A Seattle group is continuing to push for NHL expansion, according to a Seattle Times report.
A collection of business, political and sports leaders from the American city will be chartering a bus and travelling to Vancouver next week to meet with the Canucks, Whitecaps and B.C. Lions.
The man heading up the fact-finding trip, Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, told the Times that hockey will be foremost on the agenda. The group wants to learn how the Canucks operate.
“You’ve got some people on the trip who have never been to an NHL game before,” Morton said. “So, at the very least, they’ll come back with a greater understanding of what hockey is and what it takes to present the sport to fans at the NHL level.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the newspaper during Super Bowl week that the league believes it has stabilized its current franchises and that expansion, with Seattle as a legitimate contender, could be the next logical step.
When the NHL realigned to feature 14 teams in the Western Conference and 16 in the Eastern Conference, many suspected a two-team expansion was on the long-term agenda. In addition to Seattle, the Greater Toronto Area, Quebec City, Kansas City, Portland, Saskatoon and Las Vegas are all potential expansion spots.
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen has been trying to build a $490 million arena in Seattle, with a $200 million public investment, in an effort to lure both the NBA and NHL to the city.
Seattle was reportedly trying to attract the Phoenix Coyotes to relocate before that team stabilized its ownership.
“I think there’s been some interest expressed by Seattle in having a team, and this is a good step, a small step, in that direction,” said Walt Judas, Tourism Vancouver’s vice president for marketing and communications.
“By establishing a relationship with people at the Canucks level, certainly they deal with the NHL on a daily basis,” Judas said. “So, they can certainly help give them the lay of the land and a feel for what the temperature of the league is with regard to how things could proceed.”