Seattle's KING5 TV is reporting that a local group is interested in luring a National Hockey League team to the Emerald City.
"We've had discussions with a group in Seattle," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the station earlier this week. "Certainly [there are]people who are interested in having NHL hockey in Seattle. I would rather not get into specifics to be fair to that group, or the process."
Daly questioned the suitability of Key Arena, the former home of the NBA's Sonics, which has "obstructed view" seats for hockey, a strong hint that a new facility would be needed before Seattle can seriously pursue a team. Daly said he did not believe the Seattle group was willing to act in time for the 2011-12 NHL season, but that the league was "intrigued" by a potential rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Aquilini family, which owns the Canucks, has long hoped that Seattle would get an NHL franchise, and create a natural geographic rival for their team. The Canucks borrow rivals around the Western Conference - right now it is the Chicago Blackhawks, in previous years it has been the Calgary Flames - but their fans cannot readily access another NHL market by car.
That would change if Seattle, about a three- to four-hour drive from B.C.'s Lower Mainland, entered the league. Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini once told The Globe and Mail that a corridor of hockey along Interstate-5 - from Seattle, to suburban Everett, Washington, where there is a Western Hockey League franchise, to Vancouver - would do wonders for the sport.
The Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, but folded seven years later.
The WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds played at Key Arena until 2009, but bolted for the 6,500-seat ShoWare Center because their former home was built for basketball and ill-suited for hockey. Seattle is without an NBA team after the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008.
KING5 reported that the interested group does not include Microsoft Corp. chief executive officer Steve Ballmer.