Seattle Could Lose NBA Team Because Of NHL Expansion

From the start, Seattle was said to be one of the favorites to get an NHL team. From the start it was the NBA first, then the NHL. This ambition could be satisfied by either an NBA expansion team or by the shift of an existing NBA team (the Milwaukee Bucks?) to Seattle.

To that end, potential NHL bidders were said to be waiting for the NBA bidder to make a move about building an arena. It was said that for that reason, there has been no construction started on a new Seattle arena. It could be that exact reason that Quebec and Las Vegas (and perhaps some other undeclared cities) got the upper hand on Seattle to get an NHL expansion team.

As reported in a previous article, Seattle, once considered an automatic choice for an NHL franchise has now joined Hamilton and Houston as an NHL expansion favorite who somehow blew it. But the price for all this dithering and indecision over an arena could even be more costly for Seattle. They could also end up losing the NBA team that is supposed to be their number one goal.

Well how could this have happened? It was necessary to make some assumptions about what might occur. First, assume that Las Vegas gets an NHL team and also assume that despite the city’s lack of roots in hockey, the team surprises the doubters and is a success.

Now assume that after seeing the success of NHL expansion, the NBA decides to expand to a symmetrical 32 teams and realign into a sensible NFL-like format. Unlike the NHL (which wanted up to four teams during this current expansion and saw that go up in smoke because of its excessive expansion fee), the NBA only wants to take two teams to round itself out.

Unlike the NHL, the NBA does not have a “balancing problem” between conferences, so they will take one eastern city and one western one. The NBA will look at their NHL cousin and see which of its cities has a successful hockey franchise in an excellent arena, but no basketball team.

For its eastern selection, the NBA would probably choose Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay. For the western selection, most Seattle citizens assume that their city because of its basketball history, because of the moral outrage that occurred when the Supersonics left is the automatic choice. The NBA “owes” Seattle a team.

In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their NHL teams in the 1990s, Winnipeg, Quebec, and Hartford and stated the terms of readmission to the NHL. It at least amounted to a semi-official commitment for re-entry. Certainly, he made it clear that the NHL was not hostile to these cities rejoining the league at a later date if they fulfilled the conditions that he had stated.

The news was well received in all three cities. Winnipeg already has its team back and it seems likely that Quebec will get the Nordiques back during this coming expansion.

But the NBA has not done that with Seattle. Now suppose the NBA sees the NHL operating a successful franchise in Las Vegas in their new arena. Suddenly a Seattle franchise is no longer an “automatic” choice for the NBA. They want a piece of the Las Vegas action.

All this is of course pure speculation. But because of Seattle’s dithering and lack of commitment to settling its arena problem, it is now a possibility. Seattle, which once seemed an overwhelming favorite to get both an NBA and NHL team has opened the door to lose both.