When the NHL announced its conference realignment going into the beginning of this season, one disparity was made painfully clear. The Western Conference was two teams lighter than the East. (If you look at the standings and the point totals, one can clearly see the West has made up for in quality what they lack in quantity.) This led to the rise of early expansion rumors, which the NHL initially hushed down. It looks like the league is getting closer to announce an expansion, and their eyes are turning towards the great northwest.
While nothing appears concrete at this time, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (who has been a moderate voice of reason these last few years, especially during the last lockout) sat down with the Seattle Times and discussed the possibility of adding an expansion NHL team, and his eyes seemed fixed on Seattle. A few months ago, I wrote an article on how I did not believe that Seattle would be a solid city for a NHL expansion, especially after their inability to retain the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics(now Oklahoma City Thunder). When asked about the expansion, Daly did not commit to anything, but did offer his opinion on where the league would be looking once the expansion happened.
“When that happens, I think Seattle will certainly be an intriguing marketplace from the league’s perspective,” offered Daly. He was making these comments at Yankee Stadium in the Stadium series game between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders. “I think we have a belief in the Pacific Northwest. It being good hockey territory. I think, obviously, the Canucks have done a fantastic job — in Vancouver, but also throughout British Columbia and the Pacific region — at driving interest in the sport.
“So, we think the possibility is there. It’s kind of more obvious than some of the other areas. It doesn’t mean we’ve done our due diligence. We’d need to satisfy ourselves on the marketplace, but just the objective factors around the marketplace suggest Seattle would be a good hockey market.”
I will admit it. It does make sense. It would certainly add a little spice to the rivalries on the West Coast. Vancouver could find itself with a nearby rival. Calgary, or any of the California franchises could suddenly find someone in the proverbial back yard to butt heads with, and it certainly would generate more buzz for the league.
There is another plus to all of this. Since this plan is coming out of the mouth of Bill Daly, and not Gary Bettman I feel a little more comfortable with it. Bill Daly was the unofficial intermediary during the last lockout. He was the representative of the league that actually tried to patch things together with players like former Bruin Andrew Ference to get us a half-season last year. He’s the likely choice to follow Bettman when he retires, and he’s earned a solid reputation for fair dealing. We’ll see how this plays out, but if it’s coming out of Daly’s mouth, it’s very likely accurate and sincere.