As a kid, the most hockey I was ever exposed to involved one Seattle Thunderbirds game, Gordon Bombay, roller blades, and a junior stick-and-pad set made by Franklin. I understood the gist of the game, but was lost on the nuances, the intricacies.
Compare that to my knowledge of baseball, basketball, and football, and it wasn’t even close. The big three sports were my Big Three, and hockey didn’t register. With the Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks in town, I place the blame for my hockey ignorance squarely on the shoulders of the NHL and the City of Seattle.
Let’s face it. If we would have had our own NHL team, I would have supported them. I loved the Sonics. Loved the Mariners. Loved the Seahawks. A major league hockey team would have been no different.
Part of the reason hockey has yet to really catch on in this town is the lack of an elite professional squad. Basketball, baseball, and football are all fairly popular around here based on the existence (or past existence) of big league ballclubs. Not so, with hockey.
In spite of the NHL’s absence, hockey still exists in the Seattle Metro area. The T-Birds play their home games in Kent. Everett has the Silvertips. Even the University of Washington fields a club team. And various youth leagues populate the Puget Sound region, building a foundation for kids to grow upon.
But there is no real semblance of Seattle as a hockey town. And that’s unfortunate, because the opportunity is there. Seattle could be a hockey town. Heck, if Phoenix, San Jose, and Los Angeles can be hockey towns, I wager that Seattle has as good a chance as any city to be a hockey town, itself.
If the 2010 Winter Olympics showed us anything, it’s that people in the Pacific Northwest care about hockey. Whether you were rooting for America or Canada on Sunday, chances are you had a partisan interest in the men’s gold medal hockey match. And when Sidney Crosby finally sent home the decisive goal in overtime, you felt a surge of emotion. Good, bad, ecstatic, relieved, elated, upset, disheartened, disappointed, mad. You felt something.
That pang of feeling is all this city needs to capitalize on years of athletic dedication. Because we’ve shown we can support our teams, and for that the NHL must take notice.
As Seattle sports fans, we remain fiercely loyal to our major league organizations. The Seahawks’ 12th Man is one of the greatest fan bases in the nation. The Mariners boast strong attendance figures year in and year out. And before the Sonics were stolen from us, they had enjoyed a pleasant 41-year marriage with this city.
Of course, getting an NHL team to Seattle is much easier said than done. In spite of that gaping void left by the Sonics’ kidnapping, fans will need more than a little spirit to bring big league hockey to Washington State.
The biggest hurdle is a capable arena, which will require citizen approval or a willing private party. At this stage in the game, I’d put my money on a private investor before I instilled faith in a voting contingency that wouldn’t approve milk and cookies for Santa Claus.
But after the past fortnight, even private investors would have to be more convinced that hockey has a chance to thrive in this region. And with those deep pockets, an arena and a team could be a great investment purchase.
With the right facilities, the right attitude, and the right investors, an NHL team in Seattle isn’t that far-fetched. This is a major league city, and it’s time we had some real hockey.