The National Hockey League will welcome its 31st franchise to the mix in 2017-18 as the Vegas Golden Knights set to become the first professional sports team in Sin City.
The first NHL expansion team since 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets joined the league, the addition of Las Vegas to the fold has raised interest in other cities around the United States and Canada, boosting hopes of landing a team of their own — perhaps sooner rather than later.
The Emerald City
One metropolis vying for an NHL franchise is the sports-hungry city of Seattle. The Pacific Northwest city in the state of Washington is already home to Major League Baseball (Seattle Mariners), the National Football League (Seattle Seahawks) and Major League Soccer (Seattle Sounders), but since losing its National Basketball Association’s Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, there has been a void in the Emerald City.
For hockey fans in Seattle, news of a possible NHL team surfacing has gained traction in the last few days. Discussions regarding the former home of the SuperSonics — KeyArena — and renovation to bring the venue up to NHL arena standards have moved to the forefront of negotiations.
As the 14th-largest media market in the U.S., the NHL has shown interest in Seattle for some time and many sports fans want the city to do everything in its power to turn that dream into reality. There is a proposed NHL ownership group in place if Seattle can get KeyArena up to snuff. Of course, several things need to fall in line for a team to call Seattle home.
Seattle Sports Scene
There is no doubt Seattle is a great sports town. Just three years removed from the Seahawks’ National Football League championship in 2014, Seattle shares CenturyLink Field with the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer. The team regularly averages more than 40,000 fans to home games, which has been an MLS-best in terms of attendance through 2017.
That same fanatical interest in the city’s soccer team can also be replicated by an NHL franchise. And without an NBA team to share the winter months, that team could do very well. Seattle’s location would make it a prime city for a team as well. Regional rivalries would be created immediately with Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and even Las Vegas just a stone’s throw away in terms of North American geography.
Major Junior ice hockey already exists in the newly-crowned Western Hockey League champion Seattle Thunderbirds, which play its games at ShoWare Center in suburban Kent, Wa., but it is becoming more and more evident the city can and will support an NHL franchise in the future.
Is It Likely?
In the multi-billion dollar sports world, never say never on Seattle acquiring an NHL franchise. Some have already speculated that the Emerald City could have a team playing in the league by 2020. A lot has to go right for that to happen beginning with the remodeling of KeyArena, which was built in 1960.
The NHL will have 31 teams in 2017-18 — 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 15 teams in the Western Confernece. Adding Seattle to the list of teams out west would even things up at 16 apiece, giving the league better symmetry.
Of all the American cities currently vying for an expansion team, Seattle looks like the best fit for ice hockey.
Written by Drew Farmer / @DrewMFarmer
Special to HockeyClan
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Main Image: KeyArena, with a seating capacity of 17,459, is a multi-purpose arena in Seattle. It is located north of downtown in the 74-acre entertainment complex known as Seattle Center. (Wikipedia)