PIERRE LaBOSSIERE COLUMN: Seattle is likely getting a team, are you ready for NHL hockey?

ALL SIGNS POINT to the NHL coming to Seattle and who knows, maybe the Stanley Cup will return to the city (more on that).

In fact, odds are there is going to be an NHL team in Seattle before the area gets the Supersonics back. They’re talking 2020, less than three years away.

It’s never too early to get your hockey fever ready! If you don’t follow or watch hockey much, you’re going to love it. If you don’t love it … well, what’s wrong with you?

The decision to essentially tear down Key Arena (again) and build a new arena in its place might not solve traffic and parking problems north of downtown, but it did get the NHL’s attention, which has been interested for a few years in the vast and untapped Puget Sound market.

Either an existing team such as the Arizona Coyotes or Florida Panthers will relocate to Seattle, or the NHL will expand to 32 teams with the new team playing in the reconfigured Key Arena. Houston and Quebec City also are vying for teams and both of those cities have a long history with hockey.

Quebec has never gotten over losing its Nordiques, who moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, and Houston had a successful World Hockey Association franchise (on which a relative of mine played with Gordie Howe) in the 1970s. I’m guessing two relocations and a new team to all three markets.

Seattle has Cup history

Did you know Seattle actually has a very long history with hockey, as well? Seattle even actually won a Stanley Cup. Back in days of yore, the Cup was awarded to the winner of a playoff between the Pacific Coast Hockey League and the National Hockey Association. The Seattle Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens in 1917 to win their first and only Stanley Cup. It was the first time an American team won the Cup. And the first professional championship team in Seattle.

A century later, it’s time to bring the Cup back!

Hockey has a reputation of being a bit of a boutique sport, much like soccer. People who are into it are seriously into it. People who aren’t have a mild interest in it, especially if the team does well.

I’m hoping to see the area get behind a hockey team in Seattle, much like they get behind the Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners — and like they got behind the Sonics back in the day. Washington has the best and most loyal sports fans I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see the response to the Seattle Coyotes, or whatever they end up being.

I have a huge pro-hockey bias, having grown up with it in my household and at my dinner table.

One of my most prized Christmas presents ever was a Canadiens’ Guy Lafleur No. 10 jersey, or a hockey board game pitting the Maple Leafs vs. the Canadiens (and no one in my house ever wanted to play as the Maple Leafs players).

One thing I loved about living in the San Juans in the 1990s and getting TV from Vancouver and Victoria was Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday and then of course, the wall-to-wall nightly hockey coverage on the CBC during the playoffs. NBCSN does nearly as good of a job as CBC, though one down side is no uncensored Molson commercials. The up side is … no Don Cherry. For those not in the know, Don Cherry is like the Rush Limbaugh of Canada … if you imagine Rush Limbaugh mostly talking about hockey. Back then, Friday Harbor was really into hockey because not everyone had cable and Canadian TV was all you could get.

For those not into hockey or who haven’t seen much of it, here’s what to know. It’s incredibly fast. These guys go 30 miles an hour and faster on their skates and the puck can go over 100 miles an hour. There’s so many things to love, the “ping!” of the puck when it hits the post and the gasp of the crowd when that happens, and the scoring is up from the Neutral Zone Death Trap playing styles of the 90s and 2000s.

It’s violent, but I think the “it’s getting more violent every year” is a serious misunderstanding. I’ve long tried to explain to people that it isn’t. Unfortunately, any time there’s some ugly incident in hockey, Todd Bertuzzi breaking a guy’s neck or Marty McSorley almost killing a guy, it gets a ton of media attention. And often times, that’s the ONLY media attention people see toward hockey.

The truth of it is, hockey is much more tame than it was 40 or 30 years ago. Speed is emphasized more than ever now with rule changes getting rid of the neutral zone trap. Yes, there is fighting, and I personally used to find the fighting really funny (because it’s usually guys just punching each other in the helmet with their bare hands), but I don’t think it’s as funny since “enforcers” Derek Boogaard and Bob Probert died soon after their playing careers ended with both players’ brains showing evidence of severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). And I think they should and easily could get rid of it. It goes away during the playoffs easily enough.

But, for now, it remains part of the game and it’s weirdly not only part of the ethos of the game, there’s a Byzantine strategy to the fighting, too.

So, get ready. Give it a try if you never have before. Top-flight hockey will soon be a mere two hours and a ferr ride away.

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