Seattle’s Plans for NHL team no longer “On Ice”

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It is becoming increasingly likely that Seattle will welcome a new sports team to the city come 2020. The city’s bid for a National Hockey League (NHL) team continues, and another step in the process is now complete thanks to overwhelming community support.

The NHL requires potential expansion cities to hold a season ticket drive in order to gauge the potential fan base’s level of interest. On top of this, the NHL stipulates the season ticket drive must garner at least 10,000 deposits.

On March 1 at 10 a.m., the group responsible for Seattle’s NHL bid— the Oak View Group (OVG)—began accepting deposits for season tickets. Seattle reached the required 10,000 deposits within 12 minutes and reached 25,000 deposits by noon that same day. OVG stopped taking deposits the following day once they had reached 33,000. Due to the overwhelming number of people attempting to put down deposits, the ticketing website crashed several times and experienced significant delays that day. Those who still wish to obtain season tickets must now join the waitlist.

Fans had the option to put down either a $500 deposit per ticket for regular season tickets or a $1,000 deposit per ticket for club seat season tickets. Those who put down deposits will receive a priority number which will allow them to select the location of their season tickets. All deposits are refundable in the event that the NHL does not grant Seattle a franchise.

In December of 2017, the Seattle City Council voted 7-1 to approve OVG’s plans to renovate KeyArena. The plan will increase the arena’s seating capacity. OVG will be privately financing the $660 million renovation and hopes to start construction by the end of the year.

With the season ticket drive, a resounding success and the Pacific Northwest’s hunger for hockey made evident to the league, OVG has brought Seattle one step closer to obtaining the coveted NHL franchise. If the NHL does accept OVG’s bid, the group will have to pay the NHL’s expansion fee of $650 million. This is $150 million more than what the NHL’s most recent expansion franchise—the Vegas Golden Knight—paid to join the league this 2017-2018 season.

The Vegas Golden Knights paid an expansion fee of $500 million in 2016. It was the largest expansion fee ever at the time by a wide margin, with the former record being just $80 million, paid by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild to join the league in 2000. With the immense success of the NHL as a whole and the success of Vegas, the league will only continue to increase the fee to join the league.

In their inagural season, the Vegas Golden Knights have shocked the entirety of the NHL. Vegas currently holds a 44-19-5 record, the best record in the Pacific Division and fourth-best in the league overall. It is unprecedented for an expansion franchise in hockey, or any American professional sport for that matter, to have this level of success in their inaugural season. Vegas’ success may provide a glimmer of hope for hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest. If a team does arrive in 2020, it is possible they could follow in Vegas’ footsteps and be contenders right from the start.

The Vegas Golden Knights participated in an expansion draft prior to the 2017-2018 season. is expansion draft allowed Vegas to select players from the existing 30 NHL teams in order to create their roster. The 30 teams were allowed to protect some of their players, but not all from the expansion draft.

Teams and fans alike have been critical of the rules, arguing it gave Vegas an unfair opportunity to create a successful team. Despite the backlash, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that if Seattle does join the league in 2020, they too will participate in such a draft with the same rules as Vegas—more good news for Seattle hockey fans.

Seattle’s potential hockey franchise remains nameless. However, with the season ticket drive completed this will soon be up for further debate. OVG recently registered domain names for 13 potential team names. Some names refer to Washington State wildlife such as the Seattle Cougars and Sockeyes. Some reference other features of Washington State including the Seattle Emeralds, Evergreens and Rainiers. And still, others go without a defining category like the Seattle Renegades and Totems. The process for selecting a name, and whether or not and how public input will impact the decision, is so far unannounced.

Dana Ellis, a third-year Communications and Media major with a specialization in Strategic Communication, commented on the list of potential team names. “I think Seattle Totems would be a nice nod to something unique to the Pacific Northwest,” Ellis said.

As a Portland native, Dana has been a lifelong fan of the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Portland Winterhawks. The WHL is part of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and is the highest level of competition for junior hockey players. While she is still intensely loyal to her WHL team, she expressed her excitement at the prospect of attending an NHL game here in her adopted home.

“I would love to see how NHL games di er from the WHL games I’ve seen before,” Ellis said.

Overall, it is an exciting time for Seattle sports fans as well as Seattle University Students, with KeyArena only about two and a half miles from campus. Though the team is not an absolute certainty, if the season ticket drive is any indication, the NHL will not have any trouble filling seats.

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