Seattle lost another tough one late Tuesday night. For the second time in six weeks, it was determined that a major sports franchise cluttered with baggage wouldn’t need the moving van for a trip to the Pacific Northwest.
First came the rally to save the Kings in Sacramento, followed by the compromise to keep the Coyotes in suburban Phoenix. If the results were identical – no NBA basketball in Seattle for the foreseeable future, no NHL hockey in Seattle any time soon – the defeats showed there is more than one way to break a heart.
The relocation game involving the Kings was slow and grueling, a done deal that turned into a painful ordeal. Seattle, with owners set up and an arena-construction plan in place, held an early lead so big it seemed insurmountable. Then Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, in cahoots with a league suddenly opposed to relocation, plotted a stirring comeback.
While the Coyotes’ fiscal mess found Phoenicians rolling their eyes – all they wanted was closure – Seattle’s emergence as a prime candidate to inherit them happened in a hurry.
Amid the hangover from the Kings’ saga, hockey was introduced as an unanticipated but intriguing Plan B.
Questions were posed like a flurry of wrist shots peppered at a goalie during a penalty kill: Was KeyArena a viable temporary home for world-class hockey? Could construction begin on the building proposed by Chris Hansen without the assurance of an NBA co-tenant? Would this team known as the Coyotes
remain known as the Coyotes?
Oh, and how does that rule about icing work again?
The notion of a Seattle NHL franchise developing a delicious natural rivalry with Vancouver gained traction. Prospective owners from New York were said to be on board. All that stood between the crazy dream and the mundane details was a City Council vote Tuesday night in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale.
The meeting largely devoted to Glendale’s ability to supplement the Coyotes’ new owners with a $225 million care package over 15 years lasted four hours and concluded with a score of 4-3, which sounds more like a baseball game than a formal referendum on hockey.
In any case, the 4-3 verdict was favorable for Coyotes fans in Arizona, the stuff of controversy in Glendale (“I don’t know if we’re fixing a problem or delaying a problem,” groused Mayor Jerry Weiers, clearly not in Kevin Johnson’s class as a pro-sports cheerleader) and another punch in the gut to Seattle fans.
Seattle was used as leverage by the NBA, which needed the threat of a vacated market to force Sacramento into springing for a new arena. The NHL also used Seattle as leverage, but at least the league was more candid: It told Glendale to figure out a plan appealing to the new owners of the Coyotes, and if it didn’t figure out a plan, alternatives were on the table. Seattle was prominent on that table.
After going 0-for-2 with franchises in scoring position, the challenge for Seattle is to gaze at the horizon. Anything out there? Expansion? Relocation? Anything?
The horizon right now is as flat as the Kansas Turnpike between Wichita and Topeka. The NBA has the talent pool to expand, and the NHL has reason to expand. (Seattle, given its proximity to Vancouver, is a potential gold mine for the league. Then again, so is Quebec City, and a second team in the Toronto area, and perhaps even Houston.)
But neither the NBA nor the NHL are discussing expansion. Once they do – and they will – the discussion will take a year or two, and the installment of new franchises will take a year or two beyond the announcement.
Relocation? Nothing is imminent, but remember: Talk of relocating the Coyetes to the Pacific Northwest wasn’t on anybody’s radar screen, either. Until it was.
Hang in there, Seattle sports fans.
Your non-existent winter sports teams had two second-place finishes in six weeks. If your summer sports team finishes in second place, a parade ought to be held, convening at Safeco Field.firstname.lastname@example.org