Does the NBA Returning to Seattle Foreshadow an NHL Debut There?

By Matt Clouden

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It was announced today by many outlets that the NBA‘s Sacramento Kings have been sold to a Seattle, Washington-based group who have every intention of moving the franchise to the Pacific Northwest for the 2013-14 season.

While this may seem completely unrelated to all things hockey, it may actually be a precursor to similar NHL news.

Seattle was thrown into the NHL limelight at the beginning of the lockout when Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz visited the area to essentially strong-arm the city of Edmonton into brokering a deal for a new arena for the Oilers. Katz’s visit revolved around the then recently approved $500 million arena meant to attract an NBA and/or NHL franchise to the city.

Now, with the NBA returning to a city that many argue it should never have left in the first place, the NHL will become the next target.

However, there are a few obstacles to getting an NHL team in Seattle.

First, Vancouver is only about 140 miles north of Seattle. It’s unlikely that Vancouver will be strongly against a new, geographically close rival, but the new franchise would likely need to pay a hefty expansion fee that the Canucks will get a portion of. Winnipeg paid a $60 million relocation fee last year, so expect any expansion fee to be at least that, and do not be surprised to see the fee range toward $100 million.

Second, the hope for relocation of a current franchise has dwindled as of late, especially with the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation finally coming to a resolution and the New York Islanders finding a new, swanky home in Brooklyn for the 2015 season. There certainly are some relocation candidates out there, but nowhere near as strong as the Coyotes were toward the end of last season.

Lastly, the new arena has not even broken ground yet and really is still in the planning phases. That means any NHL team would have to play in KeyArena, which basically was the foremost reason the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City. While a temporary situation, the thought of playing in KeyArena, even for a short time, may turn off fans and potential owners alike.

Despite the hurdles, the writing seems to be on the wall. While the NHL’s conference realignment has not been announced, many have said its more of just a formality at this point and to expect it either in 2013-14 or 2014-15 at the latest. With the two eight-team conferences and the two seven team conferences, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the NHL is setting itself up to bring in two more teams. The Pacific Northwest is ripe with hockey tradition, so do not be surprised to see a group (or individual) bring an NHL team to Seattle.

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