An NHL team in Seattle? Group in Vancouver this week to study the viability

Dozens of people from Seattle are in Vancouver to watch the Canucks kick off their post-Olympics schedule against the St. Louis Blues today.

But their trip is for business, not pleasure. The group is here to talk with Canucks executives and get a sense of what it takes to run an NHL team.

“You’ve got some people on the trip who have never been to an NHL game before,” said Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, to the Seattle Times. “So, at the very least, they’ll come back with a greater understanding of what hockey is and what it takes to present the sport to fans at the NHL level.”

A team in Seattle, which is the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. never to have NHL hockey, has been discussed for years. The city was seen as a possible option for the Phoenix Coyotes when the team was in limbo last year, and a new arena is planned for the city. Rumoured investors for a possible expansion team include former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

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Two weeks ago, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly gave a tentative vote of confidence to Seattle, telling the Times “objective factors around the marketplace suggest [they] would be a good hockey market.”

Kingsley Bailey of Vancouver Ticket Services says the team would have appeal to people in B.C., especially those in the Fraser Valley.

If they were to have a team in Seattle, tickets would be about 25 per cent cheaper,” he estimated. “It’d be cheaper for people out in Surrey and Langley to go to Seattle than a Canucks game.”

He also suggested the Canucks could lose fans from Bellingham, who would be predisposed to switch allegiances to an American team.

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