If the KeyArena deal goes through, the Seattle sports scene could be expanding. And you can bet four out of five fans around here would prefer hoops to hockey, but it looks like the puck would drop first.
This isn’t what many Seattle sports fans want to hear, but it is the reality of the moment.
It won’t help mend hearts still splintered from the Sonics’ departure, but there doesn’t seem to be a better option right now.
On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray confirmed Oak View Group’s $564 million proposal as the city’s choice for the KeyArena renovation. And if there was a primary sports takeaway from the hour-plus-long news conference it was this: It’s time to focus on hockey.
No, this is not a suggestion that folks in this town give up on the idea of the NBA. If the league expands and the Sonics don’t come back, the new arena would be a failure.
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But I believe OVG CEO Tim Leiweke — who cites conversations with NBA commissioner Adam Silver — when he says expansion isn’t coming any time soon. So on that front, Seattle can’t get the ball rolling.
But it can get the puck sliding.
Among the attendees at Seattle Center on Wednesday was Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. And though he didn’t come up to the podium, he did sing the praises of Seattle as a potential hockey town to reporters afterward.
Aquilini likes the idea of a Pacific Northwest rivalry. He has no doubt Seattleites would be engaged.
How strong is the NHL’s desire to have a team here? Aquilini was asked.
“Very strong,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody opposed to it.”
Leiweke has been consistent in saying he doesn’t “want to get ahead of the league,” in regard to when hockey would come to Seattle, but it’s hard to think it would be too long. In addition to the crush the NHL seems to have on this city, it has an odd number (31) of teams.
The league wants to even that number out, and there is obvious appeal in a big-market tech hub that happens to be one of America’s fastest-growing cities. And when you consider the NHL connections Leiweke has — not to mention deep-pocketed partners such as billionaire David Bonderman and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer — luring a team seems not only feasible but probable.
“We’re going to get you a team,” Leiweke said. “Mark it down.”
So how much love would Seattle show an NHL team?…