Commentary: Is six weeks enough to get NHL ducks in a row?



The Seattle/Portland rivalry – with its unique intensity and spirit – has me once again dreaming of that same passion in a regional rivalry between Seattle and Vancouver – in the NHL.

Earlier this week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced an expansion process, in which they’ll take applications through August 10. For all the rumblings we’ve heard about the possibility of top-tier pro hockey in the area, Bettman finally gave it formal validation. He even went so far as to say the Seattle-area was a top contender – and hopeful this process would bring some certainty to the current arena situation.

And therein lies the problem. Finding any semblance of certainty in just six-weeks time, when you’re involving any local government – is a pretty large hurdle.

In fact, unless Chris Hansen gets a solid financing plan from a potential hockey owner, the SODO hockey plan would be on life support – not to mention the trouble it would take to get the City and County Councils to amend the MOU to “hockey first.”

And let’s say the Tukwila or Bellevue group somehow, someway comes up with a plan for the $500 million expansion fees – and then comes up with a plan to privately fund a half-billion dollar arena (Because, let’s be honest, approving public funds is a whole different animal). Would the process be far-enough along for either City Council to give their blessing, given all the legal red tape, not limited to a pending environmental study? Is six weeks really long enough to put enough ducks in a row to give the NHL sufficient optimism that a team in this area would really work?

There’s no doubt I’m an optimist and a dreamer – that I’ve been a champion of this cause from the start – and truly believe that this region can support both the NBA and the NHL – that the fans here are truly deserving of both.

But while Bettman’s time-frame is causing the “arms race” he wants between potential NHL ownership groups in the area – and it’s finally causing these groups to show their hand - the reality of governmental hurdles looms over this entire process.

Don’t get me wrong – for now at least, Bettman seems to be on our side. Based on his previous visits to the region, he seems to be actively rooting for a future team in the area. He’s not dangling the same unfortunate string the NBA has used against us since the Sonics left town.

The NHL wants to come to our region. We want them here. Best of all, we wouldn’t be stealing a team from anywhere else.

But six weeks to get anything on-track to be approved from our local leaders – or to garner enough optimism sufficient for the NHL - seems like a daunting task. I really – really - hope I’m wrong.