The National League Hockey announced Tuesday that an expansion team was approved for Seattle, beginning in 2021, and there’s uncertainty for what that means for the Greater Seattle Area’s Western Hockey League franchise’s, the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds.
Will the NHL’s involvement bolster the area’s thirst for hockey and brings more interest to all levels of hockey? Or will it saturate the market and hinder the area’s two WHL markets.
The Silvertips are hopeful it’s the former outcome.
“I think you have to look at it as the glass is half full,” general manager Garry Davidson said. “We’re bringing more visibility to hockey in the area and I think that’s a positive. Now, will it take away from our ticket base? Time will tell. But again, it’s two different demographics when you look at it. High-priced NHL pro ticket price and us. We ultimately think it will be good for the game.”
The perceived disparity in ticket prices is a reason it’s likely the NHL will have little impact on the Silvertips, says the team’s chief operating officer, Zoran Rajcic.
“If they’ve sold the number of tickets that they’ve said they’ll convert those to ticket-holders, people will try and go down there, but it’s going to be a one-off thing,” he says. “What they would pay for a season ticket here would cost them for one night out for a game in the NHL. … I think for the most part it shouldn’t affect that component of it and we will still retain our season-ticket holders. I believe we’re a niche sport and we cater to the people who live at the county line to the Mount Vernon, Bellingham area for their entertainment dollars for an affordable, family price.”
The most significant impact a professional hockey team’s presence may be on the youngsters with Everett Youth Hockey, which was run and operated by the Silvertips up until this year.
“I think it will raise the profile of hockey in our region and have more kids at the grass-roots level wanting to try the sport,” Rajcic said.
Rajcic admits there’s some trepidation with how the NHL will impact the Silvertips. But until 2021, the Silvertips and Thunderbirds are the main hockey show in town. Rajcic hopes the Silvertips can capitalize on people’s increased interest in the game in the Seattle area.
“That’s where I hope maybe some of the spinoff would be,” Rajcic said. “There’s two-and-a-half years of time … and we’ve seen from our efforts that it’s easier to get people to think about coming to a hockey game now. I hope that might open up a few more doors for people in the next two or two-and-a-half years and they will check out our product.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s good for them in that they’ve gotten for it and for us they’ll be a little bit of a wait and see.”