Is the NHL finally coming to Seattle?

Hey. It's been a while since I've written on a regular basis. I think it's finally time to turn that trend around. I'm back and I'm ready to revitalize Icethetics!

As you may have seen, I resurrected the dusty Concepts page this week. We had a great run from February 19, 2012 to December 21, 2017 — that was 2,133 consecutive days of new concepts. Now we have a new goal. Let's beat that streak! It'll take us until at least 2024, but by then, Seattle will be kicking off its fifth season in the NHL.

BOOM!

How's that for a segue?

 Count it down!

Count it down!

Yeah, it's pretty incredible news. On March 1, Seattle began its NHL season ticket drive. The ownership group wouldn't say what their goal was — most of us assumed the NHL would be impressed if we could hit 10,000 deposits in a week or so.

Ha. The "hold my beer" meme comes to mind.

Seattle hockey fans placed 10,000 deposits in 12 minutes. That's all. Insane. Anyone still question whether the Jet City can handle another major sports franchise?

The best part of it all — I'm one of those fans! Tickets went on sale at 10:00 AM that morning. At 10:03, I had my confirmation number. In fact, that exciting moment was documented on video by my colleague and long time KING-TV reporter Chris Daniels. You can watch it on Twitter.

My reaction probably says it all. I couldn't be more thrilled by the prospect of an NHL team finally calling Seattle home. I've called it home for the past eight years — and now I'll never have a reason to leave! Beautiful sights. Perfect weather (don't care what anyone else says). The people are great. Add a hockey team and there's nothing better.

 I'm in!!!

I'm in!!!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to abandon my Tampa Bay Lightning — not after 25 years, and particularly not with the kind of year they've been having. Whenever anybody asks, I'm quick to admit that for 40 nights a season, I'll be in my regular seat at Seattle Center Arena wearing my Seattle jersey — except for that one night when the Bolts come to town. Then I'll have to switch sides for a few hours. I can't see it going any other way.

So it's easy for me to get caught up in all the excitement of a season ticket drive. I've been hoping for that day since I first moved to Seattle in 2010. But I have to keep reminding myself to temper that excitement. We don't really have anything... yet.

While NHL owners seem to be excited about Seattle as a new market, they won't make it official until at least June when the Board of Governors meets. Even then there will still be a long road ahead. The team wouldn't begin play until the 2020-21 season, when the Key Arena renovations are complete. They're supposed to begin this fall.

This renovation was the key step in getting us to the point where we could even have a season ticket drive. And still I'm not sure it was the right decision. That may sound crazy to anyone outside Seattle — locals will know what I'm talking about.

 Well, it's better than what's there now. / Image: Oak View Group

Well, it's better than what's there now. / Image: Oak View Group

To visitors, Key Arena should be the ideal spot to house the team. It sits in the shadow of the Space Needle in tourist central. But to the rest of us, it sits in the most crowded part of downtown in a neighborhood that's already a nightmare of traffic congestion. Now we're going to add 17,000 hockey fans 41 nights a year? More if we make the playoffs.

The area lacks the transportation infrastructure needed to do this right. But there's still a good option in the city. On the other end of downtown, in the SoDo neighborhood, a few blocks from the football and baseball stadiums — with several parking garages and great public transit options — is a mass of land owned by Chris Hansen. He wants to build an arena for hockey and basketball. Admittedly, he's more a basketball fan than a hockey one, but he's bringing hundreds of millions of his own money to the table and isn't asking the city for a dime.

The only thing he is asking the city for is a sticking point sticky enough to derail his entire project. He needs the city to vacate a small street that runs right through his property. But the city council keeps rejecting his proposal. They say the street is critical to local industry. Actual evidence shows otherwise. Local news set up cameras and counted how many vehicles used that street on a given day. It's not a significant number.

 It just makes more sense here. / Image: 360 Architecture

It just makes more sense here. / Image: 360 Architecture

So what's the real reason the city won't give Hansen the street he needs? Well, the city of Seattle owns Key Arena, see? And they'd much rather not have to compete with a private company in the arena arena. (Couldn't resist.) So the Oak View Group came along last year with designs on redesigning Key Arena. And that became the way forward.

The group is led by Tim Leiweke, former Toronto Maple Leafs president, with backing from Hollywood producer and celebrity hockey fan Jerry Bruckheimer. And apparently, Tim's brother Tod Leiweke may soon be joining up. He previously served as CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning (!) from 2010 to 2015 and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks before that. 

 Seattle hockey's future CEO? / Photo: TBO.com

Seattle hockey's future CEO? / Photo: TBO.com

When he left the Bolts, it was for a job as COO of the NFL. But now it seems he's ready to return to Seattle. In fact, just last week he resigned from his NFL post. I personally can't think of anyone better suited to this job. He led the complete 180° turnaround of the Lightning that began when Jeff Vinik bought the franchise.

And now you can see my excitement ramping up again. What can I say? The arena site may not be ideal right now, but things will improve in time. The region's expanding light rail network will reach Seattle Center in the next decade or so and in the meantime, well, Seattle is a very walkable city. We'll make it work because NHL hockey is worth it.

So that's where we are. Is it too soon to start talking names and logos? Of course not. In fact, my first post on the resurrected Concepts page was for Seattle's forthcoming team! Christian Legault jumped on the idea of Kraken as the nickname and put together some sharp uniforms.

 Release the kraken!

Release the kraken!

But that's far from the only rumor out there. In fact, in January, DetroitHockey.net noted a lawyer for the Oak View Group registered a bunch of domain names that could point to possible team names the group is considering for a trademark. Kraken was among them.

Other names included Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems, and Whales. The Seattle Totems name has a history in the market as a minor league franchise, but I just don't see that or our other historical name, the Metropolitans, as honest contenders for a modern NHL team.

But if locals want a taste of the past in the name of their new franchise, the one I'm still partial to is the Seattle Breakers. The minor league club played in the 1970s and '80s, eventually becoming the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. By the way, if the T-Birds decided not to compete with an NHL club and chose to relocate, I wouldn't mind grabbing their name. But I digress.

One thing that concerns me is all the marketing material surrounding the ticket drive. For some reason, they're using red as an accent color. Red is incredibly overused in the NHL, for one thing. Plus, this is the Emerald City. The team's gotta be green, right?

 Winter's not supposed to be red.

Winter's not supposed to be red.

I'd love to hear some more thoughts on what the team should be called. And if you have a concept jersey in mind, feel free to send it along! The Concepts page is going to need content now that it's running again.

Anyway, I think I've rambled enough for one night. But there will certainly be more to come. Winter's on its way to Seattle!

Even though spring just started.