NHL com­ing to Seat­tle shouldn’t be about hope for NBA’s re­turn

The News Tribune - - Sports - BY DAR­RIN BEENE [email protected]­new­stri­bune.com

The an­nounce­ment on Tues­day that the NHL Board of Gover­nors had ap­proved Seat­tle’s ex­pan­sion bid was not even hours old be­fore David Bon­der­man, one of the new team’s own­ers, was asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of adding an NBA team.

His re­ply was “one mir­a­cle at a time.”

The NBA and Seat­tle also was on the lips of Kevin Du­rant, the once-and-fu­ture Sonic. Du­rant has spo­ken of his de­sire to get into man­age­ment, and when asked Wed­nes­day by ESPN if he would be in­ter­ested in run­ning an NBA team in Seat­tle, he was quick with a re­sponse.

“Hell yeah,” he said. “Of course I would.”

He did add that it wasn’t just Seat­tle, but he would be in­ter­ested in be­ing part of the op­er­a­tion of any NBA team.

And then there was Kris “Sonic Guy” Bran­non – you know, the guy who’s al­ways decked out in Son­ics gear? He

was spot­ted Tues­day at a watch party in a Seat­tle bar holding a sign with an

NHL logo paired with “Now!” and an NBA logo paired with “Next!”

Ap­par­ently, pro hockey is the gate­way drug to pro bas­ket­ball. This area’s ob­ses­sion with the NBA’s re­turn is now ramp­ing up faster than you can say the Seat­tle Kraken.

(Side note: The own­er­ship group for Seat­tle’s NHL team needs to get the team name right. I know Kraken is one of the names be­ing floated around, but it vi­o­lates the first rule of good sports team names: No sin­gu­lar plu­rals. And it sort of vi­o­lates the sec­ond rule, too, of be­ing a trendy name that may not wear well in 10 years. For ex­am­ples, see Rap­tors, Preda­tors and Wild, which nails both.)

Let’s be clear: Seat­tle is get­ting an NHL team. Hockey. Not bas­ket­ball; the NBA has no plans to ex­pand and prob­a­bly still mocks any­one liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton for ac­tu­ally think­ing they were go­ing to al­low the Sacra­mento

Kings to move here back in 2013.

Usu­ally, I’m a more­s­ports-the-bet­ter type a guy. Give me the all-you­can-watch buf­fet of sports, not the a la carte menu.

But don’t make area sports fans choose be­tween NHL and NBA, even if you’ve got a sparkling re­fur­bished arena to house the two.

I’m a strong be­liever that if hockey is to work in Seat­tle, it needs to be the only game in town dur­ing the win­ter sports sea­son. There’s al­ready an over­lap with the Sea­hawks in the fall and the Mariners in the spring, so an NBA team would only fur­ther di­lute the in­ter­est in the NHL.

Fans eyes and dol­lars only go so far. And in the NHL, that’s 82 games, plus play­offs, and one of the more ex­pen­sive tick­ets around.

The NHL does not get as much rev­enue from TV as the other ma­jor sports, so it makes it up in ticket prices. Last year, SeatGeek – an on­line tick­et­ing agency – found that NHL tick­ets sold off its site cost $91, sec­ond only to the NFL ($166). By com­par­i­son

NBA games were $88 and MLB games $45.

Ex­pect those prices to go up by the time the puck drops in Seat­tle in Oc­to­ber of 2021.

I’ve seen the re­ports about how fans ab­so­lutely lost their ice over the thought of at­tend­ing NHL games. Last spring’s sea­son-ticket drive had 10,000 sign­ing up in the first 12 min­utes and

25,000 in the first hour.

That is amaz­ing. Just imag­ine what those num­bers would be for an NBA team com­ing to Seat­tle.

Bas­ket­ball is part of the sports fabric of this area and the Son­ics were a huge part of that. They were the first pro team from Wash­ing­ton and they won an NBA ti­tle in 1979 that long-time fans still get misty-eyed about.

But it’s time to take of the green-and-gold glasses. That’s an­cient history. The Son­ics have been gone for 10 years, and even un­der the best of cir­cum­stances, an NBA team wouldn’t call Seat­tle home for al­most that long.

But for some, this will not mat­ter. It’s the NBA they want and no hockey team will do. They’re will­ing to wait and pine away for a team that plays on hard­wood.

A lot can change in seven or eight years. Maybe the NHL will have taken root to the point that the NBA would not be a threat to its long-term suc­cess in Seat­tle.

Maybe, just maybe, fans will move on from their bring-back-the-Son­ics ob­ses­sion. They’ll opt to root for the Kraken or Sock­eyes (per­sonal fa­vorite) or what­ever they’re go­ing to call Seat­tle’s NHL team, and be all-in on hockey and for­get about the NBA.

And that would be a real mir­a­cle.

ELAINE THOMPSON AP

Kris “Sonic Guy” Bran­non holds up a sign in sup­port of adding an NBA team fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of a new NHL team in Seat­tle at a cel­e­bra­tory party Tues­day.

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