With the NBA finals over, attention turns to the NHL championship, in which the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are tied 2-2 after a drama-filled series that has seen three games go to overtime. They pick back up on Saturday. But for Seattle, an even more important drama is unfolding in Arizona, where the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes – and in turn, possibly the return of top-tier NHL hockey to Seattle -- is being decided.
Here are four things you need to know to hold forth on hockey at the sports bar this weekend.
1) What needs to happen: The fate of the Phoenix Coyotes lies in the hands of officials in suburban Glendale, Ariz. The NHL has owned the Coyotes franchise since 2009 and a deal has been reached to sell the team to a group of Canadian investors, but the agreement is contingent upon the City of Glendale signing a lease that would allow the Coyotes to continue playing in their slice of desert. If the NHL remains in control of the team, Seattle is the frontrunner to play host of the Coyotes as early as next season. According to the Arizona Journal Republic, “the NHL has agreed to wait until a July 2nd meeting for a proposed deal to go to vote, but not a minute longer.”
2) What could screw up the deal: Recent reports have stated that the NHL is leaning towards The Emerald City for relocation but may look elsewhere for the same reason the NBA chose against Seattle: a subpar arena. Chris Hansen, the man who led the charge to try to bring back the SuperSonics, has a deal with Seattle to construct a new $490 million arena to support an NHL franchise, but the agreement states that an NBA team must be guaranteed to play in Seattle before the arena can be built. KeyArena at Seattle Center was home to the Sonics before they were relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Recent stories, however, have revealed that the structure of KeyArena does not allow for the same magnitude of attendance that most current NHL and NBA arenas can hold. It remains to be seen whether this impacts the potential decision of the NHL.
3) We’ll have a great coach if we land the team: Dave Tippett and the Coyotes have agreed to a five-year deal that will keep Tippett as the head coach of the franchise. His new contract comes after Phoenix did not reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since Tippett became the coach four years ago. The Coyotes went 21-18-9 and finished four points behind the Minnesota Wild for the last spot in the playoffs of the Western Conference. Tippett boats a record of 156-96-42 in his four seasons as Phoenix’s coach and guided the Coyotes to the conference finals last year. He will remain with the team no matter where it is playing next season.
4) Seattle has a long history of quality hockey: The Seattle Thunderbirds play in the Western Hockey League, one of the three parts of a major junior league that is typically a feeder system for the NHL. The Emerald City actually is the first town in the United States to ever claim the Stanley Cup title, a feat that was accomplished when the Seattle Metropolitans were crowned champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1917. The Metropolitans played in Seattle until 1924 and were also the city’s first-ever professional sports franchise.