Nick and Connor review the Vegas Golden Knights draft history, praise Carter Hart’s NHL debut, talk about Scott Gordon’s introduction as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Patrik Berglund situation, Whalers Night and a teaser 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship preview.
Connor and I went long about why Seattle would be an exciting venture for the NHL on the most recent Down the Frozen River Podcast. I was going to write something like this before recording, until the league went ahead and spilled the beans a little earlier than expected (keep reading, you’ll see what I mean) and well… This is DTFR Overtime– go ahead and pour yourself a fresh cup before we dig in.
Something’s brewing in Seattle and it ain’t just another cup of Starbucks.
Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG) expects to complete the renovations by October 2020, which would be just in time for a possible NHL team to take the ice for the 2020-21 season.
Before anyone gets their hopes up, as per the proposal, OVG does not need a team in place to go through with KeyArena’s renovations and has pledged $40 million in a transportation fund for the city to address traffic and parking problems around the arena. An additional $20 million will go from OVG to local charities.
Here’s the kicker out of The Seattle Times report: the NHL is expected to make an announcement by July (2018, for those of you who haven’t realized next year is almost here) regarding a franchise in Seattle via expansion or relocation.
This time around, the expansion fee would be $650 million (up $150 million from when the Vegas Golden Knights went through the expansion process two years ago).
Though every sign points to Seattle becoming part of the NHL’s brand, there’s no guarantee the league will expand to the Emerald City. Relocation could be an option (though league commissioner, Gary Bettman, denies that any current team will be moving) and the NHL still has a lot of homework left (feasibility studies and a season ticket drive– run by OVG– to gauge interest) before the final exam (expansion to Seattle).
The NHL sees green (as in the other 31 teams see about $21 million in expansion fee payouts, not just the Emerald City):
If you’re thinking, “would an NHL team in Seattle be a good idea?” the answer is yes. Don’t be stupid.
Seattle is known for their boisterous Seahawks and Sounders fans (where you at in decibels Mariners fans), as well as their SuperSonics fan base that never died– despite the NBA franchise relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008– but the city’s played a larger part in hockey history than most people might know.
The Seattle Metropolitans– not the New York Rangers– were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers, of course, can lay claim to the fact that they were the first American NHL club to win the Cup in 1928, but the Metropolitans were technically the first American hockey team to win it back in 1917. The Metropolitans were members of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and appeared in three Stanley Cup finals (1917, 1919 and 1920).
Seattle defeated the Montreal Canadiens, then members of the National Hockey Association, three-games-to-one in 1917. The 1919 Stanley Cup Final featured a rematch of the Metropolitans and the Canadiens– now members of the National Hockey League since its inaugural season of 1917-18– was cancelled after five games due to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu with the series tied, 2-2-1. In 1920, the Metropolitans were defeated in the Final in five games by the original Ottawa Senators.
The feasibility of an NHL franchise sustaining itself in Seattle is very high, given the diehard fan base that already exists in all of the other major league sports in the city, let alone the historical significance of hockey in the region. Plus, who wouldn’t love a Pacific Northwest rivalry between neighbors, the Vancouver Canucks and whatever Seattle would be known as (it has to be the Metropolitans or else).
Instead of “can a team last?” the better question would be “can a team move in while renovations are ongoing, a la how the Rangers dealt with Madison Square Garden’s improvements a few years ago?”
The timeline (now through 2020) within the overarching timeline (2020 and beyond), if it even exists, might be crucial to navigating what the looming NHL announcement might be (relocation or expansion). Though given last Thursday’s league statement, it’s (probably) going to be expansion and the Seattle [TEAM TO BE NAMED] will begin play for the 2020-21 season.
And now for something totally inspired by the works of Dave Lozo:
How relocation would work for Seattle if a Western Conference team were on the move:
There are two primary candidates for relocation to Seattle from the NHL’s Western Conference and both of them are already in the Pacific Division, which would negate the need for yet another division realignment this decade. And the candidates are… the Arizona Coyotes and the Calgary Flames.
First up, the Coyotes.
They’re an annual source of relocation rumors, their ownership group has met with people in Seattle before and they don’t have a lease deal in place (technically speaking) with Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes aren’t wanted by the local government in Glendale and their ex (Phoenix) isn’t looking to get back together anytime soon; given the lack of a joint proposal for a new stadium downtown to be shared by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the NHL’s Coyotes.
Would it be easiest to move Arizona to Seattle? Certainly, if you’re a hockey traditionalist who doesn’t think that the mere existence of the Coyotes in Arizona had anything to do with the fact that Auston Matthews is wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater right now (and totally beating Connor McDavid in the McDavid vs. Matthews argument).
Does it make sense to move the Coyotes? Yes. Out of Glendale at least. The league has been committed to the desert since the franchise jettisoned from Winnipeg in 1996. Even more so now with the existence of “local” rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights, also sharing that desert theme.
So if you’re thinking the Arizona Coyotes could relocate, it’s not going to be to Seattle. Can Vegas be home to two teams? Just wondering.
But what about the Calgary Flames?
The City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment are in a standoff over the use of public funds for a new arena to replace Scotiabank Saddledome. The city has made it clear that they won’t spend one penny on even a pile of dirt for a new home for the Flames, while the Flames have threatened to leave if they don’t get what they want.
We’ve heard this before (hello, NFL’s Los Angeles Rams vs. their former home in St. Louis) and professional sports franchises have moved before because their owners don’t want to finance things privately.
So it’s more than likely that if a team is coming from the Western Conference to Seattle that it’ll be the Flames, which, come to think of it, could make for a killer flaming “S” logo. Why waste the moniker that stuck with the team from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980? Just copy the “C” and paste it upside down and there you have it. I’ve already taken the liberty of creating the logo for you, Flames fans in Seattle.
Should Calgary lose their NHL team over a temper tantrum? No, but crazier things have happened. I mean, we’re talking about the city that hosts Calgary Stampede every year.
How relocation would work for Seattle if an Eastern Conference team were on the move:
Peter Karmanos screws Hartford over one more time by giving them the finger while seated in a private jet as the Hurricanes fly over Connecticut’s capital en route to Québec’s capital city. *But we now know this part, at least, won’t be happening, since the purchase agreement calls for Dallas billionaire, Tom Dundon,– who’s buying a majority stake of the Hurricanes– to not relocate the team for seven years (conveniently the length of time remaining on Carolina’s PNC Arena lease. #Québec2024).*
Thanks to the Houston Astros for finally putting the United States’s fourth most populated metropolitan area on the map with their World Series title this year, the Florida Panthers begin to wonder if they could actually win a Cup by moving to a real sports city– that sports city being the WHA hockey hotbed of Houston, of course.
The Panthers relocate and replicate Major League Baseball’s outlook on the State of Texas, whereby Houston is part of the American League and would be part of the NHL’s Eastern Conference for no other reason than not to disturb the finally balanced conferences after Seattle joins as the 32nd team in the league (because that makes sense).
Finally, the New York Islanders abandon all hope in the Big Apple when it becomes apparent that nobody’s loved them since the 1980s and John Tavares will lea[f]e them for the 6ix in the offseason.
Because of their great relationship with Bridgeport, CT (home of the Islanders’s AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and now Worcester, MA (home of the Islanders’s ECHL affiliate, Worcester Railers HC), the Islanders choose to put themselves “between” their farm clubs and successfully bring back the Hartford Whalers (while also continuing to struggle for a new arena, but in Hartford now– shouts XL Center).
Or consider this curveball *which, again, cannot happen as a result of the purchase agreement, pending Board of Governors approval of the final sale of the Carolina Hurricanes*:
The Carolina Hurricanes relocate to Seattle and the NHL finally accepts the deferred expansion bid Quebecor submitted back in 2015 and welcomes Québec City as the 32nd team in the league (welcome back, Québec Nordiques). The conferences are kept in-tact this way and everybody’s happy because the Hurricanes really need to leave Raleigh for an ownership group that will actually love them (along with some fans).
As for Florida and the Islanders, well, they’re on their own in this hypothetical curve.
Nick and Connor address the latest potential-expansion news regarding Seattle, recap the process thus far and speculate about many hypothetical relocation possibilities. Charlotte is better than Raleigh, another Subban was traded and— oh yeah— there’s games on the schedule this weekend.
In light of the Florida Panthers new look, Peter Karmanos Jr.’s latest debacle and all the expansion talk, I’m here to try to put a few thoughts on the same page.
Some thoughts on Florida’s rebrand…
First, there’s the Florida Panthers rebrand. Am I allowed to say the new logo is growing on me? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously yes, because this is my site, but also because it’s the truth. Look, I’m not obsessed with the new look for the Panthers, but I can respect this shield design as a new, modern, hockey crest. It’s clean and respectful of the organization’s history, now over 20 years old, and really ties itself into the Southern Florida sports scene. While it might look better as a third jersey logo— at least when you put it on their new home sweater, which, by the way has a bit too much going on for my liking— it was time for a change in Sunrise.
Give it a few years and I’m sure the Panthers will figure out how to tweak things to satisfy their entire fanbase, while honoring the 101st Airborne in their humble homage with their fresh look.
Bottom line, not everyone can be like the Dallas Stars latest rebrand a few seasons ago. I mean, just look at the Carolina Hurricanes. They redesigned their image the same offseason as the Stars and, well, it just hasn’t caught on as much as anyone had hoped in the hockey world. While another rebrand would certainly help, the Hurricanes have much bigger issues on their plate, whether anyone’s willing to admit them or not. Which brings me to my second point…
…on Carolina chaos…
(How’s that for a transition?)
Carolina owner, Peter Karmanos Jr., the man responsible for moving the Hartford Whalers back in 1997, has been looking for a dancing partner for a couple of years now to help cover the costs of owning and operating the Hurricanes, albeit while retaining all the power and control that he brought with the Whalers to Raleigh as an odd precondition.
Without getting into too much detail, this should be raising red flags (not the hurricane warning kind) despite whatever anyone from the league or Hurricanes organization says. We’ve known for a few seasons now that Carolina is in shambles when it comes to attendance and likewise, that the franchise is not as financially stable at its foundation as the NHL would hope.
Karmanos continues to insist that there is no need to relocate the franchise to a more desirable location (at least from a fanbase perspective), such as Québec City or Las Vegas.
There’s no better chance than now for Karmanos to make a move, whatever that may be, but as the legal battles within his family play out, he might be forced to sell the franchise to an owner in a potential expansion location and get the organization out of Carolina, if there continues to be no immense local interest among potential owners.
What the NHL won’t tell you, and I’m sure, is that they really don’t want to have another Phoenix Coyotes disaster circa 2009. You know, the one with bankruptcy, lawsuits, the league eventually owning the team, Wayne Gretzky as a coach (wait that had nothing to do with it), and that Canadian millionaire that wanted to move them to Hamilton, Ontario?
But alas, my third thought, we’re more than likely on the verge of expansion in the NHL. Like it or not.
…and finally, on expansion.
Las Vegas may surely be coming in the next couple of seasons, but what might be more intriguing is the thought that no news might be good news for Québec City.
Of course, there’s a few holdups with a team potentially venturing to Vidéotron Centre that’s not just a preseason matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Montréal Canadiens next season.
The struggle of the Canadian dollar could scamper the hopes of Nordiques fans once again and the ongoing Carolina catastrophe could scatter current expansion plans. But then again, who knows what relocation talks might be circulating and/or among whom (if any).
What’s next for the league is to decide once and for all whether to delay expansion, accept one or both expansion bids, or nullify any chance of expansion at this time. That announcement is expected June 22nd, conveniently at the NHL’s annual Awards Ceremony in where else? Las Vegas.
Basically, it’s a yes, no, maybe scenario.
While some, like Brian Mulroney, are adamant that the league will look over Québec this time around for expansion, others in the rumor mill are more hopeful that as long as everyone’s distracted with the squabble about a team in the Sin City, then there’s a good chance we’ll see a return of the Québec Nordiques as a delightful surprise.
The league is more than ready to make a go at both locations, regardless of conference alignment atrocities in the eyes of some fans. But your conference woes might see some ease if the Hurricanes situation yields a relocation resolution. And maybe that is the reason, after all, that there’s not much chatter out of Québec on the state of their expansion plans.
A relocation fee is certainly less expensive than a $500 million expansion fee. And since Quebecor is more than willing to dish out $500 million U.S. for an NHL team that would generate all of its revenue in Canadian dollars, then there’s a good chance they could easily find the funds to come up with purchasing and relocating Carolina.
The only issue would be getting Peter Karmanos out of the picture.
That’s no easy feat, as exhibited by the Whalers forceful removal from Hartford and Karmanos’s dedication to Raleigh, which, although hasn’t been tremendous in growing the sport in the community (i.e. building rinks in North Carolina), nor providing the franchise with an adequate practice facility, has certainly been enough to keep the team around this long and with a 2006 Stanley Cup championship at hand.
That was ten years ago. This is now.
Whatever announcement is forthcoming on June 22nd, whether it’s no expansion at this time, yes to expansion or further delaying the thought of expansion, it appears as though the league is more than ready to make a go at both locations. Las Vegas for the first time, Québec City for a homecoming of the sorts.
So while you’re worried about which of your favorite players might get poached by an expansion draft in a year or two, this offseason is sure to have more to it than first expected, as always. And there’s plenty of hurdles to still get over before you can start dreaming about what a team in Las Vegas might look like or seeing what kind of a response the Colorado Avalanche might get in their first regular season game back in Québec.