NHL NOT LIKELY IN KEY ARENA

NHL NOT LIKELY IN KEY ARENA

By |2013-06-18T13:04:07+00:00June 18th, 2013|Tags: , , , , , |8 Comments

I love hockey.

I first fell for the sport as a kid listening to Chicago Black Hawks games on the radio. Most kids hate going to bed particularly on Sunday night. But as a 10 year old I used to look forward to it. By 8:30 I’d be in bed, radio tuned to WMAQ with play by play man Lloyd Pettit on the call. Chicago seemed to play every Sunday night and I listened whenever they did.

I didn’t see the sport live until I was 14. But I was there on opening night for the Indianapolis Racers and I was hooked from that point on.

 

The program from the first game in Indianapolis Racers history.

 

It still boggles my mind that in their final days before going under in 1978 they released Mark Messier and sold Wayne Gretzky.  Here’s Gretzky’s first professional goal. A great shot in front of a full house of appreciative fans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfeUHBneFkg

About 2 weeks later the Racers owner sold Gretzky to his friend and business partner Peter Pocklington who owned the Edmonton Oilers. The Racers folded 2 months later. I imagine a world where Messier and Gretzky would have teamed up to win Indy a bunch of trophies. Oh, well. Sometimes in sports (and life) it’s fun to dream. Reality doesn’t usually match up.

Hockey fans in Seattle have been dreaming of late of an NHL team in the area as soon as this fall. I hope I’m wrong here but I don’t see any way that’s going to happen.

The Phoenix Coyotes have been a mess almost since they arrived in the desert 15 years ago. They played in the Suns arena…a building not designed for hockey and featuring several thousand obstructed view seats. I went to a game there once and it was wild watching fans in one end zone keep their eyes on the ice until about the time the puck crossed the blue line…then…like the back and forth action at a tennis match…they would all in unison look up at the big screen TV hung from the roof to continue following the action. The Coyotes eventually got a hockey building built in Glendale near where the Mariners train. The building is so far from the population base of Phoenix that attendance has been a constant problem. The Coyotes declared bankruptcy in 2007 and the NHL has owned the franchise since 2009.

A friend of mine with NHL connections tells me it’s highly unlikely the team would relocate to Seattle but points out that with the unmitigated mess the league has created in Phoenix, anything is possible. But a move to Seattle? That seems far fetched.

The city does not have an acceptable building. Key Arena was not built with the NHL in mind. Conspiracy theorists pose that then Sonics owner Barry Ackerley purposely designed the arena to keep hockey out. This overlooks two rather pertinent facts.

1. Ackerley tried to get a basketball/hockey arena built in SoDo in 1991. He was shut down when the city refused to do a deal with him. The Key Arena re-do became the back up plan and was done at an agreed upon cheap cost that prevented expansion of the footprint necessary for hockey.

2. There has never, in my 2o plus years here, been an owner willing to publicly commit to bringing the NHL here. And commit not just verbally but more important commit financially. You can’t have a team without an owner. If in the period between 1991 (when the Ackerley Arena proposal was nixed by the city) and 1994 (when the Key Arena plan was approved) a deep pocketed hockey owner had stepped forward then Key Arena could have been built to accommodate both sports. When no one did the city, to keep the cost of the remodel down, agreed to keep the building’s footprint the exact same size as the old Coliseum. That negated hockey then and still does.

To be clear, a rink will fit in Key Arena. But a part of it sits under the overhang of the end zone seats at the south end. The building seats anywhere from 11,000 to 15,000 for hockey but many of those seats are bad with obstructed views of the ice. From the website sciencewitness.com here’s a photo of what the building looks like.

 

keyarenahockey4

 

With other arena ready options available in  Quebec City (opening in 2015), Kansas City (ready now), or  staying in Phoenix, (still possible) it seems highly unlikely the league would move the team to Seattle to play in a sub par building especially when the proposed new Seattle arena is still just that. Proposed.

People who trot out Everett or Kent as locations apparently are unaware that those two buildings both seat under 10,000. Not going to happen. The Tacoma Dome?

 

tacomadome05

 

Let’s see…no suites and no club seats for starters.  The Tacoma Dome also offers the unlikely supposition that fans will pay major league prices to sit in bleachers.

I spoke with my friend Ian Furness yesterday about this and he and I are in the same boat. We’d both love the sport to come here but this scenario just doesn’t pencil out. Ian rightly points out that among other things a new team would have about 3 months to get  a practice facility built. In process mad Seattle it’s laughable to think something like that could be accomplished in 3 months. Even if this deal did work out…you’re getting a struggling franchise playing in a bad building. Is this the way to introduce the NHL to Seattle? No.

As stated, I love hockey. I paid $1200 for two tickets to the fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals two years ago in Vancouver. That got me seats in the second to last row. It remains one of my all time favorite games. I’d love to be able to attend games in Seattle and maybe some day that will happen. But for all the media hype surrounding this story it doesn’t make sense on too many levels.

Finally, there’s been a lot of chatter about the NHL is just “using” Seattle the way the NBA did.

While that thought plays into the victimization card that some Seattle fans ceaselessly love to play it doesn’t hold water. If I tell you to meet me at 3am this morning on the 520 bridge because I’ve got a bag of cash for you…and you go…and I don’t show up…did I use you?  Or are you a fool?

Common sense should tell you that the NHL is an absolute long shot here right now. That all could change if construction on the new arena gets started. But until then, anyone who buys too deeply into this story cannot then complain that we were “used”.

 

Thoughts? Comment away or email me at kjrgas@aol.com

About the Author:

Mike Gastineau has been a fixture in the Seattle sports community since his arrival in June of 1991. In a business where loyalty and longevity are rarely used in the same sentence his 21-year career at KJR Radio screams out both. During his time at KJR Gas created the KJR Kares-a-thon, a yearly charity radio show that raised over $1.5 million for various Puget Sound-area charities.

8 Comments

  1. Dan (@krkotoad) June 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    While I agree with your points that Key Arena isn’t a great place for hockey… I don’t agree that Seattle is behind KC or other cities. The biggest thing is for the NHL to have an option to move the team NOW. Seattle is a place the NHL WANTS a team. No, they don’t want them in the Key, they want them in the new proposed building. But more importantly they want a team in Seattle. It sounds like if the Coyotes became available, the NHL has found all the pieces in place to put them in Seattle… so the far fetched part has nothing to do with the building, it’s far fetched for one reason… Why would the Glendale city council turn down a bad deal (yes, it’s bad for them) and force their beautiful building to be come EMPTY… It will basically come down to this, if they get a good management offer for the facility from another company, they will take it. The Coyotes WILL move to Seattle. If not, they will take the crappy deal being offered and the Coyotes will stay. The decision will have nothing to do with Key Arena. Nothing.

  2. Carl Grace June 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Dan is right. You and Ian are too focused on the short-term. The NHL is looking long-term and Seattle provides them with a solution. It may end up just being leverage, but the threat to move out of AZ is very real. To their credit, the NHL has given Phoenix every chance to keep the Coyotes, even if it is a very clearly a non-viable market. Is Quebec City a more hockey-friendly town with an arena plan in place? Yes. But Seattle has a higher ceiling in the NHL’s mind. It’s a good-sized American TV market (see: NBC) with a pre-built fanbase (Portland, Seattle, Everett, Vancouver, youth teams). NHL in QC is a known entity and there are reasons it did not succeed the first time around. Many still exist. Also, the NHL JUST realligned this year, and a move to Seattle does not upset the balance of a plan that required considerable effort to push through. On paper, this makes no sense for Seattle in 2013. None. The season starts in 3 months. 3 months! BUT the opportunity for the NHL to make a fairly clean break from a bad market is looming, and that — in the NHL’s mind — is worth short-term pain. Seattle, long-term, makes more sense than Phoenix. And the NHL knows that.

  3. Jason Long June 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    One thing Seattle has going for it is geography. The NHL would love to keep the Coyotes on the West Coast (KC and QC don’t qualify). If the Hansen/Balmer team is willing to build their arena for the NHL first then Seattle has a chance at landing a franchise.

  4. Benjamin Berry June 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Seattle doesn’t have to believe it is more than a long-shot, to be used. In fact it doesn’t matter what Seattle believes or feels as to to whether or not they are a viable option for the NHL in 2013.

    It’s what he NHL is doing, with their “Plan B” and a now public ownership group who wants to move them to Seattle. Information that has curiously come out in just enough time for the Glendale city council to chew on for a week or so before voting.

    The threat of moving to Seattle as a “Plan B” option, if Glendale does not give the NHL what they want, is using Seattle.

  5. Thor June 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Non-sense! Your opinion does not make sense at all. The Sharks played in the Cow Palace for 2 seasons while their arena was being built. The NHL is looking for a long-term solution and Seattle offers that.

    • Mike Gastineau June 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Thor, the key phrase in your comment is “while their arena was being built”. No arena being built here (yet) which makes it hard to argue Seattle as a “long term” solution.

  6. hoody June 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Gas, as usual you’re right on…and the ackerley history is a good reminder that politicians (liberals) have stood in the way of pro sports privately financed or not, for decades in the emerald city..

  7. David C Kimball June 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    I seriously doubt the the NHL would block a move by the Vancouver AHL team to Key Arena if there weren’t the possibllity of having the Coyotes move here. The NHL is looking in the long term and Seattle is ideal in that regards. It might even be to the Coyotes advantage to play in Key arena, especially if the team makes the playoffs for a couple years increasing the demand exponentially.

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