Seattle thinking NHL after NBA commish says no expansion team coming soon

My apologies for not updating you the weekend before last when new NBA commissioner Adam Silver declared that he’s in no hurry to issue new expansion franchises:

“My job is to ensure that 30 teams are healthy and competitive and so that’s what my priority is as opposed to expansion,” Silver said.

On the one hand, of course he’s going to say this — so long as there are team owners out there trying to get new arena deals by hinting at moving to vacant cities (hey there, Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl!), Silver would be foolish to start plugging those holes with expansion teams a minute before he has to. On the other hand, this has Seattle NBA fans who were hoping for a revived Sonics wailing and gnashing their teeth that no quick resolution is now likely.

Meanwhile, for folks who just want some kind of new sports arena built in Seattle, they don’t care what sport it’s for — beats me who these people are, but apparently they exist — focus has turned to attracting an NHL team, with several potential owners rumored to be interested, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The NHL has been more open to adding a Seattle expansion team, and there have even been rumors of an expansion announcement coming in the next few weeks, but then you run into the problem that Chris Hansen’s arena plan is contingent on getting an NBA team. Presumably someone (Ballmer?) could simply copy Hansen’s plans, crossing out “basketball” and writing in “hockey,” but given that Hansen’s numbers didn’t seem too likely of turning a profit anyway, and his whole arena plan only made sense as a way of fulfilling his personal ambition of owning a new Sonics franchise, it’s tough to see why anyone would want to do this.

But hey, why worry ourselves over where to find half a billion dollars for an arena when there’s the nickname of this phantom NHL franchise to argue over? Go, Kraken!

13 comments on “Seattle thinking NHL after NBA commish says no expansion team coming soon

  1. “Meanwhile, for folks who just want some kind of new sports arena built in Seattle, they don’t care what sport it’s for — beats me who these people are, but apparently they exist”

    Oh, they exist alright. Check out any of the individual city forums on or and you’ll find plenty of them. They’re mostly males in their teens and twenties who are obsessed with construction. They get excited about each announcement of a new apartment complex so the construction of a new sports arena is like the Holy Grail to them. You can’t discuss economics or opportunity costs with them, they don’t care and will use whatever propaganda thrown out by team owners as proof that it’s the right thing to do. Enviably the term “world class city” will be tossed around quite a bit though they won’t be able to answer why the last sports arena that made all the same promises didn’t come through. But they’re sure that this one will, because, bells, whistles, shiny, new, retractable roof, fans plaza, etc.

    Funny thing is most of them aren’t actually sports fans. They will cheer on a team if they think they’re about to win a championship. After all, winning championships is what a “world class city” is expected to do. But most couldn’t name a single player from any of the teams using these taxpayer subsidized arenas. They’re only interested in it for the glory of the edifice and they have plenty of time on their hands for dominating online forums and newspaper comment sections to make sure that any dissenting opinion is drown out.

  2. Are there fantasy leagues for these people, where they can draft their favorite architects?

  3. The MOU is with ArenaCo. Presumably, Ballmer is part of ArenaCo and probably the majority owner. The MOU is on the 2nd year of a 5 year window so looking ahead at the relo-boogie man, they probably need the NHL to construct the building in the 5 year window.

  4. I think they just need to break ground by August of 2017 since that is 5 years from the time the MOU was ratified (August of 2012). More than enough time for the NHL although there is always the financing issue. It really all comes down to how passionate Ballmer is about hockey. Hansen will never do an NHL first scenario with his own money but if Ballmer is willing to front the money than you can pretty much pencil in an expansion team in Seattle with Quebec City or Portland being the #2 team.

    Not saying I’m necessarily a fan of the scenario. I think Howard Schultz blew it for the NBA though. They had a monopoly on the winter sports market since the Key Arena couldn’t hold NHL hockey. Schultz could’ve sold the team to a local like Ballmer, who then could’ve turned around and spent his own money on renovating the Key up to current NBA standards. That would’ve been a whole lot cheaper than what they have laid out now.

  5. I would love to get the NBA back to Seattle. Every Seattle sports fan wants than; however, the NBA is not interested in being in Seattle right now. The NHL is interested in being in Seattle, so we should do whatever we can to get them here. The NBA turned it’s back on us twice. If we turn our back on the NHL now, it could be decades, if ever, for us to get either the NHL or NBA. Seattle is a world class city without a world class winter sports venue or major league winter teams. We need to take the opportunity now to build the arena while there is passion and momentum to do so. Bring the NHL now, build the arena, and the NBA will eventually come. In the mean time, we will get to enjoy winter sports in our city again. Who knows, maybe our hockey team will become a dynasty and bring more titles than all the others combined. If not, hockey is still pretty cool. Maybe not as good as basketball, but still awfully fun and exciting. Better than nothing. Go Hawks!!!

  6. I eagerly anticipate the binding “ticket waitlist” that shows that 100,000 people are lined up to buy season tickets to a relocated Stars team. $14 billion Ballmer is not exactly the best frontman for opening up renegotiation with Seattle and King County as needing “a little help to make it all pencil out” and going NBA only at first seemed a lot less risky than going NHL only.

  7. Like the movie Field of Dreams…”if you build it they will come”. If people took what this site said seriously, there’d be no such things as stadiums/arenas.

    Well.. Why do we want arena? NHL and NBA. Plus the other events a state of the art aren holds. Key arena has been past by conventions, tounaments and other events. That’s $ that goes to this city.

  8. The NHL is interested in Seattle for the demographics alone (hello, Phoenix), but KeyArena would be a horrible place to stash a team for X years until when/if the new arena is built. The Key is fine for basketball, but would easily be the worst venue in the NHL…the sightlines are terrible. I’d suggest the Tacoma Dome, which is larger and would probably cost less to rent, but it too has poor sightlines due to the too-gradual rake in seating and distance from permanent seats to the ice.

    If I’m Gary Bettman, I’m looking to go into Quebec City before Seattle. Quebec has an NHL-ready arena now, they’ve broken ground on a new arena and does anyone think there would ever be an empty seat there? There’s some interest in major league hockey in Seattle, but not enough to make it worth putting an NHL team there…the Major Junior team even bailed for a 6,000-seat arena in the ‘burbs (and they don’t fill that one, either).

  9. GuiltyBystander, you’d have to do a lot of modifications to the MOU to not use KeyArena. So much of the transportation fund and KeyArena renovation fund was from taxes collected at KeyArena during the first few years of use that it would be a pretty big hit to make up out of pocket (presuming Tacoma would not want to hand over those tax collections for improving a Seattle area project).

  10. I wonder if the Key had trouble filling those dates the city council and seattle center guys said were holding for Hansen’s projected Kings games this year. Just adding to the public costs of those years of consideration for the NBA.

  11. SEATTLE IS GETTING AN NHL TEAM and it will be an expansion team not the relocation of a struggling franchise. Seattle has 241K “Avid Hockey Fans and you can read more about it here That number is higher than 4 existing NHL Franchises. I also have a poll of “What Type of Hockey Fan are you” and as of this morning 93% of respondents would support an NHL team in Seattle with 49% willing to reach down into their pockets and pay for seasons tickets or at the very least attend a game when their favorite team is in town.

    What is more intriguing to me is what is the potential for a “Canadian Effect” to attend NHL games in Seattle? NHL to Seattle did a good job describing how BlueJay fans drive attendance at Mariners games ( While clearly there are Canadian expats that live here (I am one) many more make the annual pilgrimage to support their Blue Jays when they come to Seattle. I saw a report from the CBC that said as much as 10% of Detroit Red Wing sales come from Ontario and suspect that the Niagara Peninsula and Golden Horseshoe contributes as much as 30% of the Buffalo Saber sales. I also know that there are lots of NFL fans in Canada who support the Seahawks. While I believe all of this to be true, it’s all “Gut feel and squishy” because I don’t have concrete data to support my claims.

    If anyone has data on Canadians attending (and or spending) money in the US for sporting events, PLEASE SHARE. If as a fan YOU would be interested in attending NHL games in Seattle, let us know that too. We promise to be gracious hosts.

  12. Good points, Chefjoe. Hadn’t thought about KeyArena taxes. Still, how badly does the NHL want to move into an arena that seats 10,000 or less for hockey with an overhead scoreboard that obscures ice views from end-zone seats? Besides, how would owners of an NHL team NOT named Chris Hansen or Steve Ballmer be bound to an MOU they had no hand in negotiating? The loss of tax revenue would be the City of Seattle’s problem, not the owner of an NHL team camping out in Tacoma until a new Seattle arena is built (and no way would I want a franchise in Seattle before the new arena is a sure deal).

  13. What if the arena was just paid for 100% with private and donated money? If there was a place to donate money for this arena I bet we sports fans could raise the money ourselves!