With the Bettman experiment coming to a close, the Coyotes are headed to…

In the late 1990′s, Gary Bettman had a vision of grandure. A vision that would bring professional ice hockey to places people spent their days entrenched in football and sun tan lotion. In 1996, pro hockey moved from hockey hot bed Winnipeg, Manitoba to, well, hot bed Phoenix, Arizona. A few years later, the Atlanta Thrashers got an expansion team of their very own (which has since relocated to… Winnipeg! The circle of life is complete!) Is Bettman fully responsible for these odd choices of markets? Not exactly, but I can’t pass up an opportunity for a slight jab at the commissioner whenever humanly possible…

Over the past few years, rumors have swirled about the great city Glendale in regards to the Coyotes future in Arizona. One week they are being bought by a multi-millionaire and moved to Hamilton, the next week, they are being dismantled and turned into a synchronized skating troupe to perform in the greater Cleveland area.

Recently, news surfaced that San Fransisco-based hedge fund manager Chris Hansen is investing $290 million (plus the cost overruns, plus purchasing and NBA team and relocation fee…) towards a new arena in Seattle, Washington just south of Safeco Field (home of the MLB’s Seattle Mariners). The vision for this arena is to home a relocated NBA team as well as an NHL team.

Luckily for me, I have a sportswriter connection in the great city of Seattle, so I had the perfect source to approach as soon as the news surfaced. Most of you have heard is voice, as he is the ‘Insider’ for On the Ice radio, a show I’ve been a guest on to discuss the Nashville Predators. His name is Steve Silver, and he’s a sportswriter for NWsportsbeat.com, covering the MLB Mariners and NFL Seahawks. As soon as you are done reading this literary gem of an article, check out his stuff. There is a reason they call him Insider Steve….

Silver gave me a ton of in-depth information, but I think there were three sentences that really summed up how real this Seattle rumor is:

“The fans in this city have the understanding the Coyotes are Seattle’s future property. It’s a matter of securing an owner. We understand the process may take a couple years, but the buzz for the Coyotes is real.”

My first thought on a possible Seattle pro hockey team was “What about Vancouver?” The two cities are around 140 miles apart from each other, is there a big enough hockey market to justify two franchises in that small of an area? According to Silver, I can put that concern to rest, as there isn’t a tremendous amount of Canucks coverage in Seattle, in fact, the Canucks are broadcasted in Seattle on a channel that most don’t get without premium packages.

With the city confident they could attract the Coyotes franchise to their market, the problem lies in the fact that before an arena will be built, an NBA team needs to be secured:

“When this arena proposal was first made public with a press conference at city hall 4 weeks ago, the cities powers that be made it known that shovels will not be put in the ground until both an NBA and NHL team was secured. In the weeks that followed, (prospective investor Chris) Hansen, as well as Mayor Mike McGinn, have appeared on local sports radio. Both made it clear the city of Seattle would sign off on the arena deal if only one team was secured. When asked if that meant the NBA, Hansen said that was correct. Then when asked if an NHL team was the first to be secured would the shovels go into the ground, Hansen said the arena deal is solely for the return of the NBA.”

One team Silver mentioned as a possible tenant for the new arena is the Milwaukee Bucks. I haven’t heard anything of the such, but then again this is Basketball Babe Milwaukee so I’m not exactly the authority on Bucks information. This guy, however, thinks it’s high time for the Bucks to move out west. And according to his very scientific poll, 57% of people feel the same way…

The Coyotes were first rumored to be moving several seasons ago, so clearly there are a lot of hoops to jump through before this franchise moves anywhere. While Seattle waits for an NBA team to return, I asked Silver if he was worried about another city snatching up the Phoenix team. Turns out the bigger concern is that Phoenix will find a buyer to keep them in Glendale. The name Jerry Reinsdorf has surfaced again as a potential buyer for the team, which is the same Jerry Reinsdorf that withdrew an offer for the franchise back in in June of 2008. Other cities that have expressed interest in the Coyotes franchise include Hamilton, Quebec City and Toronto (because one problematic team in the city limits just isn’t enough!).

Bottom line, NHL hockey is a great fit for the city of Seattle. As Silver said, it’s a great sports town, and rumors of NHL hockey have swirled about the city for the past 25 years. With it’s close proximity to Vancouver and San Jose, it seems like an ideal choice to place a team. I think I speak for everyone when I say seriously, I cannot watch another Sharks vs. Kings game. Enough is enough, give Seattle their hockey!

Check out Steve Silver on twitter @InsiderSteve and at nwsportsbeat.com

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