There was a large amount of news that came out of National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman’s state of the league address. The league owners will review Seattle’s plans to operate an NHL franchise on June 20 but whether the league grants the city a conditional franchise seems to hinge on one controllable factor, the renovation of the existing 56-year-old arena and a variable, a possible lockout after the 2019- 2020 season. Still the league wants Seattle and with good reason. It is a rich market with plenty of corporate money and the market is big enough to get a good TV deal. Seattle fills in an empty spot on the map in the US Pacific Northwest and there is a rivalry with Vancouver that could start up. Seattle elected officials signed off on an arena renovation and that is supposed to start in the fall and be done right around the time of a potential NHL owners’ lockout of the players. Bettman and the owners have never had a problem shutting down the league in labor disputes.
The league seems confident that the New York Islanders ownership will deliver a new building at Belmont racetrack, a venue that oddly enough is being developed in part by the people who want to bring the NHL to Seattle. The league claims there are three sites Arizona ownership is checking out for a possible move within the market. Phoenix has been a problem market since 1996 when the league approved the relocation of Winnipeg to a building which was built for basketball. There are other arena trouble spots. Calgary ownership wants a new building and Eugene Melnyk in Ottawa or more specifically Kanata isn’t sure what he wants to do with his Senators hockey team. Seattle is still the top priority for the owners. There is too much money, $650 million US going into the 31 owners pockets to say no. Twenty million dollars to each owner, and they don’t have to share it with the players, just to expand.
Gary Bettman and NHL owners seem committed to Seattle.