Hockey optimism was palpable as a 34-member Seattle delegation of sports, business and political leaders returned Thursday from a 24-hour trade mission north of the border to Vancouver.
The purpose of the trip – organized by the Seattle Sports Commission and Tourism Vancouver – was to forge sports business relationships. And throughout it all, talk of the NHL coming to Seattle was prevalent.
“We learned a lot about the sport and a little bit about the relationship between Seattle and Vancouver,’’ said King County Council member Reagan Dunn, who, like a handful in the delegation, had never been to an NHL game. “I think it got a lot of people on this trip thinking seriously about whether they want to bring a hockey franchise to Seattle, and also whether we want to invest in the necessary infrastructure, like an arena.”
Arena talk seems certain to dominate much of the coming year if the NHL, as expected, issues a “letter of intent’’ to award a franchise in coming weeks to one of three potential Seattle ownership groups. Sources have identified the three main candidates as groups headed by New York investment banker Ray Bartoszek, Chicago businessman Don Levin and the Steve Ballmer-Chris Hansen partnership.
Many expect the NHL to award a letter of intent no later than June, at which time the league and chosen ownership group would hold a news conference announcing they plan to bring hockey to Seattle.
A handful of the business and political participants in this week’s Seattle delegation to Vancouver have had involvement in the ongoing talks to make an NHL franchise here a reality.
They heard encouraging words at Wednesday’s pre-game reception by Canucks chief operating officer Victor deBonis, who marveled at the relationship between Seattle’s “12th Man’’ football fans and the Seahawks.
King County councilmember Pete von Reichbauer said it was great seeing “12th Man’’ signs still hanging in Vancouver and proving that sports can have a regional impact far beyond a city’s borders.
Others making the trip included Seattle Port commissioner John Creighton and representatives from the Mariners, the Boeing Classic, Seattle University and various construction, transportation, hotel, financial and legal firms.
“Our goal was to get the dialogue going with people in Vancouver, and I think we certainly accomplished that,’’ said Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission. “As for what comes of it, we’ll have to see.’’
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