VANCOUVER, BC – It’s like a party, with a hockey game thrown in.
That was the atmosphere here on Tuesday night as the Canucks faced off against the San Jose Sharks and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was sitting at center ice to see it all.
“The league is in really good shape,” the league’s second-in-command said before the game, but admits, “all leagues want stability in ownership, and location, and we’re no different.”
He points to issues in cities like Atlanta and Phoenix, where franchises have been struggling. Phoenix has been in bankruptcy court.
“We’ve had discussions with a group in Seattle,” said Daly, “Certainly people who are interested in having NHL hockey in Seattle. I would rather not get into specifics to be fair to that group, or the process.”
Daly says there is a lot for the NHL to like about Western Washington, including its proximity to B.C.
“You’re always intrigued by rivalries,” says Daly.
However, he stresses he doesn’t believe the local group was willing to act in time for next season. A well-placed source says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is not a part of the current group.
Franchise moves must be approved by the NHL Board of Governors next month.
Seattle has long been discussed in NHL circles. The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917. The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds have been successful at the Western Hockey League level.
But Daly says he still has concerns about a possible venue for an NHL Franchise.
“Key Arena is a difficult arena for hockey. How many of those seats would be obstructed view seats?” he said.
Daly would not address published reports the Atlanta Thrashers are on the verge of moving to Winnipeg in time for the coming hockey season.
But Vancouver’s hockey fans had no problem talking about the possibility of a franchise moving to Seattle.
“Seattle (has) a hockey team,” said Canucks fan T.J. Chase, “So we can beat them in the playoffs too!”