Three Groups, No Bids: Seattle Whiffs On NHL Expansion


The NHL wants to expand. They made this much clear a few months ago, and recently they announced the opening of a bidding window for prospective ownership groups who wanted to get in on the expansion action. It was said to be a given that a Seattle-based group would place a bid. Multiple Seattle groups, possibly. It’s been an exciting time for us lately.

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Well, the deadline has come and gone. There were indeed three interested groups from the Seattle area – one apiece from Tukwila, Bellevue, and Seattle are said to have inquired about expansion. But right now, as the dust settles, we know only one thing for sure – not one of them placed a formal bid. Yeah, that’s right – all three potential ownership groups for a Seattle-based NHL team decided they’d rather just pass.

All told, only two groups ended up making bids – Quebec City and Las Vegas. Those two, along with Seattle, had long been considered the heavy favorites for receiving an expansion team. Seattle, of course, was considered the most likely of the three. And yet here we are, with our main competitors moving forward while we’re sitting here wondering what happened.

No, seriously – what happened? Most current speculation revolves around the issue of the fee. Interested groups were asked to pay a $10 million deposit, of which $2 million was non-refundable. That’s a pretty big chunk of change to throw at a possibility, and apparently none of the Seattle groups were up for it.

They would have been more likely to bid had their been arena plans in place, of course. Pin some of this blame on the NHL, who made the curious decision to sort of rush the timeline here. While the Tukwila group gave it a good push, they really did only have about a month to try to get an arena plan finalized. Or at least close to finalized. It wasn’t enough time, and so it didn’t happen.

Quebec City and Las Vegas, meanwhile, were the only two cities where an arena is not only already planned, but in the process of being built. The NHL is pushing to have teams ready to play by 2017. Again, the timing just wasn’t right for Seattle. Which makes it so much more frustrating, given that the timing was almost right.

So what’s next? The Arizona Coyotes, of course! I kid, barring further notice. Now the Seattle groups have to sit and think about what they’ve done and where to go from here. This isn’t the end of the road, even if it is an uncomfortable position to be in. Can they get back in on the expansion action? Maybe, but this release from the NHL makes it seem unlikely, particularly this line: “We now intend to focus exclusively on the two expansion applications that have been submitted in accordance with the previously announced process.”

If Seattle wants back in, the NHL is going to have to break their own rules to make it happen. That would be an unsightly business decision, given that they just got $4 million from two parties who probably think (and rightfully so) that they’re on the verge of getting expansion teams. It would be an insult to their “previously announced process” and an admission of frustration at the lack of bidding.

That being said, letting Seattle (and/or Portland, Milwaukee, Toronto, and whoever else) back into the mix would be good for the NHL. They want competition so that they can charge a larger expansion fee. Not a lot of competition when there’s two groups gunning for two spots, but that’s the current mess.

Seattle had three chances to bid for an NHL expansion team, and they whiffed on all three counts. The process will now move on without the PNW’s involvement, which is a shame. But due to the timing of this, maybe it shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. Still a shock, though, since Seattle really did seem to be the favorite all along.