Now that a Seattle-based ownership team has officially filed paperwork with the National Hockey League — along with a $10 million application fee — everything seems to be in place for an NHL expansion team in Seattle. Ground is set to be broken on a new arena at Seattle Center in the fall, with plans to have that team on the ice in two years. The NHL’s arrival will bring some exciting changes to our region immediately.
“It’s the greatest game. It’s the fastest game on ice!” says Doug Kirton, a former professional player and Director of Player Development for the Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association.
The NHL’s pending arrival has sent shockwaves through the local hockey community.
“I would be really excited. I would want to go to every game.” says Jojo Levin, a 10-year-old girl who plays goalie for Sno-King’s elite U-10 team.
Oak View Group has recently hired Steve Mattson, a 27-year industry veteran, to oversee an extensive remodel of KeyArena. “I think it’s going to blow people away. I think the response will be amazing.” Mattson says.
Mattson comes to Seattle from Minneapolis, where he most recently headed a remodel of Target Center, home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Minneapolis is a hockey town. Seattle isn’t quite there…yet. But hockey has been in Seattle’s DNA for over a century. In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first U.S.-based team to win the Stanley Cup—the NHL’s Holy Grail– defeating the Montreal Canadiens. The Cup returned to Seattle for a sort of victory lap at various rinks around town shortly after the NHL announced it would accept Seattle’s expansion bid. And this is part of Oak View Group’s plan: re-introduce Seattle fans to the game, help them understand it, and embrace it.
“You have to build a fan from all ages.” Mattson says.
The youngest hockey fans are already sold.
“My dad said we would probably buy season tickets for the team.” Says Will Stillwell, a 10-year old hockey player, behind his wire-caged helmet. Will is one of 800 players in the Sno King association, one of five successful programs currently operating in Western Washington.
“We’ve been here for 53 years , and hockey is big here, maybe not as big as other sports, but we are entrenched in the local sports scene and with the arrival of the NHL we will definitely grow.” Kirton says of Sno-King.
Oak View Group plans to grow the game by creating partnerships with Seattle-area youth hockey programs, and build more ice facilities, to accommodate the sport’s blossoming popularity.
“Right off , they are going to have to build a practice facility for the team. So you will immediately see some opportunities for kids to be able to play the game.” Says Seattle Thunderbirds General Manager Colin Campbell.
Local fans celebrated a hockey…