By 710Sports.com staff
The NBA may not be returning to Seattle any time soon, but the possibility of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes relocating to the Emerald City is picking up steam.
Reports have surfaced that a move to Seattle is the NHL's "Plan B" for the Coyotes, and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn acknowledged Sunday that the city has had discussions with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as reported by Chris Daniels of KING 5.
McGinn said that a proposal is on the table for the hockey team to initially play at KeyArena and later move into investor Chris Hansen's proposed arena in the SoDo district.
"Our message to all parties has been the same: We believe we can support an NHL team as a tenant at KeyArena, and as a potential tenant of a new arena, subject to all parties reaching agreement on terms," McGinn said.
"It's probably right now as close as it's ever been for a team to move to Seattle," NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, who covers hockey for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), told KIRO Radio's Seattle's Morning News.
The Coyotes have been on shaky standing in their home of Glendale, Ariz. since the NHL assumed ownership of the team in 2009. A deal is in place to sell the team to a Canadian group, though, and the NHL has given Glendale until June 25 to agree to a new lease arrangement for the Coyotes to continue playing at Jobing.com Arena.
The NHL wants the Coyotes to stay in Arizona if at all possible, Friedman said. But he said the league needs to make a decision soon to plan for next season.
"If they are able to make a deal with the team and the league that's sufficient to them, that allows the Coyotes to say they're going to stay," he said. "If they can't, I think about a week later there's a good chance that team is moving to Seattle."
In a Coyotes-to-Seattle scenario, Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza have been identified as the lead investors. The group would purchase the Coyotes for $220 million, and former Coyotes star Jeremy Roenick would help run the team's operations, CBC's Kelly Hrudey reported on the network's "Hotstove Tonight" program Saturday.
Hansen's arena proposal has a Memorandum of Understanding that an NBA franchise must be approved to play in Seattle before ground can be broken using public funds. Hansen has stated that he would consider starting construction of the arena for an NHL team, however.
But even though McGinn has spoken with the league, he's trying to temper expectations.
"We are very clearly 'Plan B' for the NHL and this team," McGinn said.
"The commissioner is stubborn," Friedman said. "And when he says that his first goal is to keep them there, I do believe that he means that."
Friedman also questions whether the NHL would be successful in Seattle. He pointed out the competition with other pro and college sports for fans' attention and corporate sponsorships. He called out KING 5's decision to air the Stanley Cup Finals on sister station KONG TV instead of its main channel, saying that could be a "red flag" for league officials who would consider whether Seattle is a viable market.
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