There have been some rumblings at Angel of the Winds Arena among fans about what harm an NHL hockey team in Seattle may do to the Everett Silvertips. The concern being a devotion to a major league squad may take away from attendance and merchandise sales at the WHL level. Will the Everett Silvertips and the Seattle Thunderbirds suffer with an NHL team just a few miles from them? The answer is a resounding no, if anything the NHL team will increase the popularity of the Tips and T-Birds.
First and foremost, the fan base are not the same. The Seattle NHL team will cater to an affluent community living in the core of Seattle and on the east side. Cities like Kent and Everett tend to have more blue collar roots and will be priced out of the posh seats. I am not saying that no fans from Snohomish or south King county will drop a kings ransom, rather I am saying they are not being catered to as much as the upper middle class who work at Amazon, Microsoft, etc…in the downtown Seattle core and Bellevue/Redmond.
Ticket prices will be quite high. Looking at the San Jose Sharks, we can see that the cheap seats come in at $50 for season ticket holders. Compare that with the Silvertips where $30 buys you a seat on the glass. Many lower income people who are casual fans will buy a couple games over the course of the season. And as far as families go, if you are watching your dollars and cents, you will continue to take the kids to Showare or Angel of the Winds as it is much more conducive to the little tykes running around.
Seattle NHL is going to turn into a status symbol for the wealthy. It will begin as a fad—a place to be seen. Look to the Seattle Sounders as an example. When it first launched, there was a cap on season ticket sales, because it was projected that there were only 15-20k die hard soccer fans in 2009, and to an extent that was true. The remaining 20k, who created a record 10 year run of MLS dominance in attendance, were curious early adopters looking for a new “toy.” I know this to be a fact, because for 8 years, I was one of those early adopters who knew very little about soccer, but eventually came to love it. The Seattle NHL team will have a large constituency who don’t know hockey but will jump in feet first to say “I was there when they started.”
Also, corporations will grab a lions-share of tickets. While some corporations buy Silvertips and T-Birds tickets, the big boys will be vying for the glitz and glamour of the NHL scene. The NHL makes their bread and butter off of suite sales, advertising, and event marketing. The WHL teams do not vie or this customer base resorting to usually local sponsors who can not outspend the multi-nationals.
Many people aren’t even thinking about the probability that Seattle becomes a destination point for hockey. There are tens of thousands of hockey fans in Oregon, Eastern Washington, Alaska, and especially British Columbia who will travel for games in Seattle. Oregon and Eastern Washington will draw curiosity seekers while Alaskans who often travel to Seattle in the winter for a couple hours of daylight will likely check out some games. The Vancouver Canuck fans who have been on the waiting list for years will turn their attention south for games too. By the way, expect an instant rivalry with Vancouver that will change the face of the NHL.
Finally, the NHL is going to get casual fans and the uninitiated interested in hockey. These fans are going to begin to watch hockey on TV and root for the home team. Once these fans get emotionally invested they will begin to become more educated about hockey. At that point, they will understand that Junior hockey has what many Tips and T-Birds fans know, that the stars of the future are in Everett and Kent. Think of last year when Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyer 2nd round pick, played the whole season and dominated for Everett. And think of Connor Dewar 3rd round pick for the Canadians who is on another dominating Tips team. What if the Seattle NHL team has a draft pick playing in Kent or Everett? You bet the fans would come out to see them.
Don’t panic if you are a Tips or T-Birds fan, your teams aren’t going anywhere. There will be a renewed enthusiasm in the entire Peugeot Sound. Take it in, enjoy it, and have fun on the ride that will begin in 2021.