In 2021-22 ice hockey will return to the city of Seattle for the first time since 1975 when the new expansion team will take to the ice at the redeveloped Key Arena.
This is a big moment for the city which has been fighting for a franchise for many years. Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region and would act as a natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks who, along with Winnipeg and Ottawa, are the only Canadian teams not to have one.
There is still a lot of work for the new owners to do in order to prepare for the off so let’s have a look at a few areas where they can get one step ahead of the rest.
Ice hockey in Seattle
Before we look at the next how the new franchise can be successful, let’s just remind ourselves about the history of hockey in the city. With the new team, currently still unnamed, set to start in 2021-22, there is a growing call for the side to be named after one of the great success stories in Seattle hockey history.
Back in 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans were the world hockey champions but they would fold in 1924 just nine short years after being founded. Between 1944 and 1975 the Seattle Totems played in the Western Hockey League before the league was dissolved.
There have been several attempts to get an expansion side set up in Seattle before now but there has never been an owner or ownership group capable of getting the financial package in place to achieve this. In the 1990s a group of businessmen pulled out of expansion plans after the NHL demanded a $50m fee, which was more than any NHL team at the time was worth. It is only now, with developments to the Key Arena nearing completion, that an expansion team is confirmed for the city.
Key Arena Seattle by Cliff (CC BY 2.0)
How can Seattle be a success in the NHL?
The population of Seattle is over 700,000 and the sport is hugely popular. It has long been considered only a matter of time before the NHL returned to the Pacific Northwest and for good reason.
Seattle have an excellent record in pro sports with the Seahawks in the NFL and the Mariners in the MLB being well supported while the Seattle Sounders are amongst the best-attended soccer teams in the MLS.
With the Vancouver Canucks stuck without a local rival, unlike both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers further north, the NHL have solved this issue by granting the expansion franchise to Seattle.
Success needs to come from a number of areas but the owners have really started to engage the fans in a way that is turning out to be extremely popular. The new franchise have launched an online portal that allows fans to weigh in on ideas for the team name, uniform colour and even the goal celebration music.
This has not only brought the fan base on board but it has also helped make the city feel like this really is their team – helping to boost both season ticket sales, currently at 33,000 deposits taken, and interest across Seattle.
Focus on goaltending
If the recent success of the expansion franchise in Las Vegas has taught us anything it is that goaltending is key. Marc-Andre Fleury helped the Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup final in their first ever NHL season.
Marc-Andre Fleury by Miachael Miller (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The goaltender was picked up in the expansion draft from the Pittsburgh Penguins and he ended the 2017-18 season with a save percentage of 0.927 which he maintained during the playoffs. But it was his personality and interaction with fans off the ice that endeared him to his new team as much as his performances.
With a solid netminder sorted the team could build their own distinct style of fast-paced, pressing hockey and it took everyone by surprise. If Seattle can pick up a top goaltender they will have one massive piece of the jigsaw to ensure a good start. In fact, it will be interesting to see what odds bookmakers give the new franchise on sites such as Oddschecker, as they could be a great team to use the free bets with no deposit that are available, in order to take advantage of the ‘new team bounce’ which really helped the Golden Knights.
Get goal scoring potential
When the Golden knights selected their players for the 2017-18 season they made sure they had players in that selection that could skate and score goals. This sounds obvious but many teams lack a proven goal scorer and regret it when they get down the stretch.
During Golden Knights first season they had stand out performances from William Karlsson, who ended the campaign with 43 goals and 78 points to lead the team in scoring, and David Perron who had 50 assists and has since gone on to win a Stanley Cup with the St Louis Blues.
These two were another couple of pieces in the remarkable story of the Golden Knights first season and stand as a benchmark for what Seattle can achieve if they can get the right chemistry and strategy.
No one expected Vegas to produce the kind of hockey that took them to the Stanley Cup final, in fact, most ‘experts’ were writing off their chances due to a perceived lack of quality on the roster. Seattle will have been watching carefully and no doubt taking lessons from that success to help push a bright new era for the city into one that fans will hopefully cherish for many years to come.