The application deadline for NHL expansion teams was Monday afternoon. As expected, Las Vegas and Quebec City submitted their pitches before it passed.
The bigger news is which city didn’t.
Seattle, long considered the NHL’s most desired expansion city, didn’t submit a bid for a team, according to reports. That’s despite three ownership groups in three locations having publicly stated their interest in pursuing a franchise in the region.
The problem, as it’s been for the NHL in Seattle, is logistics and politics. Victor Coleman, the real estate maven leading the effort to bring a team to the SoDo area of Seattle, has yet to get the city to revise its public funding for an arena, which is currently approved only if an NBA team is the first tenant.
Connecticut-based investment banker Ray Bartoszek wanted to bring an NHL team to an arena in Tukwila, a city that borders Seattle. He has an option to purchase and develop land there for an arena, and there was talk that ground could be broken in early 2016. But KING 5 reporter Chris Daniels said that Bartoszek “could not meet the NHL timeline but continues to work” on the arena proposal.
The Seattle Times reported that a bid to get a team in Bellevue, which is Seattle’s largest suburb, fell apart in the weeks leading up to the deadline despite the presence of a “power broker” who previously helped place teams in Minnesota and Anaheim. The city said on Monday that it wasn't aware of any bids submitted.
Seattle’s hopes for an NHL team aren’t exactly dashed, however. The NHL wanted to see which groups were willing to step up and pay a $10 million fee – with $2 million non-refundable – to apply for a team. It’s also acutely aware of Seattle’s political situation when it comes to the Coleman bid; if the city does eventually approve funding for the NHL, it’s hard to imagine the League doesn’t revisit it despite not having a bid in-hand now. As for Tukwila, that was also something that couldn't be formalized on the NHL's timeline.
These aren't just "experessions of interest." These are owners that want a team. But there's no point in paying $2 million when neither know if they can even break ground on the kind of arena the NHL wants, i.e. not Key Arena for the first few seasons.
As for Vegas and Quebec, this formalized their well-established bids.
Bill Foley’s Las Vegas group secured down payments in over 13,000 season tickets, the majority of them from individuals and small groups and not just the casinos buying up blocks. A state-of-the-art arena is under construction on the Strip and would be ready for a team potentially by 2016-17.
Scott Burnside of ESPN reports that Foley’s application was submitted to the NHL under the name Black Knight Sports and Entertainment LLC, would does little to disprove the notion that this team will be called the Black Knights. Cue your favorite Monty Python and/or Martin Lawrence and/or Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament jokes.
Quebec City, meanwhile, has the financial heft of Quebecor and an arena set to open in September with a capacity of over 18,000. The media company announced on Monday that “we submitted our candidacy for the NHL expansion process in order to bring the Nordiques back to Quebec City.”
Other cities in the expansion mix that did not submit a bid: Portland, according to Daniels, who had billionaire Paul Allen as a potential owner; Toronto, which didn’t have a formal bidder; and Proctor, Minnesota, which was never going to submit a bid but seriously how great was this?
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Yahoo Sports in an email that no formal announcement was forthcoming on Monday, but would likely arrive later in the week from the League.
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