Commentary: NHL to Seattle news supersedes arena in-fighting and bureaucratic incompetence
We start with the best news of the week: Seattle will apply for – and the NHL will accept an application for – an expansion team. The NHL is coming – something we’ve repeatedly said this city deserves.
That’s the headline. For now, that’s what matters most. And that’s a huge win – an incredibly exciting win for sports fans in our area.
Now, am I happy how we got here? Of course not. Do I think the process was flawed? No doubt. Is it the best possible situation for future arena consumers? In my view, absolutely not. There are still tons of questions and issues to be addressed, from traffic, transportation and parking in the Uptown neighborhood of Lower Queen Anne, to the aggressive construction timeline, to the ultimate goal of bringing the Sonics back to Seattle too.
But that skepticism, while valid, isn’t the story right now. The NHL is. Because knowing there’s mutual interest is an entirely different thing than actually hearing the words from the commissioner’s mouth.
And at this point, Gary Bettman has acknowledged Seattle’s proposal. The wedding date and location are set – it’s just a matter of getting to the altar and saying “I do.”
To me, that means more than any city council member taking credit for finally approving an arena plan. Their perspective might be flawed - their stubbornness, absurd. But any efforts – on my part or others - to expose the bureaucratic hypocrisy in this city - any pleas for our local leadership to actually listen to the majority who preferred a different plan in SODO – came to a grinding halt with Monday’s vote to approve a KeyArena Memorandum of Understanding.
Like it or not, that was the virtual final whistle in SODO versus Key. And like any competitor, you fight until the bitter end, and then accept reality and move on.
And in this case, we move on with refreshingly good news.
In fact, here’s a good comparison: Are Huskies fans disappointed they’re not Pac-12 champs and playing in the College Football Playoff this year? Of course they’re disappointed. But are they upset the Dawgs are playing in the Fiesta Bowl – a major bowl game - on New Year’s Day? No way!
It’s exactly how I feel about the arena situation. A national championship opportunity for the Huskies would’ve been akin to a conditional street vacation approval in SODO with both the NBA and NHL coming to town. THAT was the ultimate goal – the best possible scenario. But am I disappointed with the NHL at a remodeled KeyArena, with the hope for an NBA team down the road? Of course not. It’s not a bad consolation prize at all. Fiesta Bowl it is!
So we can continue to gripe about how the game was played (and yes, the “officiating” was the worst!).
But we can also, as sports fans, see the forest through the trees: That we’re on the verge of a major milestone in welcoming the NHL to our city. And for now at least, that’s what matters most.