Is the NHL destined for Seattle? Potential owner calls it “the perfect match”

Rory Boylen
Gary Bettman

Currently, there are two arenas being built in what are considered potential NHL relocation or expansion markets. Quebec City’s arena is scheduled to be finished in September of 2015 and the MGM Resorts/AEG project in Las Vegas will be finished in two years. In fact, the mayor of Las Vegas has talked about building a second arena, which would partially be covered by public money.

But Seattle, which is not building a new arena right now, remains the most intriguing destination for the NHL. It’s a west coast team, which would balance the conference split if an eastern team needed to be relocated. It would be a competitive, rivalry market for Vancouver. And it has plans to build a brand new arena…as soon as it gets an NBA franchise.

Chris Hansen holds the rights to build the new arena in Seattle, but he has no interest in owning a hockey team. That’s where Victor Coleman comes in. The CEO and president of Hudson Pacific Properties is very optimistic about Seattle as an NHL market.

“I think the demographic base and the desire of the NHL in that marketplace is the perfect match right now. The expansion of the NHL into the Pacific Northwest, with Vancouver and the presiding area, makes it a perfect fit,” Coleman said to KING 5′s Chris Daniels. “There are built in synergies. That’s a ‘Day 1’ rivalry.”

Coleman is a Vancouver native who currently lives in Los Angeles. According to that KING 5 story, he met with Hansen a few weeks ago after talking for months. There, the two groups signed a non-binding agreement, “which lays out the terms for Coleman’s contribution to the project and his potential revenue streams for a hockey franchise.”

And it gets even more interesting.

We know Gary Bettman has been stopping by the city to meet civic officials, but according to Daniels’ story the commissioner met Coleman, too :

It’s clear Coleman has the support of the NHL. One league executive describes him as “the real deal,” and he was flanked by the NHL’s top leaders during a clandestine meeting in Seattle back in May.

Coleman and co-investor Jonathan Glaser, who sits on the board of Hudson Pacific, met face to face with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine in separate meetings in Seattle. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly were also on hand. The parties all left without an agreement or plan to move forward. Coleman says he feels like he’s made progress since.

“We have a clear path,” he said.

Despite Coleman’s optimism and how perfect a fit Seattle would be for the NHL, the construction of an arena for a potential NHL team to play in hinges on the arrival of an NBA team. It’s not just that Hansen doesn’t want to own an NHL team, the arena deal with the city requires the NBA to come first. The KING 5 story adds:

It may be tougher to get the councils to adjust the MOU to allow for Hockey first. No elected leader has indicated it is even up for discussion.

Hansen has been rejected in his bids to buy and relocate the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings, but he wasn’t making those pitches on his own. His partner in those efforts, Steve Ballmer, just purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. Ballmer is a resident of Seattle and was also part of Hansen’s Seattle arena group.

Though it would seem highly unlikely an owner would move out of Los Angeles and Ballmer has repeatedly stated his intention is to keep the team there, his tie with Seattle is worth keeping an eye on. The Clippers have nine years remaining on their lease at the Staples Center (which they share with the Lakers), but according to this New York Times story, there were no terms in the sale that would keep Ballmer from relocating:

“Despite Mr. Ballmer’s assurances that the team would stay in Los Angeles, there was no clause in the term sheet that would bar him from moving it, according to people briefed on the discussions. However, the league could require that the team stay in Los Angeles before it approves the sale.”

“Where should the NHL expand/relocate to next?” is a fun game these days because there are so many possibilities. Kansas City used to be a hot spot when the Pittsburgh Penguins had their troubles. Hamilton has been teased for years. Markham has been talking about an arena for what seems like forever. Quebec City and Las Vegas are in the game. But Seattle is the most interesting destination of them all.

Is it inevitable an NHL team will go to Seattle, or is it another Kansas City?

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