POLL: What’s your priority, the NHL or the Sonics?

Are you excited about a hockey team coming to town, or about the possibility of the NBA returning?

When the NHL announced two weeks ago that it was awarding an expansion franchise to Seattle to begin play in the 2021-22 season, there were two issues that immediately sprung to my mind that I thought would make for good Seattle Sidelines polls.

The first of those was asking readers what they thought the team’s nickname should be. This is something that had been much discussed in the local hockey community even before the announcement, so I thought it was a natural subject for a poll. That instinct was confirmed when we received a huge amount of participation in the poll, which ran last week.

While that poll subject was fun, my second idea is a little different.

The Dec. 4 announcement was celebrated and cheered by the local hockey fan base. But what about those in the community who aren’t hockey fans? What was their reaction? I found a fair amount of sentiment on Twitter from local sports fans that they were excited not so much about an NHL team coming to Seattle, but more about what the implications may be for the Sonics.

Everything that’s going on with the NHL coming to Seattle has its origins in the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics relocating from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Seattle has a rich 42-year NBA history, with the Sonics winning the NBA championship in 1979. Players from the Seattle area, from Jamal Crawford to Zach LaVine to Isaiah Thomas, dot NBA rosters. There’s a heavy sentiment from important people in the NBA that the league needs to put a franchise back in Seattle. However, it’s clear the NBA will never come back to Seattle without an upgraded facility.

All the efforts surrounding arena building/renovating in recent years, whether it was Chris Hansen’s attempt to get a new arena built in the Sodo area or the OVG Group’s successful bid to get KeyArena rebuilt, began with the intention of luring an NBA team back to town. Hansen is an avowed Sonics fan who understood the need to have an NHL team sharing the building to maximize economic value. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan talked during the campaign about bringing the Sonics back, not about bringing the NHL to Seattle.

Having covered the Everett Silvertips for 12 years, I’m firmly embedded in the local hockey community. Therefore, I am surrounded by enthusiasm for the NHL coming to Seattle. But I want to know the whole story. Is the local excitement about the NHL’s announcement about a hockey team coming to town, or is it actually about how it brings the region one step closer to getting the Sonics back?

What say you?

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