Seattle failed to woo the Sacramento Kings to the Pacific Northwest, but another pro team may be calling the city home as early as this fall.
KING 5 News reported Sunday that Seattle mayor Mike McGinn and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have engaged in talks about relocating the Phoenix Coyotes to the Emerald City. The league-owned club has until June 25 to reach an agreement with the city of Glendale, Ariz., regarding its lease of Jobing.com Arena.
Under the reported plan, the Coyotes would play at least two seasons at Key Arena — the former home of the NBA’s SuperSonics and Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds — while a new arena is constructed. The 51-year-old stadium holds upward of 17,000 spectators for basketball games (the WNBA’s Storm still play there) but would reportedly have a capacity of just 11,000 for hockey — the smallest in the NHL by a wide margin.
“I let [Bettman] know of the situation here, and that we were supportive of bringing the NHL to Seattle,” McGinn said. “We have Key Arena, so we talked about the potential of them being in Key Arena, while we continue to work on a new arena plan.”
Before a subpar 2013 campaign, the Coyotes — who moved to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996 — had reached the postseason in three consecutive seasons, including a trip the Western Conference finals in 2011-12. Success on the ice has not cured the curse of empty seats, though, as the club has ranked in the bottom three in the league in attendance each of the last six seasons.
Phoenix’s average of 13,923 fans per home game during this lockout-shortened season ranked 29th of the 30 NHL teams, leading only the New York Islanders.
A pair of investors are reportedly “seriously examining” the prospect of buying the team with the intent to move them to Seattle, but in the wake of the city’s near-miss with the Kings, McGinn is not setting his hopes too high.
“I really want to bring down expectations,” he said. “We are very clearly Plan B for the NHL and this team. I feel compelled to say this after the experience we had with Sacramento than the likelihood of us having a team here in a couple of weeks is low.”
The Coyotes finished 21-18-9 this year, missing the playoffs by four points.