To be robbed of a connection, a passion, is a difficult loss to overcome. For those in Seattle, the loss of the NBA‘s SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 may now look to be a blessing in disguise. One team’s exit from Seattle could very well mean the return of two.
For the past 35 years, Seattle has housed one of the most storied franchises in the WHL, a league in which many prospects pass through en rout to an NHL career. Now, instead of parting ways with the young talent developed in their hometown, hockey fans in the United States’ Northwest may now have the chance to see those faces skate with the NHL‘s elite in local confines.
Reports have surfaced that Washington state’s sports-ridden city is now in the mix to acquire the next moveable NHL franchise, all fingers point to the cash-strapped Phoenix Coyotes, which have failed to find a legitimate buyer willing to keep the club in Glendale, Arizona. For the past two seasons plus, the Coyotes have been managed by the league itself, something Gary Bettman can’t afford to do much longer. The commissioner has remained adamant that his goal is to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, most recently expressing this strategy during the All-Star Weekend’s festivities in Ottawa.
“We hope, based on the things that are ongoing, to have a sale in place before the end of the season that would keep the team in Glendale,” Bettman said. “I don’t see any reason to discuss a Plan B at this point.”
Well, if Jeremy Roenick is somewhat legitimately tabbed to save the death of pro hockey in Phoenix, you may want to start mulling over that ‘Plan B’, Gary. If the NHL‘s lead man decides not to open the option to Seattle, the city itself may force that direction. A major property management group, Valiant Capital Management LLC, recently purchased a warehouse right next to Safeco Field for $21.6 million. The plans, at this point, are to set the precedents to build a new arena to not just lure in an NHL franchise, but return the NBA back to the city as well.
If nothing else, this is an extremely positive sign for Seattle’s suffering fanbase, who now have a glimmer of hope in rebounding from their tasteless loss of the SuperSonics in 2008. And of course, it brings an excitement to a city that has never been awarded an NHL franchise, a city that hasn’t had a professional hockey team since 1924.
As for Phoenix, only time will tell if relocation — which is seemingly inevitable, is the ultimatum for the club that’s been in Arizona since 1996. But time is running out, and Seattle is pushing that clock even faster.
Don’t let the SuperSonics’ departure skew your view on Seattle’s sports market. At the time, the Sonics were a mid-to-small market team in an NBA that was extremely top-heavy with high-payroll star studded clubs. Since the lockout, there’s been a slight change in the league’s outlook, one that points toward a much more balanced league in the near future. Not to mention, a new franchise can usually withstand 3-4 years of utter failure before any negative effect is seen among the fanbase. Basketball is begging for a Seattle return.
Losses? They’ll be too busy entrenched in the pleasure of having the SuperSonics back. And just as magical, the never-felt excitement of having professional hockey in the same building the night after the hardwood.
If it isn’t next year, if it’s not for three, keep this city in mind. When the time does come for an NHL club to relocate, take a hard look at Seattle, take a good look at Seattle — and realize it’s an option that deserves a chance over Canada.