HOCKEY: Glad for Seattle NHL expansion, hoping Sonics aren’t forgotten

THE FORMAL ANNOUNCEMENT of Seattle’s selection as the NHL’s 32nd franchise didn’t elicit an initial feeling of glee out of me.

My reaction was more muted, mostly because I’d rather see the return of the NBA in the form of the Seattle Supersonics first, followed by the NHL.

Basketball was a proven success in the Emerald City. The Sonics only left for the Oklahoma plains because Seattle’s coffee-company owner sold out to a group of grifters who moved the team out of town when support for a new publicly-funded suburban arena wasn’t forthcoming.

I won’t sip Starbucks to this day (it helps I don’t enjoy coffee) and I’ve enjoyed Oklahoma City’s many playoff failures, although I won’t watch Thunder games.

Suck it up, buttercup

But, as sports editor Pierre LaBossiere reminded me Tuesday: “You can’t always get what you want.” And as my grandmother would often remind me when I was in a funk while growing up, “Scratch where you’re maddest and get glad again.”

There’s plenty to be glad about regarding the new Seattle NHL franchise, including a nickname, logo and color scheme still to be determined before the puck drops in 2021.

13 potential nicknames

Seattle hockey officials have been quiet about how the name, logo and colors will be devised, but the ownership group registered 13 internet domains back in January. Those are Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Kraken, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems and Whales.

Seattle Metropolitans, the name of Seattle’s 1917 Stanley Cup championship team, did not appear on that list.

Cougars is too divisive in Husky-friendly Western Washington, the Eagles play in the NFL, the Rainiers play minor league baseball in Tacoma and I find Firebirds and Renegades much too generic.

Whales also is problematic because of a connection with former NHL franchise, the Hartford Whalers (known as the Whale by fans).

Totems is my choice, but that could trigger complaints of cultural appropriation from native tribes, so I doubt that’s the direction the franchise is headed. Sockeyes is my guess, complete with a fierce-looking black-eyed red salmon logo clutching a hockey stick.

Better in person

Attending hockey games in person is a fun spectacle and I’ve only seen minor league Western Hockey League contests, Spokane Chiefs vs. Tri-Cities Americans rivalry games in particular.

The ability to witness the speed, size, athleticism and an occasional bout of fisticuffs on the ice from these professional athletes accompanied by a frosty beverage? Sounds like a fun night out.

I may even apply to be the team’s Zamboni driver. Smoothing out the ice surface between periods is an important job and the seat’s pretty comfortable to sit on (at least on the Spokane Arena Zamboni…a perk of backstage access at the state basketball tournament).

And hockey at home has improved mightily with high-definition TVs helping fans pick up the puck faster on broadcasts. There’s no need to ever return to Fox’s glowing puck invention from the 1990s with the quality of TV presentation.

And there’s always the question of how this will impact our wallets.

Financially, KeyArena’s second modernization (the first in 1994 produced a venue with terrible hockey sight lines) is a privately-financed project — a direction I hope to see all professional sports franchises move.

Oak View Group, the entertainment and sports facilities company that is in charge of the arena remodel, entered into an agreement with the City of Seattle to cover “project costs, including all project overruns, $40 million in neighborhood transportation improvements, and a bevy of additional financial commitments and other obligations.”

That’s important because the arena project’s expected budget already has climbed first from $600 million to $700 million, partially due to tariffs placed on steel, aluminum and other building materials by the Trump administration, plus the addition of dedicated locker rooms for NHL and NBA teams and the existing Seattle Storm of the WNBA, plus 50,000 extra square feet for storage and the Space Needle view club.

The price tag now sits at $800 million, as Seattle NHL CEO Tod Leiweke announced during Tuesday’s expansion celebration.

So if these private investors want to pay for the newest civic plaything, then by all means bring on the NHL to Seattle.

Especially if it means the renovated arena ensures the Sonics return. And quickly.


Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]

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