British Columbia

Hockey fans pumped about prospect of Seattle NHL team

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to confirm Tuesday that the league will be expanding to Seattle, a city that already has major followings for its football and baseball teams on both sides of the border.

Seattle residents supportive ahead of announcement Tuesday, while Vancouverites excited for rivalry

John Barr is the organizer of NHL to Seattle, a grassroots group of hockey fans that's been advocating for a team for the the city for the past six years. He coaches the Washington Wild beginners girls hockey team. (Chris Corday/CBC)

West Coast hockey fans are getting excited about the prospect of the NHL's 32nd team landing in Seattle.

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to confirm that the league will be expanding to the Washington city, which already has major followings for its football and baseball teams on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

In March, when a new NHL team was rumoured to be in the works, it took a mere 12 minutes for fans to put deposits on 10,000 season tickets. The number of deposits now stands at 32,000.

'I bought 12 tickets, 12 ... because we like hockey.'

4 years ago
Duration 2:23
The CBC's Briar Stewart takes a look at the support for a NHL hockey team in Seattle.

For John Barr, it's proof that Seattle is a hockey market. For the past six years, he's been the organizer of NHL To Seattle, a grassroots group of hockey fans that's been advocating for a team for six years. 

"It is a really fragmented market. Everybody is transplants. They root for different teams so they don't even connect with each other," said Barr, who also coaches a girls' hockey team in the Seattle area.

Seattle already enjoys huge support for the NFL's Seahawks on both sides of the border. (Chris Corday/CBC)

He says an NHL team will be well received in Seattle and that the city, a tech hub with highly paid workers, will have no problem filling seats.

"The demographics are great. It's a big city," he said. "I compare it to Denver and Detroit a bit, with a higher income." 

The ownership of the anticipated team is made up of David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The expansion fee is $650 million US.

An illustration showing what KeyArena will look like after a $700-million US renovation to accommodate the new NHL team. (Oak View Group)

KeyArena, where the NBA's SuperSonics played before moving to Oklahoma City, is getting a $700-million upgrade for the new NHL team. The goal is to have renovations finished for the team to play in the 2020-2021 season.

'The battle of the I-5'

For hockey watchers north of the border, having two teams within a three-hour drive of one another will be good for the sport.

"Seattle coming into the NHL is something that I think would be one of the most intense rivalries down the road in the NHL: call it the battle of the I-5," said Randip Janda, a Vancouver-based host with sports broadcaster Sportsnet 650.

"I think this would be a galvanizing aspect to the fan base here."

The NHL expanded to 31 teams in 2016 when it added the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

With files from Briar Stewart, Chris Corday and The Canadian Press


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