NHL Seattle: How we got here



When the Stanley Cup visited Seattle a year ago, hockey fans could see the Seattle Metropolitans engraved as the first American Stanley Cup champions in 1917.

That championship was won at the old Seattle Ice Arena at 5th and University downtown. The Metropolitans defeated the Montreal Canadiens.

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In announcing the awarding of a franchise to Seattle, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “The Metropolitans played in a 4,000-seat facility called the Seattle Ice Arena. The new Seattle NHL franchise will play about a mile and a half away in the spectacularly redesigned Seattle Center Arena.”

A short distance, but a 10-yearlong trip.

In 2008, the NBA Sonics were taken from Seattle by their new Oklahoma City owners.

By 2016, there were plans for a new arena to bring the Sonics home, but the city council said no in a 5-4 vote.

We spoke with Art Thiel from SportspressNW.com. He’s followed the entire saga.

“That 5-4 vote was a pretty dramatic pivot point because it wound up getting the city $600 million and now $800 million worth of private funding for a public building.”

That building will be a new Seattle Center Arena — built to attract hockey. 

Local politicians are assured by the extensive sports and entertainment experience of brothers Tim and Tod Leiweke, said Thiel.

“The key thing there was the availability of private money. The city here, both the elected and the voters really don’t like to use public funds to fund private pro sports teams.”

It helped that the National Hockey League wanted to establish itself in Seattle’s hearts and pocketbooks before the NBA brought basketball back to the city.

Asked if Seattle’s lust for basketball attracted NHL hockey, Thiel responded, “Yes, that’s basically the story.”

“Because the NBA has 41 years of history in this town the NHL has no modern history they needed to establish the NHL in the marketplace before we ever see the NBA come back.”

One of the owners of the new hockey team is uniquely qualified to bring an NBA team when the league is someday ready to expand. David Bonderman is also part owner of the Boston Celtics.

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