Blueliner Hockey Tour Part 3
Victoria whilst being the capital of British Columbia is in fact closer to the state of Washington than it is to most of its own province. About 90 minutes across an inlet of the Pacific Ocean are the Olympic mountains and about 3 hours by boat down the Puget Sound is the city of Seattle.
Seattle may be more famous for its grunge rock scene than its sport but that is changing. Seattle has 3 major sports clubs, the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL the Seattle Mariners of the MLB and in the MLS the Seattle Sounders as well as two universities. That scene though is often rumoured to be growing with both hockey and basketball on the verge of a franchise in the city.
Those rumours have swelled so much that Seattle has overtaken Quebec City and Hamilton as the number one candidate for the next NHL franchise. Hockey will have a hard time establishing itself in the city. The NFL is the top sport on the offer with the Seahawks beginning to push towards a Superbowl birth. The MLBâ€™s Mariners on the other hand have not seen anything like that success and have failed to make the playoffs since 2001.
Despite this there is a passion for sport and the MLS side the Seattle Sounders are part of that but there is a feeling of a hole come springtime in Seattle. It is a time of the playoff races and post seasons for many sporting cities and fills the void between the NFL post season winter and the meaningful baseball games of summer. A meaningful sporting period that the NHL could fill.
Hockey is represented in the city however with the WHLâ€™s Seattle Thunderbirds. However this outfit suffers by being overshadowed by American Football and baseball and having an arena that is not really central. However if an NHL franchise were to be granted the Key Arena next to the cityâ€™s iconic Space Needle just minutes from downtown and the famous Pike Place would be a favourite to be home ice.
Of course ice hockey is no stranger to Seattle and neither is the Stanley Cup. In 1917 the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American side to lift the Stanley. And in 1992 when another famous club from that era the Ottawa Senators entered the NHL Seattle looked set to be granted the other expansion franchise. All of that maybe gone now but the bars of downtown Seattle do show the NHL Network and carry games live alongside the local clubs showing the enthusiasm is not entirely gone.
It would a good thing for the NHL as well. Like the Vancouver Canucks in British Columbia Seattle in many ways represents an area and not just the State of Washington but the entire Pacific Northwest region. The Seattle Mariners are a prime example of the kind of reach the NHL could get in the region. Mariners fans are drawn of course from the city of Seattle and the state of Washington but also from neighbouring states like Oregon, Montana and Idaho as well.
On this trip a lot of hockey at all levels has been seen. Some things are clear. British Columbia is a hotbed of hockey and despite the lockout the NHL and the Vancouver Canucks are still number one. In America it is still the case that the northwest corner of this vast country is still interested in hockey and Seattle is ideally placed for a NHL franchise even if it means rearranging the divisions again.
This part of the world is truly beautiful in scenery, contrasts and the passion of the people that live there for their city, province, country and above all their team.