Seattle’s quest for an NHL team will be taking a major step forward Thursday when the potential franchise-to-be begins its season-ticket drive.
Las Vegas enjoyed a very successful drive when it was at this stage that helped propel the team to the unprecedented expansion success the Golden Knights have enjoyed in their inaugural season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is optimistic about the Emerald City’s viability as a new market for his league but, ultimately, it will be Seattle’s hockey fans who make the decision.
“We’re going to go through the due diligence that we need to do with ownership, the arena, with the market – the same things we did with Las Vegas. This season-ticket drive will speak for itself,” Bettman said on Sportsnet 650’s The Program. “If they sell out tons and tons of tickets, like Las Vegas did, that’s a market that tells you it’s going to be successful. If the season-ticket drive stalls, then that’ll tell us something else.”
Bettman’s confidence in Seattle as a new NHL market seems to stem from its geography.
“Everything I’m hearing is, not only are [Seattle’s prospective ownership group] optimistic, they’re incredibly excited at the response they’re getting. And, again, I’m not surprised because the Pacific Northwest has a great interest in hockey – great fans at all levels of the game.
“Seattle has a tradition at other levels of having hockey and, frankly, the possibility of a geographic rivalry with Vancouver is a checkmark in the right column.”
With the league currently sitting at 31 teams, it always made sense to try to add another one, particularly on the west coast to balance out the conferences, and it appears Seattle is well on its way. However, when it comes to expansion, Bettman says evening out the amount of teams isn’t the reason why the NHL is looking to expand.
“You don’t expand because you want to just have a symmetrical number or try and balance out the East and the West,” he said. “You don’t expand just because of the money because it’s self-liquidating because you wind up, when you add a new team, dividing revenues more ways.
“You expand if you think it’s a good opportunity to connect with fans in a market. … A good market that will support the team, a great owner and, perhaps as importantly, is it an opportunity to make the game of hockey – the league – even stronger?”
If everything works out the way Bettman and the NHL seem to want it to, Seattle will end up as a major boon to the league.
Listen to Bettman’s entire appearance on The Program below. He touches on the NHL and the Olympics, concussions and more.