With one NHL relocation out of the way, the next target that for potential movement is the Phoenix Coyotes. We already know this, considering the NHL owns the team. With no ownership group lining up to buy the team with plans to keep them in Phoenix, something has to be done to get them either a new city or a new ownership group.
There has been old news and rumors of them being moved to Quebec City (which won’t happen unless a new arena is 100% privately funded) or Kansas City (Why?)… the new hot rumor, at least according to a post on Pro Hockey Talk, is Seattle, Washington.
While Seattle has never had a NHL franchise, they could be appealing to an NHL franchise to take advantage of the northwestern United States and media markets of Seattle (13th largest in the country) and Portland, Oregon (22nd largest) in a similar fashion that Major League Soccer did with recent expansion teams Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.
The NHL had the opportunity to play in Seattle, as they were awarded a franchise to begin in 1976-77. The deal was pulled as the potential owners were unable to secure a $180,000 deposit and a $6 million franchise fee by the deadline.
However, there are a couple of problems that could stand in their way before a puck drops in Seattle:
The Vancouver Canucks: While separated by three hours driving time and 141 miles, there could be some sort of interference between the Canucks with an attempt to move a team into their television and media market.
The Western Hockey League: This isn’t the only instance of major junior hockey in the same local area as an NHL franchise. The Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League could be affected by this move. Other teams in the umbrella of the CHL that share the same hockey market with an NHL franchise in the OHL are the Plymouth Whalers and Windsor Spitfires (Red Wings), Ottawa 67’s (Senators), and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (Maple Leafs).
Teams in the WHL that are in the same situation are the Calgary Hitmen, Edmonton Oil Kings, and the Vancouver Giants. Coincidentally, the Hitmen and Oil Kings share the same arena as their NHL counterparts while the Giants skate out of the Canucks former home the Pacific Coliseum.
No Modern Arena: It’s going to be hard to convince the casual or diehard hockey fan that hockey will work in a city that couldn’t support a somewhat successful NBA franchise in the Seattle Supersonics. In 2006, the ownership group wanted the Washington state government to kick in money to improve and modernize Key Arena. The government balked at the move and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clayton Bennett. Bennett tried to have a new arena built in the city in an attempt to keep the team in the city but after those attempts were unsuccessful, he moved the franchise to Oklahoma where they are now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder. After one playoff appearance in their last six seasons in Seattle, the Thunder played in the conference finals in their third season in Oklahoma last year. However, the city did hire a sports-facilities consultant at $19,500 per month in an attempt to determine the feasibility of having an NBA (or NHL) franchise in Seattle.
It will be interesting to see what happens this summer when the league will start shopping around a home for the Coyotes.