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Volume 24 No. 157
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NHL Would Balance Conferences With Seattle Expansion; Quebec Hopes Take Another Hit

The NHL's decision to allow Seattle to apply for expansion was a "logical step" because it is a "natural fit to join the Western Conference, thereby balancing the league again with 16 teams in each conference," according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. There also has "long been a fascination" with the city's potential for an NHL franchise (USATODAY.com, 12/9). In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted the NHL has "long been fascinated with Seattle as a hockey market, as a way of carving into the Northwest." Seattle has a "strong history of junior hockey in the Western League and would be a natural rival" for the Canucks. The Canucks are about two hours away and could "actually ponder a bus trip for a road game from Vancouver for the first time in their history." The NHL was "simply waiting for Seattle to get its house in order regarding an arena." That finally happened last week, when a memorandum of understanding was "signed by the city and the Oak View Group" for a $600M renovation of KeyArena. One thing the NHL has to be "concerned about compared to Las Vegas is that Seattle is already a crowded sports market." The Seahawks and Mariners are "long-entrenched franchises" dating to the '70s, and the Sounders are perennially one of the top clubs in MLS. The likely return to the NBA could "push hockey further down the pecking order, so this will be no sure-fire success model like it appears we're seeing in Las Vegas" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/9).

PERFECT MATCH?
In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa noted Seattle has "long been atop the NHL’s wish list." A Seattle franchise would have an "instant rivalry" with the Canucks. Given the "prospective corporate involvement of Seattle’s technology sector, placing an NHL franchise inside KeyArena would be a no-brainer." A Seattle team would "most likely be a competitive and well-supported organization, from both the boardroom and family room" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/10). But in Tacoma, John McGrath wrote there is a "lot of skepticism about an NHL team’s long-term survival in Seattle." Ticket prices "will be high, convenient parking opportunities around KeyArena will be spare, and in the likelihood the NBA someday approves a resurrection of the Sonics, it’s fair to wonder if there’s room for another major pro-sports team in the region." But McGrath wrote there is "room for hockey" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 12/10).

OH, CANADA: In Boston, Stephen Harris notes the NHL wants $650M from the Seattle group to "become the 16th team in the Western Conference -- giving the league its long desired East/West balance with 16 teams in each conference." It was that "geographic reality, among other concerns, that doomed the passionate attempt by Quebec City to bring back the NHL to its gorgeous new arena, the Videotron Centre." A new team there "would have worsened the balance and forced a team in the East to move back to the West." Now that there would be balance if Seattle lands a team, Quebec City "presumably has to hope there will one day be a desire to expand again, and maybe add a team on each side." Harris: "It could be a long wait" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/11).