Let the chirping begin: Canucks and politicians look to build rivalry with Seattle NHL team

Seattle is still three years away from launching its team, but cross border barbs are already flying.

Seattle franchise still 3 years away from playing but cross border barbs are already flying

Max Rubin cheers and holds a sign in favour of 'Kraken' as a team name, following the announcement of a new NHL team in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

The new Seattle NHL team is still three years away from playing a game but that hasn't stopped politicians on both sides of the border from igniting the rivalry by chirping the other side.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee started the tweet-fest by throwing shade at the Vancouver Canucks.

B.C. Premier John Horgan responded with a groaner of his own.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart were a little more muted. 

With just over 200 kilometres between them, the yet-to-be-named Seattle team will instantly become the regional rival the Canucks have never had — similar to what already exists between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer.

However, Canucks head coach Travis Green said rivalries aren't solely based on where teams are located.

"They come from hard playoff series, going through battles and being battle tested against each other," he said.

Vancouver defenceman Troy Stecher -- who's from the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C. -- also believes creating a grudge between teams requires some history.

"I definitely think it could become something, but it's going to take time," he said,

Giving both Vancouver and Seattle fans an opportunity to drive to games in another market will be huge, Stecher said.

"I played at a college that had really good fans that would travel a ways," said the University of North Dakota alum. "So maybe this is a good step for the Canucks."

Creating a new rivalry could be a boon for the Canucks business side, said Peter Tingling, a professor with Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business in Burnaby, B.C.

"You want engaged fans, and it will certainly be good from that perspective," he said, noting that it's been a long time since Vancouver's Rogers Arena was regularly sold-out for hockey games.

Having a new team in the Pacific Division could also put pressure on the Canucks to perform both on and off the ice, Tingling added.

The NHL's last expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, upped the ante for competition and entertainment, making the Stanley Cup final in their first year in the league, and quickly gaining a reputation for over-the-top in-game experiences and fan engagement.

"There's nothing like footprints behind you to make you up your game," Tingling said. "It's not just winning in the arena, although that's always a good thing. If you start to see some innovation in how they engage with fans, for example, that's going to put pressure on Vancouver."

The Canucks are currently in rebuild mode after finishing second last in the Pacific Division last year. The club had a hot start to the season, thanks in part to rookie sensation Elias Pettersson, but the team has since cooled, winning just one of  its last 12 games.

A continued slump could be dangerous if another franchise enters the market and performs well, Tingling said.

"Fans can be fickle," he said. "They will only put up with a poor performance for so long. And if they can look a few hours south to a winning team, that's going to create some resentment, I would expect."

While a new rivalry with Seattle could capture attention short-term, it's not the best way to create and retain fans, Tingling said.

"Quite simply, there's nothing like winning to fill an arena," he said. "And if you're not winning, then what else are you doing?"

With files from Canadian Press