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Salk: New arena at Seattle Center could bring NHL by 2020, and that’s reason to be excited

OVG's renovation of KeyArena would bring Seattle one step closer to an NHL team. (AP)

I know there a lot of people who are upset about the direction the city is going with the Oak View Group and their new arena at Seattle Center. I’m not upset. I’m happy. And it isn’t because I love the site, the group doing the bidding or the process involved. I just want an arena built and, really, I want the highest level of hockey in Seattle.

I love the NHL and the idea of it starting here in 2020 gets me tingly. I understand that this city hasn’t experienced it up close and personal. Maybe the sports fans here will never love it, but it has great meaning to me.

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My first sporting event was going to see a Bruins-Capitals game with my dad at the old Boston Garden. I think they tied 4-4. I remember the way the lights bounced off the ice and the old beer smell. You could still smoke in the Garden then (at least in the hallways) and plenty of people were doing so in between periods. My dad made me hold the ticket, memorize our seats (I think it was Section 119, Row 1, Seats 11 and 12), I got nachos (which were really just chips with yellow cheese-ooze) and what I think was a Neopolitan Klondike Bar. There was no rock music but the organ was incessant. Fans banged on the glass and the old metal girders, and they screamed obscenities seemingly at random. It was awesome.

I attended more hockey games than any other sporting events as a kid, almost all of them with my dad. Regular season brawls (mostly with the Flyers), playoff heartache and joy (both against the Canadiens) and even a Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton.

The game is fast paced and hard-hitting. In person, it has a unique energy that combines the tension of baseball, the threat of violence of football and the intimacy of basketball.

I want the NBA to come back. Sonics fans were mistreated, abandoned and screwed. They deserve their team back. I also want a premier venue for concerts – the current KeyArena and Tacoma Dome just weren’t right for Rush, Adele or Fleetwood Mac. Seattle is a premier city and it deserves all of the major sports and all of the social capital that goes with them.

But I really want the NHL in town and I don’t want to wait any longer than 2020 to get it. I want to take my kids to games and for you to get to experience it as well – as soon as possible. Simple as that.