This week, a Seattle group officially submitted an application for an expansion team in the NHL. To be frank, the rest of this process in terms of the league itself, should be a formality: Seattle is getting a team.
Because unlike the NBA, it’s been clear to many of us the NHL has been waiting specifically for Seattle.
Remember, the NHL’s expansion process was first announced more than 2 ½ years ago, when this city did not have its act together in terms of a viable arena plan. It would’ve been easy for the NHL to accept two applications from other cities at that time, grant them teams, and call it a day.
But they didn’t. They only accepted one - Las Vegas – and then waited, despite an uneven number of 31 total teams. And then waited some more. The expansion process was officially closed until - surprise! – immediately after the Seattle City Council approved an arena plan.
So say what you want – in my mind, that 32nd spot was reserved for this city. And while nothing is “final” just yet, I can’t imagine anything going haywire that would prevent this from happening.
Now, I’m sure some of you are saying, “Seriously. Don’t jinx this. You’re like the guy screaming about a pitcher’s no-hitter before he’s completed a no-hitter!” And I get that. But the only real external factor that stands in the way from this happening is a significant construction delay – and even then, I can’t see the NHL balking at having to wait one more year for a new franchise to start play or, at the very worst, playing in a temporary location until the arena is complete.
And that’s the difference we’ve seen between the two leagues: The NHL sees the value in Seattle and has waited patiently to make it happen. The NHL has been on Seattle’s timeline. The NBA will put Seattle on its timeline when it’s good and ready.
Case-in-point: In late 2016, it was speculated that expansion bidding could be announced shortly after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached. Close to a year and a half later, nothing has been announced. Is Seattle in a better position when and if the league decides to expand? Yes. Would it be in an even better position if it had multiple arena options in Seattle? Of course (that’s where SODO’s conditional street vacation request comes in).
So while NBA commissioner Adam Silver might say he’d like to right a major wrong – that Seattle might be next in line for a franchise – there’s been no definitive action to tell us anything is imminent. Just rumors, and “maybes” and hopes for more than a decade.
Now, the results of the season ticket drive for a future NHL team in Seattle, which is expected to launch in the next few weeks, will be interesting, sure – but it’s not going to stop a league from coming to the 12th largest media market in the country with a natural rivalry with Vancouver built-in, right up the street!
Right now, our top priority as a fan base, is to welcome the league that wants to be here. Let’s welcome the NHL with open arms.
As for the NBA, the ball’s still in their court. As a loyal sports town that loves our teams, we don’t have to prove anything more.