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Gretzky Talking NHL Hockey In The Seattle Area?

from MyNorthwest.com,

During Wednesday afternoon’s Mariners game, Wayne Gretzky could be spotted shaking hands with Derek Jeter.

It turns out a good baseball game may not be the only reason the Canadian legend dropped in for a Puget Sound visit.

Dave Softy Mahler of KJR reports that Gretzky is meeting with Bellevue officials to talk about the possibility of bringing the NHL to the area.

Hansen has said that he and his investment group would bring in an NBA team if his arena plan is approved by Seattle City and King County councils. As for the investment opportunity for a professional hockey team - Hansen has left that open for other interested investors.

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The King County Council will vote next week on funding the $500 million arena. The Seattle City Council will follow. The county will not commit its share of funds until an NHL team is acquired. The developer will pay all of the costs for building the arena along with $200 million from the city/county in bonds to be repaid by arena taxes. The developer is pursuing the NBA franchise.  The current owner of the Chicago Wolves is leading the group looking to invest in the NHL. Wayne appears to visiting to help promote the development of the arena. His meeting with the City of Bellevue appears to be an effort to build a backup plan if the City of Seattle falls through on the deal.

Metropolitan Seattle has a population of over 3.5 million people. To those that think Seattle is a non hockey market, Seattle has had hockey since 1915.  There are 5 large junior teams in the State of Washington with a total average attendance of 23,000 per game (WHL: Seattle, Everett, TriCity, Spokane, NAHL: Wenatchee)

Posted by timbits on 07/26/12 at 12:31 AM ET

Primis's avatar

I really don’t see how drawing a few thousand/game to junior directly translates to NHL success.  Seattle might work, they might not.  I’m just saying posting WHL and NAHL attendance numbers as proof that 20,000/game will pay NHL ticket prices is a huge, huge stretch.

Also, if they’d have to compete with a new revived Sonics NBA franchise at the same time, that would bode poorly as well I’d think.

Posted by Primis on 07/26/12 at 03:45 AM ET

clownfat's avatar

Right, who would be so crazy as to draw conclusions about support for hockey by looking at the number of fans drawn to hockey games? Clearly that makes no sense. Better to count the number of pieces of gum stuck to a wall in an alley.

Love how you turned 23,000 into a few thousand. Brillant!

Posted by clownfat on 07/26/12 at 03:57 AM ET

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@Primis:
The prices would be higher, but the appetite for “Major” sports (as in, not “minor”) in Seattle has not been satiated. Those 23,000 for minor hockey would spell a huge number of NHL patrons.
Look at the Seattle Sounders (soccer). The minor league version only drew around 5,000 people per game, not unlike the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. But now, after four years in MLS, they draw nearly 40,000 per game and have one of the top 40 soccer attendances in the world. I would expect a similar conversion for NHL.

Posted by AgentJ from Seattle on 07/26/12 at 05:41 AM ET

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1) The only stumbling block to bringing the NHL to Seattle has been the arena problem. “If they build it, they will come”!  The only question is will it be an expansion team(unlikely in the current economic climate) or a relocation.
2) There are several possibilities there starting with Phoenix, NYI, and Florida.  If Gretzky is there, money must be at stake, or he’s being well compensated to be there. TGO doesn’t do anything these days without a financial incentive

Posted by Fauxrumors on 07/26/12 at 09:40 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

I wonder if the demographics for Seattle are right for hockey. I know its a “northern” city and not far from Canada and all, but the population is largely Asian or yuppie and I’m not certain the support would be there. I’ve got family out there, visited a few times even, and from what they’ve told me and I’ve seen many people in the area don’t quite understand hockey.

Then again, there should be plenty of opportunity for business sponsorships and the like. I’d certainly like to see a team succeed there, but it might be a challenge to get them going. There’s no doubt the city has a loyal fanbase for its existing/former teams, so there’s hope.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 07/26/12 at 12:03 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Right, who would be so crazy as to draw conclusions about support for hockey by looking at the number of fans drawn to hockey games? Clearly that makes no sense. Better to count the number of pieces of gum stuck to a wall in an alley.

Love how you turned 23,000 into a few thousand. Brillant!

Posted by clownfat on 07/26/12 at 01:57 AM ET

It’s called “history”.

For example, Phoenix and Atlanta both used to regularly draw very large crowds to IHL games back when the IHL was on par with the AHL.  And we see how that has worked out for the NHL teams in those markets.  In fact, the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL are one of the more-consistent draws in the league still.  Hockey works well in the Atlanta area, just not expensive, losing NHL hockey (go figure).

You cannot base NHL gate success off anything really at a lower-level, there are just far too many other variables.

And again, as I pointed out and was of course completely ignored, a new NBA team’s presence would diminish a new NHL team’s impact in the market.  They’ll be competing for the same fan dollars during the exact same months.  It seems a bit of folly to try and package new NBA and NHL teams together in this case.

I actually think Seattle might work for the NHL.  Might.  But its path is filled with landmines.  And an NBA team would probably be death to NHL dreams.  I think an NHL team only works without NBA to compete with.

BTW, the Sounders attendance argument is completely laughable.  The hockey demographic and soccer demographic have little, if any, crossover.  You may as well cite rock concert attendance as a correlation as well.

Posted by Primis on 07/26/12 at 01:23 PM ET

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As one who has lived in Seattle for over 65 years I can tell you that prior to the 1967 NHL expansion Seattle was a GREAT hockey town in the old Western Hockey League. When the craze started that everything had to be “Big League” with the Sonics, Mariners (Pilots), Seahawks, etc, hockey got left in the dust because of no viable ownership groups/arena ( inspite of the NHL offering conditional franchises).  In the interim, the local media basically trashed, bad mouthed, or ignored hockey coverage in the Seattle area. If the TV media did mention hockey and actually had game clips it would predicably be a fight. There will be alot of work for the NHL local ownership group to undo the 40+ years of media bias.  If the Seattle Sounders can gain instant credibility by just calling themselves “Major League” ( Not to be confused with the same old ” North American Soccer League, NASL)” then the NHL will be an instant succees.  NHL hockey will be both a local and regional draw given the population of the Puget Sound area and corporate heavy weights not to mention the proximity of Vancouver BC (where you can’t get a ticket), Portland, and Spokane hockey fans. I would go as far as to say that it soon could be just as difficult getting a ticket to a Seattle Metrpolitans game as it now is to get a ticket to a Canucks game in Vancouver.

Posted by mark mitchell from Seattle on 07/26/12 at 01:57 PM ET

clownfat's avatar

“BTW, the Sounders attendance argument is completely laughable.  The hockey demographic and soccer demographic have little, if any, crossover.”

Yeah, but the Basketball and Hockey crossover is huge right? I ignored that for a reason because… well… it seemed silly. Then you went and made my point for me but used soccer instead.

Also, I guarantee you history actually shows that high attendance in minor league shows better attendance numbers in the pros not the other way around as you suggest. Sure it can, and has happened that way a few times but more often than not it has actually been the other way around.

“...but the population is largely Asian or yuppie…”

Ouch. You really need to get out more when you visit Seattle. Seriously… just go hang out in some other neighborhoods besides the ID and Bellevue. Furthermore, are you trying to say that Asians and/or yuppies don’t like hockey?

All that said, politics will make it difficult to get a team here, not fear of lack of attendance. Politics makes everything difficult in Seattle. We have been incredibly slow to build out a light rail system but it isn’t because there are a lack of people to ride the trains.

Posted by clownfat on 07/26/12 at 02:31 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

the proximity of Vancouver BC (where you can’t get a ticket)

There is also a huge amount of Vancouverites that go to Seattle often and they would go to games too.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 07/26/12 at 02:34 PM ET

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Can’t wait for the first NHL game in Seattle…......raising the 1917 Stanley Cup Champions banner….and playing the Montreal Canadiens again….....................

Posted by mark mitchell from Seattle on 07/26/12 at 04:06 PM ET

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Nate A

Under your logic Detroit would never have a team, and Vancouver would have no fans. For the record the greater Seattle area has less than 10% Asian population.

As to arguments the NBA would dominate. Stern is despised in Seattle and the NBA has a marginally better reputation. That being said, it would be better if the NHL got to the market first.

Posted by timbits on 07/26/12 at 06:47 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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