By Jessamyn McIntyre
The sports fans of Seattle have longed to fill the NBA-sized void left in the wake of the departure of the SuperSonics — and one reporter thinks an answer could be on its way.
The key to bringing the NBA back to Seattle could rest within another major league sport — the NHL, a league that finds itself in ownership turmoil. Scott Burnside, an NHL writer for ESPN.com, joined “The Kevin Calabro Show” on 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday to talk about the turnover in NHL ownership and what it could mean for Seattle.
“They’ve had bad luck,” Burnside said. “They’ve had owners that have run afoul of the law. They’ve had owners who simply didn’t have the financial wherewithal that the league was led to believe that they had. My sense is, it’s just the cost of being a professional sports league … that in some parts of the United States struggles to maintain a foothold.”
The question then becomes whether Seattle can support the NHL. Burnside quoted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as saying, “There are a lot of people who think Seattle would be a great place to have a team.”
Burnside agrees that the Emerald City could be a favorite to land a team should one become available.
“You’ll hear a lot of cities come up over the next three or four months, but I think it’s interesting that Seattle, at least in my impression, has moved either to the top of that list or very near it,” he said.
A new building is step one in order for Seattle to become a viable destination for the NHL. Without one, Seattle’s chances are pretty much moot, Burnside said.
“The NHL will be loath to agree to move a team to a city if they aren’t assured that there will be an NHL-ready or NHL-styled arena in which the team could play,” Burnside said.
The Phoenix Coyotes just entered their third year under league ownership, and according to Burnside, the NHL is looking to sell the team within the next 90 days. Burnside thinks the league might accept a temporary situation, and even suggests playing at KeyArena as an option.
“I think that would be entirely acceptable,” he said of KeyArena being a temporary venue. “As long as there was a guarantee that the kind of arena that the NHL would like to have … and an owner and situation that was going to provide stability going forward, I can’t imagine there would be a real issue.”
The next few months will get interesting as Phoenix attempts to hold onto their Coyotes, while cities such as Seattle clamor for the excitement a new team and arena could bring. If the NHL does come to the Pacific Northwest, it will leave many wondering if another team is soon to follow.
Could the NHL roll out the welcome mat for the NBA? Stay tuned.