Last week, it was officially announced that professional hockey will be returning to the Emerald City - a town that hasn’t had a professional hockey team since the Seattle Metropolitans folded in 1924. Then, the Metros were a part of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, a professional league that operated from 1911 to 1924 before it merged with the Western Canada Hockey League. In 1917, Seattle became the first West Coast AND American hockey team to ever win the Stanley Cup after defeating the Montreal Canadians (SUCK IT, FELIX) - a feat that took them only two years to achieve after being established in 1915. Their home barn (Seattle Ice Arena) would briefly be converted into a roller rink and parking garage until it was finally demolished in 1963.
Since, Seattle hockey has been around in the form of minor league teams: Seattle Eskimos, Seattle Ironmen, Seattle Bombers, Seattle Americans, and Seattle Totems were teams of the past. In 1977, the Kamloops Chiefs would find a new home after moving to the Evergreen State from British Columbia along with a new team name: Seattle Breakers. The Breakers would last until 1985 when they had a new name now familiar to all:
Through those decades, hockey in the state of Washington was still a minor league sport. Now in the WHL (Western Hockey League), teams that join the T-Birds are the Everett Silvertips, Spokane Chiefs, and sure... why not... the Portland Winterhawks. It almost happened in 1974 when the NHL granted an expansion team to the city of fish tossers, elite coffee drinkers, and hippy pan handlers, but after Vince Abbey failed to meet deadlines and purchase the then California Seals, the league terminated the expansion. That will all finally change come 2021 when the new NHL Seattle team hold their expansion draft and start their inaugural season.
I briefly had the honor of experiencing sunless skies and super pasty skin when I lived in Olympia, WA from 2009 until late 2010. Although my residence in the Pacific Northwest was merely a year and half, I got to see first-hand the display of sports passion from the locals. Washingtonians are definitely staunch supporters of their teams. They talk about being the “12th man” when it comes to the Seahawks. They easily fill that same CenturyLink Field with 40,000 during any regular Seattle Sounders match (records have been broken for MLS attendance because the Sounders are the best MLS team ever) which is impressive considering the fact that it happens even when the rain is coming down. As for the Mariners... well, they’re not breaking records, but unless you find a resident who is a transplant, you’re finding someone who’s supporting them through and through. I used to get shit from some of my co-workers up there because I was an Angels and Ducks fan. I even had my start at blogging which had to do with my experience of being a diehard Ducks/hockey fan in a non-existent professional hockey market. There are fans of the sport, but they’re kind of hard to find. I once went to a really bad rink in Tacoma to watch a beer league game, and I swear that the place was once a meat locker prior to adding a sheet of poorly kept ice and a few bleachers.
To my surprise, even with being close to Vancouver where the Canucks are a staple, and with two WHL teams between Olympia and the US/Canadian border, I saw very few people wear hockey sweaters in public. I was once told by a woman that they loved my Ducks one when I would wear it out. Although despite all of that, you could just feel that hockey would thrive if the NHL gave Western Washington a team. These are people who are hungry for a winter sport at the professional level. Hell, people are still very bitter about losing the Super Sonics. They showed me that they would fully embrace the NHL - they’ve already proved this be hitting Oak View Groups target of 10,000 season ticket deposits of $500 and $1,000 in just 12 minutes from when they went on sale back in March. This eventually crashed Ticketmaster. Oh, and in one hour, they had surpassed 25,000 deposits.
With $800M in renovations to Key Arena beginning just days ago, the dream of professional hockey returning to Seattle is now becoming a reality in front of our eyes. Personally, I would’ve loved to see an arena built in the SoDo district where both the CenturyLink and the now soon-to-be-named-but-formerly SafeCo Field are located, but oh well. One thing is for certain: I can’t wait to go to a Ducks away game up there, where I also plan to meet up with some old friends, eat some Ivar’s, join a drum circle, drink a pint of Mac and Jack’s, breathe clean air, and annoy the good ol’ pale Warshington folk with my Southern Californian self...again!