Report: Seattle Almost Became An NHL Town In 2013


With their championship last season, the Seattle Seahawks joined the Seattle SuperSonics and the Seattle Metropolitans as winners of major sports league championships in the Emerald City. You may recognize those as the names of teams that aren’t around anymore. Basketball’s only recently left town, but it’s been a long, long time since NHL hockey was played in this city. Like, closing in on a hundred years.

Ever since Chris Hansen began his push to acquire and relocate an NBA team, the buzz has been that the NHL could be on the way, too. Indeed, that’s long been the plan – Hansen’s dream involves a beautiful arena in SoDo that can house both basketball and hockey games. There’s no rule that a hockey team would have to wait until a basketball team was already in town. Which brings us to this.

The Arizona Coyotes used to be called the Phoenix Coyotes, and their future in the desert used to be an open question. You know how this story goes: pro sports team wants a new arena, or at least substantial upgrades, but the city (rightfully) doesn’t want to front the bill. So the team goes city shopping in hopes of scaring their host town into ponying up big money. Phoenix didn’t want to approve funds for the Coyotes, but they also didn’t want the team to leave. In a 4-3 vote, the Glendale City Council agreed to keep their team in town.

That, obviously, is as close as a vote can get, and there is much to be said about how things got to that point. There’s even an investigation currently ongoing as to whether or not some of the city council members illegally met with members of the Coyotes ownership group prior to the vote. But the big story is that the NHL was entirely on board with a move to Seattle had that swing vote swung the other way.

There was an owner in place: Ray Bartoszek, an investment banker from New York. There were plans for the team to play at Key Arena for three years while a new stadium was constructed. There were even moving trucks standing by in the event that the vote went the other way. One vote. This was one Glendale City Council vote away from happening.

Of course, the Coyotes stuck around and are owned by IceArizona. Seattle still has no NHL team. But things were closer than anyone could have ever imagined. Unlike the NBA’s reluctance to support relocation of the Sacramento Kings, the NHL was all for a move if it meant stability for the franchise. Hansen pitched his arena plan to Bartoszek, and Bartoszek liked what he heard. Key Arena was saving dates for the upcoming season in case the vote went Seattle’s way. And none of us knew until now.

It’s disappointing, in that the Arizona Coyotes play in Arizona and not Seattle. It’s encouraging, in that this definitively shows that the NHL isn’t likely to directly interfere with franchise relocation if it makes sense. So there’s no team here, and nothing on the immediate horizon. But that won’t always be the case. Things change. Who knows when, but the NHL is coming.