the problem of just driving our own car to where we could use priority parking. For anyone who doesn’t live within a couple of miles of the arena, especially on a weeknight, getting in and out is going to be a two to three hour proposition. This is a HOCKEY GAME, not the quest to find the Holy Grail. And, NO, Leiweke should not try to sell building more monorail…uh, didn’t we vote to approve that maybe three different times? And is there one inch more monorail? No, there is not. So how will the zoning problems that killed monorail expansion be solved now, when they couldn’t be when the area was less developed? And DRONES? DRONES?!? Am I awake, right now? Unless they’re planning to hire out the Russians’ Mil MI-26 helicopter and stack people like firewood, there is no transportation medium that carries enough people to be practical.

        This is a hardship situation. You either accept that it’s going to be a nightmare and go anyway or you don’t. The city had better hope that the initial novelty never wears off and people will love hockey enough to keep on enduring this forced march, as there is no other realistic alternative.

        • Greg Noson

          It was a nightmare going to a sonics game in 1975…only a few more peeps now :-)

        • art thiel

          You have special circumstances. That aside, you’re right about LQA topography making finite the options. The other factor not in the OVG calculation is getting those people wealthy enough to afford tickets to also give up their private cars. That demographic is generally not big on public transportation, especially with kids in tow on a school night.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    I have to admit , I personally have never cared much for hockey . Probably because the one time I tried to ice skate , I wound up walking around on my ankles the entire time . Looks an awful lot like soccer on ice to me , but I’m happy professional hockey is coming to Seattle for all the hockey fans . Maybe I’ll watch a few games and try to learn more about it ; I have no idea what the rules are or what ‘ icing’ is other than frosting on your birthday cake . Apparently there’s some strange ritual that involves throwing octopus on the ice ?! Where do they find the octopus ? LOL …

    Here’s to the Seattle Sliders , or whatever they’re called ! Go Sliders !!

    • rosetta_stoned

      Icing is when a player dumps the puck past the opponent’s end line before he crosses the red (center) line.

      The penalty exists to prevent teams from deliberately blasting the puck to the opposite end in order for them to make a line change – during live action – to replace tiring players. If they ‘ice’ the puck, the face-off comes back to their own end and they cannot make any line changes.

      • Husky73

        It also prevents “cherry picking,” like in basketball.

    • Kirkland

      The octopus is a Detroit Red Wings tradition. In the Original Six days, you needed to win eight playoff games to earn the Stanley Cu ok (two best of seven series). Since octopi have eight legs, fans invaded Detroit seafood brokers to buy octopi to throw on the ice for good luck.

    • art thiel

      Keep in mind: It’s a good day when you learn something. And don’t forget to watch Paul Newman’s film, Slapshot. It’s all you need.

      • Husky73

        Who owns the Chiefs?

  • Mavis Jarvis

    So, does this mean that all the tickets are going to season ticket holders? That there will be no single-game seats available?

    If that’s the case, it tempers my enthusiasm for hockey coming here. I’d like to see a game or two a year, but I won’t be paying $500 or whatever to a scalper.

    • Kirkland

      Teams usually hold back a good number of tickets for wake-up buyers, and there are those online exchanges where you can buy from season ticket holders who can’t make a game. With NHL teams averaging 90 percent capacity, those are good places to look.

      Also, a lot of teams have value and family packs (four tickets, hot doga, soda and whatever for $x). There are many different offers depending on the market. The Carolina Hurricanes (Raleigh) offer discounted tickets to attract students at UNC, Duke and NC State. When the Florida Panthers played in tiny and sold out Miami Arena, they had the “Panther Pack”; the entire top row of seats (still a great view) didn’t go on sale until the day of that game, for something like $10. Many a Miami teenager skipped school to grab Panther Pack tickets.

      • art thiel

        You’re right about discount packages. But it’s a very small percentage of capacity. The NHL needs a greater chunk of its revenues from attendance because of the relatively poor TV revs.

        • Kirkland

          That’s why Bettman is pursuing US markets and ignoring Quebec City. He thinks Canada is maxed out for ticket sales and TV revenue, and wants to expand the US footprint, with bigger markets for TV and tickets. Seattle fits the population, corporate and TV market bill perfectly, and shows why he’s fighting to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, the country’s fifth biggest city. Now Bettman has to improve the TV contract, another issue.

          • art thiel

            All true. I don’t know what Bettman can do to improve ratings, unless all play naked. It’s still a niche TV sport.

    • art thiel

      I’m sure there will be set-asides for single games, but I suspect most season-ticket holders will sell their unused tickets on the secondary market. After the honeymoon, you’ll find $50 tickets occasionally.

  • rosetta_stoned

    This comes as no surprise to Puget Sound hockey fans. T-Birds. Silvertips. Even the Tacoma Rockets.

    The demand is there. It’s been there. I just wish they chose another location.

    • art thiel

      None of the mentioned teams were big financial successes. They were affordable, niche minor league teams. Which is cool. Will that fan base pay $250 a ticket in 2020 for the big boys?

      • Kirkland

        NHL teams all have 6-pack ticket plans , for about the same price range as the Sounders’ full season plans. Many fans will use this, I would’ve bought this, and I think that would be affordable for those junior hockey fans who go to every WHL home game but also want some NHL side action.

        Another popular option is season ticket “consortiums”, where friends buy full season tickets and divide up individual games amongst themselves. And there will still be a ton who will buy full season plans and go to every single game, credit card balance be damned. NHL players will tell you they recognize a lot of the faces in the atands at each home game.

        What I’m interested in is how many businesses bought deposits, those make up a large chunk of NHL ticket sales. The lower rows at Toronto’s arena are all corporate seats, and the regular Leaf fans stuck up high always snicker at how those seats are empty for the first few minutes of each period; the occupants are still in the corporate bar signing cocktail napkin business deals over sushi.

  • StephenBody

    Suggestions for team names (because the actual lists are SO freakin’ boring):

    Seattle Ice: (WHY is no hockey NHL named the “ICE”?)
    Seattle Rock: suggesting grunge rock and the city’s music scene
    Seattle Tech: for tech industry
    Seattle Flight: for aeronautic industry
    Seattle Orcas: killer whales
    Seattle Grind: for our coffee scene
    Seattle Mash: for the city’s brewing and distilling community
    Seattle Slash: after hockey penalty and GNR guitarist
    Seattle Wings (or Wingers): For hockey position and suggests Seahawks
    Seattle Green: after our foliage and suggesting environmentalism
    Seattle Convegence: after the convergence zone, “The Verge”, for short
    Seattle Haze: for Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and our frequent murkiness.

    • Husky73

      Totems.

      • StephenBody

        Tat’s one of the boring ones.

    • Husky73

      Vancouver’s logo is an orca.

      • StephenBody

        They’re called the Canucks, not the Orcas.

  • Chris Alexander

    I find it amazing that the area’s love of the #12 continues … the NHL ticket drive reached its goal in TWELVE minutes (!!!). And they took almost twice as many deposits in a single day as they have seats available. WoW! Then sneak in the somewhat throwaway line about the potential NHL owners ALSO being interested in bidding on an NBA team if/when one becomes available and it’s a really good story in an overall sense.

    But, like everyone else weighing in, I’m still not sold on the idea of trying to get to/from the arena for a game or a concert. It was bad when the Sonics were here and nothing has improved infrastructure and traffic-wise in that area since they left.

    • Kirkland

      I understand the Pac 12 women’s hoops is going on at the Key this weekend. Would love to hear of the traffic stories from attendees.

      • art thiel

        Capacity crowds are not anticipated.

  • jafabian

    Looking forward to this having grown up on dodging hockey pucks during Totems matches. (No plexiglass back then.). Someone should start taking odds on how long before Portland gets a team. Portland does not like taking a back seat to Seattle.

    • art thiel

      No room for a 33rd team, but maybe a relocated one. There are several candidates.

    • Kirkland

      Don’t see it. I don’t think Portland is large enough for the two pro winter sports. And from my chats with Portland hockey fans, many would rather keep the WHO Winterhawks and avoid the NHL. They prefer the cheaper tickets and seeing future pro stars in their development years.

  • Craig Paulsen

    Any word if Tod Lieweke is involved like has been speculated Art?

    • Kirkland

      IIRC Tod Leiwicke is a top officer in the NFL, presumably helping to save Roger Goodell from himself.

      • Craig Paulsen

        Im well aware, doesnt mean he’s in that position for the rest of his life.

        • art thiel

          It would not surprise me to see Tod back with an NHL team. Goodell recently had his contract extended, so any immediate aspirations to the throne that that Tod may have had are put off. But I don’t think being commish especially suits him.

          Both Leiweke boys love hockey, and Tod was playing in a senior league when he was here. He also loves Seattle and was the principal whisperer with Tim about the Key’s potential.

  • Parts

    “…flyover for a lot of bands because the acoustics…”? That is a huge load of BS. EVERY act comes to this market. Local promoters have higher take at non-union venues (pretty much every OTHER local venue besides The Key). Trust me, if they gave a rats butt about acoustics the Tacoma Dome would NEVER have any concerts. I sure hope that the city didn’t waive the requirements about using union labor at Seattle Center for OVG.