The National Hockey League is in the midst of a very brief market expansion period. Las Vegas was recently awarded the venerable league's 31st franchise after the city managed to build a state-of-the-art facility, the T-Mobile arena. And as any student of sports marketing knows, if you build it, they might come.
Well, we know if you don't build it, that is a brand new or completely-remodeled existing facility, a city has no chance of attracting a major league franchise. And we also know that, unlike the globally-oriented Las Vegas, Kansas City failed to attract and NBA or NHL team even after building what was then a state-of-the-art facility, the Sprint Center. Thus, building it is no guarantee that they will come, so it's probably best to wait until there is a commitment from a re-locating franchise (following league approval of course) before actually starting construction on it. OK, so back to the NHL and its dreams of expanding the league to an even 32 teams, which it really must do. So who is going to get the 32nd franchise?
We know it won't be Quebec City, an immensely gorgeous Canadian capital city located north of Montreal whose citizens are still angry about losing their beloved Nordiques back in 1995 to the people of Colorado, who welcomed the team as the Avalanche and immediately won a Stanley Cup, repeating a title five years later. That'll leave a nasty rash. Even worse, the NHL recently denied Quebec City's request for an expansion team at the same time that it approved the Vegas Golden Knights, who are currently in action. Students of sports marketing know that the city's failure to gaurantee a totally awesome arena was probably part of the problem as was its close proximity to much larger Montreal, home of the Canadians. So who gets the team?
Seattle of course. Fans there are still angry about the departure of their beloved SuperSonics to Oklahoma City and have been wanting to attract another NBA team for a while now. The problem? Key Arena is a dump. And so there are plans to finally renovate key Arena in a very big way, and while the people of Seattle wait for the NBA to move a team that is languishing in its current lousy location (Memphis anyone?), a group of rich guys has officially filed for an NHL franchise.
It is highly likely that Seattle will get its team, and not just because of any swanky new facility, although that is a must these days. The city is also the largest market in the U.S. without a professional winter sports franchise. That's a compelling argument indeed. To sweeten the deal, the filing included a $10 million deposit on what will be a $650 million franchise fee for the league. It looks like it's just a matter of time now. The only thing left to do is to pick a name. How about the Seattle Skates? The Slapshots? The Pike? The Craft Brewers? The Seafarers? The Cultivators? The Not-Portlanders? The North? I like that one. The Baristas? The Shipwrights? How about the Tragically Hip? Unfortunately for the people of Seattle, all the good names have been taken by obscure soccer and minor league hockey clubs. I think it might be better to spend money on some focus groups. In the meantime, prepare yourself for whatever NHL hockey might look like in the Pacific Northwest.
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