KK Members Blog

KK Members Blog

Vegas, Seattle?

06/24/2015 at 5:51pm EDT

As someone who has lived in both these places, I feel I have a unique perspective worth sharing:

I moved to Las Vegas in '95 to play hockey, and, it seems equally absurd to me to place an NHL team there now as it did to play hockey there 20 years ago. I moved there straight out of high school and joined a league known as the WSHL, the Western States Hockey League. We referred to as Whatta S*$#%y Hockey League. It was junior, I don't think we even distinguished between A or B, but, it was decidedly B. We had fans in the single digits consisting mostly of our billet families.

This time that I spent lined up with Curtis Joseph's contract dispute/hiatus in the IHL. We shared a name and practice facility, lodged in a casino, with the big club, though, our paths seldom, if ever overlapped. (Although, I did end up with CuJo's equipment in the back of my pickup, accidentally, a personal high moment.) I did attend some of their games, and I cannot stress this enough: There were no fans clammoring to see this elite goalie practice or play games. No one cared. This would have been huge news anywhere in a traditional market, but, me and my teammates seemed to be the only ones in the city that even noticed that he was there.

Well, our fanbase dwindled even further, and we relocated to the hockey hotbed that is Fresno, California. Las Vegas wept. Not three months later our owner/manager embezzled thousands of dollars slated to pay our USA hockey insurance dues, and we were unceremoniously kicked out of the league.

Later, desparate for a change, I moved to Seattle. I played hockey while there. There was a single men's league that I was aware of. There may have been some youth leagues, but, it certainly wasn't woven into the culture of the city. I eventually started a hockey meetup group to find other like-minded individuals. Being that there are a ton of displaced midwesterners living on the west coast, I was able to find quite a few other hockey fans. We attended some Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) games.

People argue that there would be a natural rivalry between Vancouver and Seattle if an NHL team was placed there. One of the games that I attended was between the Thunderbirds and the Portland Winterhawks, natural rivalry right? The Key Arena, where the Thunderbirds played was sectioned off. The upper bowl and the entire far end of the rink were blocked off so as to concentrate the fans in one horseshoe shaped viewing area. Even in doing that, the arena was only a quarter full. One would think if there was an avid hockey fanbase in the Seattle area, the place would have been packed for a game against its rivals.

One thing I can say, Quebec was robbed. They had most of the pieces of a dynasty on their hands when the team was shipped to Colorado. We all know what happened there starting in '96. If any city deserves a franchise, Quebec does. Winnipeg got the Thrashers after that experiment failed. The Coyotes are floundering in Arizona, Florida has really never seen any success other than the Mellanby days, but, there's more money to be made in expansion than relocation, and then there's that whole Canadian dollar argument that always seems to show up.

As a fan, I'd rather have 22-24 viable franchises than 32 watered down teams.I'd rather see more competition, more superstars on any given team than a team that can play a stifling defensive system. Remember the expansion draft? That'll be fun. These teams will languish at the bottom of the standings sucking up top five draft picks until they're good enough to compete. I'm sure that eventually Vegas and Seattle will embrace an NHL team. We simply don't need more teams. The game is at a distinct low, as far as I'm concerned and this will only be exacerbated by expansion.

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