A History Lesson on NHL Expansion Teams, Their New Arenas, And How The League Handled Delays & Home Openers

Welcome to the home stretch. You’ve made it.

I don’t blame you if the time between the Oct. 2 presentation to the NHL Executive Committee, and the expected final vote by the Board of Governors in December have felt like an eternity. While we’ve seen things like the unveiling of a proposed team training facility & community ice center, and the Seattle Hockey Partners bringing in a few more executives, the past several weeks have been mostly quiet — like a good winter snow. No real noise, but a slow and steady build that’s hard to get a true sense of until daylight hits.

While the mere threat of flurries might be enough to delay or cancel school across much of Western Washington, the 94-year wait for winter’s true return to the region is almost over.

We’re in the final days before the ultimate vote to decide whether Seattle will soon have a National Hockey League franchise to call its own, and begin the push for a chance to engrave its name onto the Stanley Cup again.

The recent era of more anticipation than action is coming to an end — quite quickly, at that.

Since we’re just a positive vote and a cleared $650 million check from David Bonderman, Jerry Bruckheimer & co. away from reality, we can now start turning our attention to more pressing matters.

The top two men in the NHL have said there are two concerns related to the timing of Seattle’s debut before the December owners’ meetings: uncertainty about the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the Emerald City’s arena.

I’m not going to waste much space on the potential of a lockout right now. The short version: both the players and the owners have to announce in September of 2019 whether either side plans to rip up the current CBA, and opt-out a year later (in September 2020). Neither side has publicly tipped their hand. It might happen, it might not. We have quite a few months to wait and see.

Currently there is no more looming, important issue for Seattle than the upcoming construction crunch at KeyArena.

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Rendering courtesy: Populous & Oak View Group

KeyArena: Confidence vs. Concerns

We’ve known for a while that the Oak View Group could not begin the true gutting and rebuilding of KeyArena until the NHL fully and formally signed off on welcoming Seattle into the fold.

Both OVG and NHL Seattle have also maintained from day one of this dream that they can start and finish the privately funded $700 million arena project in time for the start of the 2020-21 hockey season.

Yet there is still a lingering air of worry in the NHL world that they might not be able to keep that promise. In a word: “timeline” is the reason why.

The second-most powerful man in the National Hockey League said so three times in three different places in the span of eight days. As high as the league’s interest in Seattle is, this is not just some ‘boogeyman in the closet’ threat. Here’s what Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen about the arena.

Daly said he had heard KeyArena, which would be the home of the new team in Seattle, is targeted for completion in November of 2020, which could be too late for the team to start play in the 2020-21 season.

“We’ll see how that timetable adjusts over time,” Daly said.

Daly’s mention of November 2020 is noteworthy because, as we know, the NHL season does not start in the 11th month of the year. Since 1986-87, the latest date the league has opened a full (non-lockout) season is October 12th in 2016-17. The second-latest? Three separate NHL seasons opened on October 9th.

So we’d be looking at (potentially) a month of games on the road, or in an ‘alternate home’ to kick off Seattle’s opening year. Both possibilities are obviously not ideal.

When I asked NHL Seattle if it’s true that KeyArena is on track to be finished in November 2020 (as Daly said), they issued this statement in response.

“NHL Seattle recognizes that its ability to begin play in 2020 is dependent on the Arena being finished on time. We are confident that we will have a completed arena in time for the 2020 season and we will work closely with the NHL to keep them informed of our progress.”

So where did Daly get November from? That’s not exactly clear. The only other public reference to it is found in a permit the city granted to Oak View Group for the arena project (first reported by Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times).

A noise-variance permit granted to the Oak View Group – which is handling the renovation — by the City of Seattle last week projects KeyArena construction to be completed by November 2020. The permit will allow for nighttime construction and based its timeline for completion on information submitted by OVG.

In OVG & NHL Seattle’s defense, it’s plausible they got the permit and said the project ‘will be completed by November 2020′ so they were covered for all of October. I’m not positive, but it’s a thought.

For what it’s worth: here’s what the man above Daly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, said about the Seattle timeline after the October Board of Governors meetings.

“If everything can be accomplished, 2020-21 would be the goal. If not, then we’ll go with 2021-22. But I think everybody’s preference would be sooner rather than later. That’s what we’re focused on.”

“We’ll have a better sense as time goes on. The notion is have the [Board of Governors] vote on expansion and assuming, as I think everybody is, that it would be approved … everything seems to be on track. The presentation was excellent. The application is excellent, and the closer we get, the better sense we’ll have as to the variables that need to be accomplished — particularly the construction [at Seattle Center].”

“If a variety of reasons, including the building not [being] ready on time, then we’ll go to [2021-22].” — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to reporters, Oct. 2, 2018

Bettman’s use of “the closer we get, the better sense we’ll have” of the construction, and specifically mentioning “the building not [being] ready on time” hinted at some of the league’s early worries about the aggressive KeyArena timeline. The “variety of reasons” also can be interpreted as CBA uncertainty. However the commissioner did also say that “everything seems to be on track” and “We’ll have a better sense as time goes on” — an implication that Seattle checks out, and any concerns the owners and league office have could be soothed in the future.

The combination of Bettman and Daly’s words on Seattle suggest the construction timeline is still fluid in the eyes of the league, and that its power brokers have questions which they will want answered before the final vote — and the announcement of when Seattle will start its quest for the Cup.

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Okay, What About That Timeline?

Back in September, we went over a theoretical schedule with a groundbreaking on Dec. 5th — the day after the upcoming Board of Governors meetings — and three potential end dates based on typical NHL schedules (to factor in the start of rookie camp, training camp, and the regular season respectively).

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The three arenas built in less time than scenario 1 & 2 are in: Arizona, Ottawa and Winnipeg. St. Louis barely joins that club in scenario 3. But there are caveats with each of those arenas we mentioned.

  1. Arizona actually did not start playing in their current home (Gila River Arena) right after they moved from Winnipeg. They played in an arena (America West Arena aka Talking Stick Resort Arena) that was not built with a hockey rink in mind. The Coyotes were there from 1996 – 2003, when they made a mid-season move to the new Gila River Arena in Glendale. Arizona also does not have the same year-round climate that Seattle does, which likely benefitted construction there.
  2. Ottawa was an expansion team, and as part of their pitch to the NHL in 1989, their potential ownership group unveiled grand plans for what would become the Canadian Tire Centre. Yet the Senators played their first 3.5 seasons at the Ottawa Civic Centre. Why? Ownership held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new arena in July of 1992, but they didn’t actually “break ground” and begin construction work until July 7th, 1994 due to several issues (which we detail further below).
  3. Winnipeg built Bell MTS Place roughly 7 years after losing the first incarnation of the Jets to Arizona. When the building was finished in 2004, it had an American Hockey League team as its lone tenant. The NHL did not return to The ‘Peg until 7 years later in 2011, when the Atlanta Thrashers were sold and moved to Manitoba.
  4. St. Louis joined the NHL in 1967, and played in St. Louis Arena (which, at the time, was already nearly 40-years old). They called that building home until 1994, when the (now) Enterprise Center opened its doors.

So, really, each of those four “arenas built faster than Seattle’s proposed timeline” was either built after a franchise was already in the city, or (in Winnipeg’s case) was built nearly a decade before knowing the NHL would return.

It also goes to illustrate that every construction project is different. Planners and builders in Arizona face different challenges than those in Winnipeg or Seattle.

To their credit: that is something which OVG and the Seattle Hockey Partners have acknowledged. Their plan is an aggressive one, in one of the most expensive construction markets in the country, but they’re convinced they can do it in time.

Has An Unfinished Arena Kept An NHL Expansion Team From Debuting?

The short answer is no. The full answer is more complicated than that.

I went back and looked at the arena construction data for every single expansion team added to the NHL (not those that merely relocated) since the Original Six era. That takes us back to the 1967-68 season.

Some disclaimers: Not every team built a new, NHL-caliber arena after gaining acceptance. Some simply played in an existing building, or made tweaks to meet seating capacity rules. It includes four teams added to the NHL from the World Hockey Association (Edmonton, Hartford, Quebec, Winnipeg v. 1.0). In three cases (St. Louis, Vancouver, Washington) I have not found the exact ground breaking dates available publicly — but the opening dates are there. One franchise would eventually fold (California Golden Seals) and get merged into another.

For the most part, those 26 teams got their new homes done on time before their debut seasons. However: not everyone in the class aced the test. Five failed, while three others came darn close to earning an F on that evaluation. There’s also a clear trend that develops in a certain time frame (which we’ll expand on below).

I’ve split them into two respective categories below, and in each one the teams and arenas are ordered chronologically by the year the franchise had its first NHL season.

Not Ready In Time

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The Forum – Los Angeles Kings: The ‘Fabulous Forum’ was actually built as a back-up plan. The owner of the expansion NHL team in Southern California wanted the team to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (the home of the Lakers at the time) but the group which managed the arena already had a deal in place to house the minor-league LA Blades (whose owners put in a competing bid to land an NHL team). As a result, Kings’ owner Jack Kent Cook said “I am going to build my own arena. … I’ve had enough of this balderdash.”

Sure enough he did. Yet The Forum was not ready in time for the start of the Kings’ first season in the NHL. So one of the league’s newest franchises had to play in a temporary home at Long Beach Arena for the first 34 games of the 1967-68 season. They played exactly half (17) on the road. When the Kings first took the ice at their rightful home in Inglewood, it was Dec. 30th 1967. They got shutout by the Philadelpha Flyers (also a new team at the time).

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San Jose Arena (Now: SAP Center) – San Jose Sharks: Plans for ‘The Shark Tank’ started in the 1980’s, and culminated with a decisive vote authorizing the use of taxpayer money to help pay for the construction of an arena on June 7th, 1988. Almost exactly two years later (May 5th, 1990), the NHL agreed to give a franchise to San Jose owners Gordon and George Gund III (after they sold their stake in the Minnesota North Stars). Gund III had those shares since he actually owned part of the folded California Golden Seals in 1974 when the team moved to Cleveland and became the Barons — until they merged with Minnesota.

Construction on the arena started June 28th, 1990. But shortly after work began, in 1991 the Sharks had to change the designs because the arena lacked things like luxury suites, a press box, and did not have enough seats to satisfy the NHL (per Steve Cameron’s book Feeding Frenzy!: The Wild New World of The San Jose Sharks).

San Jose Arena was not finished in time for the Sharks’ debut season of 1991-92, nor the following season. As a result they had to play their first two years’ worth of home games at The Cow Palace, which the NHL previously told the aforementioned California Seals they could not play in 24 years earlier (since The Cow Palace did not meet the league’s standards). The Sharks played their first game at their rightful home on Oct. 14th, 1993 after a 3-game road trip to open the season, and 167 games into their existence.

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The Palladium (Now: Canadian Tire Centre) – Ottawa Senators: Ottawa’s shiny new home was not ready for the start of its debut season in 1992-93. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. But to truly understand how the fire hose of issues started spewing, we have to go back to the beginning.

In September of 1989, Bruce Firestone announces he plans to bid for an NHL expansion team in Ottawa. As part of his bid, he unveils proposals to build an arena, hotel and mini-city outside of Ottawa in a farm land rich area of Kanata. The Senators’ arena is roughly 18.5 miles outside of Ottawa in Kanata. For context: that’s like putting an arena in Martha Lake and saying it’s in Seattle. 

Roughly 15 months later (Dec. 1990), the NHL awards Firestone a franchise. Problem is: he didn’t have the money to pay the $50 million expansion fee himself, and needed to borrow in order to make the payment. This problem popped up again in July of 1992, when Firestone and his company held a ground-breaking ceremony for the arena even though they did not have the financing in place to build it. Just 13 months after that (Aug. 1993), there’s an ownership change. Firestone stepped aside as a mortgage payment on the property was missed, development fees are owed to the city, oh and construction had not started.

Enter new owner Rod Bryden. After spending the next six months unsuccessfully trying to get financing for the project, a frustrated Bryden said in Feb. 1994: “This speech would be a hell of a lot more interesting if I could just tell you the date we’re going to start and we could all just go to the bar.”

Eventually Bryden could do just that. Construction crews finally break actual ground on July 7th, 1994 — two years after that 1992 ceremony with Firestone. Yet the problems did not magically disappear when workers started moving dirt.

Bryden’s $188 million financing plan for the arena was put together almost entirely with borrowed money. The issue with that solution (aside from it being based on borrowed money) is it did not account for the need to build a $38 million highway interchange and roads to the arena itself. Bryden had to pay for that, although he did receive a $4 million grant from the Canadian government and a $26.8 million loan from the provincial (Ontario) government to help.

As if all of that wasn’t enough: the Senators’ arena did not open until Jan. 15th, 1996. At that point, Ottawa’s hockey team had played 258 games in the NHL before its true home opener (including the first 42 games of the 1995-96 campaign, 27 of which were on the road). So where did the Sens play their first 3.5 seasons-worth of games? An arena built in 1967 known as the Ottawa Civic Centre (now TD Place Arena), which had a capacity of 10,000 people — only after significant, albeit temporary, renovations to hit that number in order to satisfy the NHL.

That’s by far the most dramatic arena saga of all the NHL expansion teams. But if you thought it was the longest, then brace yourself — that was only third place.

Side note: if you thought the Senators had money issues at their outset, do yourself a favor and watch ‘Big Shot‘ to find out how a now-convicted fraudster temporarily owned the New York Islanders even though he did not have a fraction of the money needed to buy the team. Things you’ll only hear about in the NHL for $500, Alex. 

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The Ice Palace (Now: Amalie Arena) – Tampa Bay Lightning: The first franchise in The Sunshine State joined the NHL at the same time as Ottawa (1992-93 season). Like their drama-burdened division foes, the Lightning did not have their new home ready for their first season or the next few afterwards. Unlike the Senators, the Bolts had called two different places “home” before The Ice Palace was ready.

They spent their first season in the NHL at Expo Hall which, as the name would suggest, was designed primarily to host indoor events at the Florida State Fairgrounds. There’s a reason the facility’s own website says it’s perfect for “boat shows” and “RV or car shows” ahead of “sporting events.” When you combine that with the fact Expo Hall held (at-best) 11,000 people for NHL games, then you realize why the Lightning didn’t stay beyond one season.

Due to the limitations of Expo Hall, the Lightning moved into the (at the time) Florida Suncoast Dome, which we now know as Tropicana Field. The city of St. Petersburg built it with the goal of luring a Major League Baseball team, but it had both an Arena Football League and NHL team playing inside it for parts of seven years until the Devil Rays joined the party in 1998. Until that time, ‘The Trop’ was re-named ‘The ThunderDome’ before the Lightning eventually moved into The Ice Palace — 302 games into their time as an NHL team.

The reasons surrounding the issues building The Ice Palace are several. First: the group that promised to build an 18,500 seat, $100 million coliseum didn’t have the cash. Then in the the fall of 1993 (their second NHL season), the Lightning were still looking for sites to build their world-class new arena in the greater Tampa-St. Pete area while playing in The ThunderDome. Oh, and during these formative years the Bolts were allegedly owned by members of the Yakuza while drowning in debt.

After three full NHL seasons, and a fourth that was cut short by a lockout, the Lightning finally moved into The Ice Palace in the 1996-97 season, but didn’t make their home debut until the 5th game of the year (302 total games).

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National Car Rental Center (Now: BB&T Center) – Florida Panthers: South Florida’s team joined a year after their in-state rivals in 1993-94. Keep that in mind for the following few paragraphs.

At the time of the expansion announcement (Dec. 1992), team owner and Blockbuster CEO Wayne Huizenga said his club would play in (now-demolished) Miami Arena until their proper rink could be built.

Miami Arena was finished in 1988 and would exist for 20 years. But the arena lost its anchor tenants (Panthers & Miami Heat) by the year 2000, and both teams were reportedly looking for greener pastures as early as 1995. Simply put: Miami Arena was viewed as “outdated” by both teams due to its low-end seating capacity (17,000), lack of luxury suites and new concessions.

The City of Sunrise got the ball rolling in December of 1995, when the city manager unveiled a proposed $197 million financing and construction plan for an arena to house hockey, basketball, or both. Broward County approved the almost entirely publicly-funded proposal two months later.

The Panthers would ultimately select the Sunrise site over other proposals in June 1996 (though Huizenga asked the NHL to handle the talks, since he was planning to sell the team). A month later, more than a dozen architects, engineers and contractors got together for a design brainstorm session. The architects chosen for the job (Ellerbe Becket, now a part of AECOM) were told the arena had to be done by August 30th, 1998 for the 1998-99 NHL season. By the time they broke ground in November, that gave them roughly 21 months. Ellerbe Becket had never designed a project of this magnitude in less than 31 months from start to finish.

They came close. The City of Sunrise temporarily cleared the building for people to be allowed inside on September 12th, 1998 so Panthers season ticket holders could check out their seats and see their team’s new home. At the time, firefighters and emergency teams had to test the arena’s public address system because they were worried it was not loud enough to warn people if there was a fire (spoiler: as you can imagine, the arena P.A. system was loud enough).

The arena officially opened October 3rd, 1998 with a concert, and the Panthers played their first game there six days later to open their 1998-99 campaign. By that point Florida had played a whopping 378 NHL regular season games, covering four full seasons and one of the lockout-shortened variety.

The Very Close Calls

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The Metropolitan Sports Center (AKA: The Met Center) – Minnesota North Stars: Yes, let the nostalgia flow through you.

The Metropolitan Sports Center was built in a stunningly short amount of time (by modern standards) of one year, 19 days. The North Stars debuted along with their fellow five expansion counterparts in 1967-68. That particular NHL season began October 11th. The arena was technically done in time.

However, parts of the arena’s construction had not been completed. The North Stars played their first four games on the road. Yet when fans arrived at The Met Center on October 21st for the North Stars’ first home game, they found that spectator seats were still in the process of being installed (per Bob Showers’ book Minnesota North Stars: History and Memories with Lou Nanne).

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Kemper Arena (Now: HyVee Arena) – Kansas City Scouts: The Scouts joined the puck party along with the Washington Capitals in 1974-75. While the Scouts did not have the building issues of some of the previously mentioned teams, they had one of the roughest welcomes to the NHL.

Kemper Arena “opened” September 30th of 1974, just nine days before the start of the season. However, it was not dedicated until nearly three weeks after that “opening,” and would not host its first event until the Scouts played there November 2nd.

So what did the Scouts do for nearly the entire first month of their inaugural season? They played one heck of a road trip. Kansas City played nine of its first ten games, including their first eight straight, away from home. In another form:

The Scouts emerged from that ten-game gauntlet with a single victory, and 1-8-1 record (that final ‘1’ is a tie, since this was well before the shootout).

Why did the NHL give them that road trip as a “welcome gift”? It turns out the completion of the arena was delayed by labor disputes, and the arena itself still was not completely finished when it was dedicated on that October 18th, 1974 date.

Ultimately the Scouts were not long for the Show Me State. Their owners, who were under piles of debt, sold the team after just two seasons. New ownership moved them to Colorado, where they became the Rockies, until 1982. At that point the Rockies got moved to New Jersey and were renamed the Devils.

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Xcel Energy Center – Minnesota Wild: There must be something in the water in the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ for two arenas for two different franchises in the same state to appear on this list. But here we are.

Minnesota regained representation in the league with the start of the 2000-01 NHL season. The Wild and the Blue Jackets joined at the same time. Shortly after the league awarded Minnesota a spot, Tod Leiweke was named the organization’s President.

Shovels hit dirt in St. Paul for the first time on June 23rd, 1998. The X opened its doors for the first time 830 days later on September 29th, 2000 — exactly one week before the NHL season began. But for all the excitement about the Wild’s first home game, there was quite a bit of nervousness as well.

The problem was: Xcel Energy Center was not “finished” until moments before they actually opened those doors for their first preseason game. In fact: while fans were streaming through for a first glimpse at the new rink, workers were still screwing down the final seats in the building. According to people who worked in the Minnesota front office at the time, one of the architects on the project walked through the crowds of fans while hauling out a garbage bag or two of the final construction debris. Like I said: quite the close call.

Takeaways

In reading through each of those real stories of arena anxiety, you might’ve noticed something that we mentioned at the beginning: timing.

Four of the five arenas that did not get finished in time occurred in the 1990’s. If you look a little bit closer, then you realize something else about those same four problematic projects. Not a single one happened under the watch of an NHL Commissioner.

The position actually did not exist until 1993. Before then, there was simply a league president. Bettman has been the only ‘commish’ the NHL has known since February 1st, 1993.

I’ll save you the time of scrolling back. The Florida Panthers’ expansion was approved and announced just before Bettman took leadership of the league. The NHL approved franchises in Anaheim and Florida on December 10th, 1992. Bettman started less than two months later.

Why is that significant?

Look no further than Nashville, which was the first expansion process Bettman oversaw from start to finish in 1997. The Music City had a new arena already in place before getting accepted. Prior to that, cities and ownership groups could be awarded teams before having a new building. Bettman’s leadership, as seen in that four-way expansion with Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesta, changed that.

It’s a key piece of history to keep in mind as we count down to puck drop at Seattle Center — particularly if you’re someone who believes past performance is an indicator of future action.

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What makes the Bettman expansion era more interesting is another set of numbers worth applying to the Seattle situation: how long it’s taken to build each arena (Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota and Vegas).

Sin City had the shortest construction time, clocking in at 707 days (or: 1 year, 11 months, 6 days). The other four each took at least 2 years and 3 months to finish their arenas. If you average out their number of construction days, it took that group 855 days (roughly 2 years, 4 months) to build an arena. If you prefer medians to averages, your number is 836 days (2 years, 3 months, 14 days — give or take, depending on the months).

Admittedly: five arenas is a small sample size, and you have outliers in Vegas and Nashville on the low and high ends (respectively) in terms of the number of days between groundbreaking and opening. But again: let’s explore it since these are the five most-common situations to the one Seattle is in. 

To put those numbers in perspective, let’s apply each of those three total construction lengths (Vegas’ time, the group average, and group median) to Seattle, with a December 5th groundbreaking to see when KeyArena would theoretically be finished in each circumstance.

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The percentages make each of these timelines seem much more attainable than the previous December 2018 – October 2020 scenario. However you’ll also notice that in two of these three cases, a Seattle arena would not be finished until the spring of 2021. If OVG followed the Vegas timeline to a ‘T’, then we’d be looking at an opening in November of 2020 — making Seattle’s one of the ten fastest-built arenas at the NHL level.

If that happened, then Seattle would be looking at spending the first month-plus on the road, or playing “home” games at an alternative site. We can already rule out the latter option based on Bettman’s history of dealing with expansion teams, and because of what Daly said as well.

“They’ve mentioned that possibility, but I don’t think that’s an ideal way to bring in an expansion franchise by playing in an alternate venue for any period of time, really. … We’ll see how that plays out. I know they have an interest in starting in ’20-21 and we’d like the accommodate them any way we can.” — Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly to NHL.com, November 12th, 2018

So if an alternate venue is out of the question, that would leave us with the potential of spending the first month of the season on the road. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on NBC Sports’ Wednesday Night Hockey that Seattle believes KeyArena will be done by the first week of November 2020, and ownership is willing to play all of October away from home.

That has not happened under Bettman’s watch. The longest an expansion team has waited for its regular season home opener is their third game of the season (two games played), which happened with the Golden Knights and the Wild. The other three new franchises each had their first seasons start with a home game in their sparkling new arena.

To take it one step further: if you remove the expansion teams whose arenas were not ready, which we mentioned above, and take out Hartford (their arena’s roof collapsed in a 1978 storm and was still being rebuilt in their first NHL season), then you’re left with just one expansion team in NHL history to start its debut season on the road for a month: Kansas City, who failed and relocated after two season. The next-closest are the North Stars and Atlanta Flames, who had their first regular season home games as their fifth contest of the year (four road games played beforehand).

As I mentioned above: no two construction projects are identical. One needs only to look at the differences in climate and weather to see contrasts between Vegas and Seattle construction situations, or simply time and technology to contrast the present with the past. NHL Seattle also maintains that it believes the arena will be done in time for the start of the 2020-21 hockey season.

But this exercise is worth doing. Until we get the official, specific construction schedule from OVG and NHL Seattle — we’re left with only the past to look at, and see how prior information would project in our current situation.

One thing is certain: it’s been more than 37,139 days since Seattle’s last ‘Quest For The Cup’ paid off. We’re about to find out when we can pick-up that pursuit again.


Loose Pucks

  • Some notes on the upcoming Board of Governors meetings:
    • The agenda is not finalized (as of Thursday, Nov. 29th), but the NHL believes any discussion and announcement of a Seattle verdict will come on Tuesday December 4th.
    • Monday’s meetings will be during the afternoon/evening Pacific time, while Tuesday’s will be in the morning. The latter day’s events are expected to wrap up around 9 a.m. PST.
    • NHL Seattle President & CEO Tod Leiweke is spending the final days going to back-to-back games in Montreal with one of the Seattle investors (per Pierre LeBrun).
    • NHL Seattle told me their same personnel from the October trip to New York will also be going to Georgia. They believe they will have a larger traveling party than last time, since they invited local investors, City of Seattle advisory group members, city leaders, etc.
    • One noteworthy absence? Dave Tippett, which we’ve known for a couple weeks. He admitted earlier that he was staying behind because they had some “things planned” in Seattle right after the meetings (presumably the ground breaking on Dec. 5).
    • I asked if NHL Seattle would be giving the same presentation in Georgia that they did in New York (which received rave reviews in October), or if it would be different in any way. They referred me to the league.
    • NHL Seattle did say their leadership will be involved in the meeting, likely Tuesday morning. Plenty of time for Introduction to Falconry.
  • I honestly wonder if the Board of Governors approves Seattle, but does not announce a firm debut season at the end of these meetings. Doing so would give Seattle time to get to work on the arena, while keeping the league flexible in the event of any arena or CBA issues. Both Sportsnet/Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Frank Seravalli said this week that outcome is definitely a possibility. Bob McKenzie said not to rule out a 2021 start.
  • For the record: having the expansion draft in 2021 would, theoretically, be more beneficial for a Seattle franchise. Current rookies like Swedish sensations Elias Pettersson and Rasmus Dahlin would need to be protected from Seattle by their current teams then, but not in 2020. There are quite a few other young, exciting talents in the same boat. A year delay would mean more are (theoretically) eligible for plucking, depending on how teams prioritize protections.
  • No matter what year the expansion draft happens, Vegas will not be vulnerable. They’re not getting a cut of the $650 million check from Seattle ownership. We’ve known that for a few months. You can read the entire expansion draft rules Seattle will deal with (barring tweaks in Georgia).
  •  The Vice Chairman of NHL Seattle re-confirmed with Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated that a team nickname should emerge sometime in the spring of 2019 (along with the “start” of a GM search, per Tippett).
  • Speaking of GMs: it doesn’t sound like Steve Yzerman will be going anywhere this year. Joe Smith of The Athletic poured some cold water on ‘Yzerman to the Flyers’ speculation, including a revealing quote that has a similarly chilling effect on ‘Yzerman to Seattle’ hope.
  • On the Flyers: with GM Ron Hextall out, Carter Hart’s status in the organization is still unchanged. At the press conference announcing Hextall’s firing, Flyers President Paul Holmgren admitted the agreed with Hextall that Hart is not ready for the NHL right now. Based on his current numbers in the AHL (0.884 SV%, 3.61 GAA in 12 games) it’s hard to argue.
    • Also: given Hextall’s overlap with Tim Leiweke working for the Los Angeles Kings (including on the 2011-12 Stanley Cup team), I wonder if he gets a look for a Seattle job.
  • ESPN’s Emily Kaplan wrote a nice story on Hart’s start in professional hockey, including a moment of early adulthood quite a few people can probably relate to.

If you have any questions or feedback: leave a comment, send me an email at the address on the bottom of the page or hit me up on Twitter (@ScottMalone91).

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