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NHL Before MLB

With today’s announcement that an ownership group is in place for the MLB to expand to Portland, baseball fever gripped the town.  Portland can clearly support another pro franchise, but for a number of reasons listed below, it should still be hockey rather than baseball.

1) Season

Baseball’s regular season runs from April until September; hockey operates from October through April.  While MLB is in season, so is outdoor recreation.  Hockey coincides with rainy season.  Baseball would draw even more tourists in the summer, whereas visiting hockey fans would help fill existing tourist capacity left empty during the winter.

2) Venue

The Moda Center is NHL-ready, and the VMC could host an AHL (top level minor league hockey) team with a few upgrades.  MLB would require an expensive, single-use stadium to which local taxpayers would likely have to contribute a sizeable amount. Location would also be a concern; a complete redevelopment of the VMC is cited as a possibility, but the location’s historical designation would make that difficult if not outright impossible.  Considering Portland’s frequency of rainy weather, a costly retractable roof would also be necessary.

3) Sports Economics

Baseball and hockey have different team payroll provisions.  The NHL has a salary floor and cap, a range in which all teams must operate.  Baseball lacks a salary cap, instead imposing a luxury tax on teams with payrolls over a certain amount.  This allows teams with deep pockets to spend as much as they are willing to, providing an advantage to large market teams with wealthy owners.  Until we know more about the baseball ownership group, we can’t assume they will be able to absorb bad contracts and pay superstars what they are worth.  

4) The Game Itself

Baseball’s pace is slow, with constant breaks for warm ups and adjustments.  On the other hand, hockey has constant action, only stopping for whistles, pucks out of play, or goals.  With the ease of distraction by smartphone prevalent in modern times, hockey is more likely to engage the casual fan.

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With the cat out of the bag about the MLB putting serious consideration into expanding into Portland, the topic will be discussed a lot in the future.  Obviously this blog has a bias towards hockey, but the points in this article are not easily refuted due to subjectivity.  Let’s not forget, should baseball not work out, this assembled ownership group may want to explore hockey…

Potentials NHL Owners for Portland

As the reality of Seattle getting an NHL team recently sunk in, many in our community started thinking about the possibility of Portland doing the same.  With the Coyotes (and to a lesser extent Hurricanes and Flames) potentially up for sale in the near future, the topic of potential owner(s) is a cornerstone of the conversation.  This article rehashes the list of potential owners mentioned in the last blog post.

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Scott McNealy: The tech billionaire is a hockey enthusiast, and the pick-up games he hosts are considered one the best networking opportunities in Silicon Valley.  If he wanted to own a team, nearby Portland has a similar ethos to the Bay Area, so the thought has likely crossed his mind.  While watching hockey boom in California, he put his children through the Jr. Sharks program before one of his sons, Maverick, became the world’s top amateur golfer.

Oren Koules: As a former stakeholder in the Tampa Bay Lightning, he makes no secret of his desire to have a hand in team ownership once again.  Whether or not he could own a team outright at today’s price tag is questionable, but he could organize the necessary conglomerate.  He is familiar with both Portland and the Moda Center, as both he and his son Miles played for the Winterhawks.  Koules also had a front row seat to California’s hockey boom, putting Miles through the Jr. Kings program.  He recently sold a junior hockey team he owned, the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns; whether his intention was to find a team at a higher level or step away from hockey ownership entirely has yet to be made public.

Paul Allen: Not just the Trail Blazers owner, Allen owns the Moda Center through his entity Vulcan Sports and Entertainment.  He is on record saying he would be interested in owning a hockey team if the price was right, but that hasn’t translated to any sort of active pursuit.  He’s also stated he doesn’t want competition for Blazers tickets, so he likely would want at least a piece of the action if he wasn’t the outright owner.  Whether or not he is the owner, he would be the “gatekeeper” for the Moda Center.

Interestingly, the Blazers’ current President and CEO, Chris McGowan worked for the aforementioned AEG as the Los Angeles Kings’ COO.  Allen having a right-hand man with hockey experience can’t hurt Portland’s chances.  We just have to hope he is willing to (or already does) pour honey in Allen’s ear about the upsides to hockey ownership.

Bill Gallacher: A Calgary native, the Winterhawks’ owner seems to be interviewed every other year by the Oregonian about his desire to own an NHL team.  An existing (and hopefully healthy) relationship with Allen would bode well if he wanted to own a pro team in Portland.  He owns a home in Scottsdale, but has yet to throw his name out there as a potential local owner, so his residence near the Coyotes’ current location may be irrelevant.

Matt Hulsizer: The Chicago hedge fund billionaire was bought out from his ownership in the Minnesota Wild last August, and is another person vocal about his desire to own an NHL team.  Like Gallacher, he owns a home in Scottsdale, and was previously cited as a potential owner for the Coyotes.  He was close to buying the team before walking away due to disagreements with the city of Glendale over the lease.

Ray Bartosczek and/or Anthony Lanza: The duo tried to buy the Coyotes and move them to Seattle in 2013, but the league’s desire to keep the team in Phoenix trumped their attempt.  Should they be interested in moving them to Portland, the existing arena would make it much easier.

A few more names worth mentioning include Greg Jamison (former front runner to buy Coyotes whose family supposedly previously lived in Portland), John Graham (tried to move Coyotes to Saskatoon), Kenneth Fisher (local billionaire) and Phil Knight (duh…).  Feel free to chime in with other potential owners, this list is far from exhaustive.

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While everything Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway has stated since buying out the minority stakeholders revolves around him finding a long term solution in Phoenix, until they commit to privately financing the arena, the public will continue to speculate on the likelihood of their departure from Arizona.

The thought of an NHL rivalry with Vancouver never really excited Portland sports fans about an NHL team, but now that Seattle is likely only a few years away from having one, Portland is quickly warming up to the prospect of having pro hockey.  Keep an eye on this blog for further developments.  As previously stated, it’s only a matter of time…

Seattle goes Hollywood; Coyotes Consolidate

After a period of dormancy, both the Seattle and Phoenix situations came roaring back in the news recently.  While it’s impossible to correctly prognosticate based only on the information available to the public, casually inferring and coming to basic conclusions are reasonable at this point.  We’ll start with Seattle:

KeyArena

In a scathing press release, Seattle Partners (which included current KeyArena operator, AEG) withdrew their bid to revamp KeyArena, citing both a “lack of transparency” in the bid process as well as the mayor and city council’s “general lack of active engagement” with their group.  Their bridge-burning demeanor aside, the letter resulted in bid competitor Oak View Group (OVG) releasing their financial documents to the public the next day.  Within a few days, there was a press conference announcing the city was going forward with OVG’s bid.

Right before the press conference, word got out that two prospective NHL owners were associated with OVG: David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer.  The latter is a big name in Hollywood you’ve seen at some point in the credits as executive producer, and the former is a billionaire hedge fund manager.  They worked together trying to bring an expansion team to Vegas a while ago, but weren’t able to get the arena hammered out themselves.  The fact that they worked on an expansion bid before makes it likely that will be the route to the NHL they pursue; they would have no problem putting together the $500 million expansion fee.

A few tidbits that got lost in the hype involve the timeline.  The city has a Memorandum of Understanding (essentially an exclusivity agreement) with Chris Hansen that expires in December, so the city council can’t even vote on the KeyArena project until then.  It was also mentioned that the NCAA basketball tournament games scheduled for March 2019 at KeyArena will not be relocated, so construction cannot begin until those take place.  This means, realistically, the arena is 3-5 years away from being NHL ready.  Considering Seattle has had this arena drama playing out for the last decade, though, there are some people happy to finally have the city on board with an arena for hockey and basketball.  Speaking of drama, the Arizona Coyotes had a major development recently as well…

Arizona

A rumor came true when it was announced that Arizona Coyotes majority stakeholder Andrew Barroway had bought out all minority stakeholders, giving him sole possession of the team.  This makes moving the team much easier, but doesn’t necessarily mean that relocation is imminent.  It’s possible he has worked to mend the team’s relationship with Glendale in order to buy time.  The upcoming 2017-2018 season is the last year on the current lease, but it could be extended on a yearly basis.  With the unceremonious death of the Arizona Senate’s Bill 1149, all signs point to public funding for a new arena not being an option.

A likely scenario, however, is he bought everyone else out so he could shop the team.  This begs the question: who is in the market for an NHL team?  Here are a few names to consider from a Portland perspective.

Potential Owners

Scott McNealy: The tech billionaire is a hockey enthusiast, and the pick-up games he hosts are considered one the best networking opportunities in Silicon Valley.  If he wanted to own a team, nearby Portland has a similar ethos to the Bay Area, so the thought has likely crossed his mind.  While watching hockey boom in California, he put his children through the Jr. Sharks program before one of his sons, Maverick, became the world’s top amateur golfer.

Oren Koules: As a former stakeholder in the Tampa Bay Lightning, he makes no secret of his desire to have a hand in team ownership once again.  Whether or not he could own a team outright at today’s price tag is questionable, but he could organize the necessary conglomerate.  He is familiar with both Portland and the Moda Center, as both he and his son Miles played for the Winterhawks.  Koules also had a front row seat to California’s hockey boom, putting Miles through the Jr. Kings program.  He recently sold a junior hockey team he owned, the NA3HL’s Helena Bighorns; whether his intention was to find a team at a higher level or step away from hockey ownership entirely has yet to be made public.

Paul Allen: Not just the Trail Blazers owner, Allen owns the Moda Center through his entity Vulcan Sports and Entertainment.  He is on record saying he would be interested in owning a hockey team if the price was right, but that hasn’t translated to any sort of active pursuit.  He’s also stated he doesn’t want competition for Blazers tickets, so he likely would want at least a piece of the action if he wasn’t the outright owner.  Whether or not he is the owner, he would be the “gatekeeper” for the Moda Center.  

Interestingly, the Blazers’ current President and CEO, Chris McGowan worked for the aforementioned AEG as the Los Angeles Kings’ COO.  Allen having a right-hand man with hockey experience can’t hurt Portland’s chances.  We just have to hope he is willing to (or already does) pour honey in Allen’s ear about the upsides to hockey ownership.

Bill Gallacher: A Calgary native, the Winterhawks’ owner seems to be interviewed every other year by the Oregonian about his desire to own an NHL team.  An existing (and hopefully healthy) relationship with Allen would bode well if he wanted to own a pro team in Portland.  He owns a home in Scottsdale, but has yet to throw his name out there as a potential local owner, so his residence near the Coyotes’ current location may be irrelevant.

Matt Hulsizer: The Chicago hedge fund billionaire was bought out from his ownership in the Minnesota Wild last August, and is another person vocal about his desire to own an NHL team.  Like Gallacher, he owns a home in Scottsdale, and was previously cited as a potential owner for the Coyotes.  He was close to buying the team before walking away due to disagreements with the city of Glendale over the lease.  

Ray Bartosczek and/or Anthony Lanza: The duo tried to buy the Coyotes and move them to Seattle in 2013, but the league’s desire to keep the team in Phoenix trumped their attempt.  Should they be interested in moving them to Portland, the existing arena would make it much easier.

A few more names worth mentioning include Greg Jamison (former front runner to buy Coyotes whose family supposedly previously lived in Portland), John Graham (tried to move Coyotes to Saskatoon), Kenneth Fisher (local billionaire) and Phil Knight (duh…).  

There are undoubtedly more potential owners with no ties or interest in Portland that will emerge if it becomes public that Barroway is selling the team, which is of course still completely speculation.  That said, between Phoenix’s newfound ability to be easily moved and Seattle making leaps and bounds towards their own NHL team, pro hockey is that much closer to Portland.  Bottom line, if the Coyotes move here, Portland gets the NHL.  If not, once Seattle gets an NHL team, the owners would be leaving an embarrassing amount of money on the table by not putting their AHL farm team in Portland.  It would also be on Seattle’s timeline, so we could still be stuck waiting a while.  Let’s hope for the former, but it’s encouraging to have the latter in the pipeline.

Seattle and Phoenix Arena Updates

As previously stated in our blog post about potential scenarios, the two most important factors in Portland getting pro hockey are the arena situations in Seattle and Phoenix.  Arena talks in Seattle heated up earlier this month, with public displays of finances and city council discussions.  Meanwhile in Phoenix, it’s been all quiet on the southwestern front.  This blog post will provide analysis of their current situations.

Seattle now has three groups vying for the opportunity to build an arena ready for both NHL and NBA teams. AEG (also publicly referred to as Seattle Partners) and Oak View both recently started raising awareness of their proposals to renovate KeyArena, while Chris Hansen’s group (including the Nordstrom brothers and Russell Wilson) continues to work on their SoDo site.

The city council clearly prefers the KeyArena site, which doesn’t make sense to many residents.  SoDo has better infrastructure due to the Mariners’ and Seahawks’ stadiums already in the vicinity.  Seattle’s only existing light rail line runs right by the site as well.  The Port of Seattle must have the ear of some council members, as shortly after they vocalized their opposition to the additional traffic it would bring, the city started requesting proposals to renovate KeyArena.  The Mariners and Seahawks also recently both stated that scheduling arrangements would be necessary for them to approve the site, which would undoubtedly be favorable to the existing franchises.

AEG is requesting $250 million in public funding upfront, which would work if it was the only proposal, but with both Oak View and Hansen proposing private financing (with public support coming afterwards), AEG is the least likely of the three to be selected.  Hansen originally asked for public funding, but went entirely private to further the proposal.  His proposal has tax breaks built in, however, so it’s not entirely private money.  He hasn’t disclosed where the money is coming from either, which is a concern.  As affluent as Hansen is, he isn’t a billionaire, and neither are any of his partners (unless the Nordstrom brothers have some family members backing them).   

Oak View has the combination of the preferred location and (initially) private financing.  They have $400 million in private equity financing, as well as a $150 million loan lined up from Goldman Sachs.  The terms with Goldman Sachs also includes another $200 million available for purchasing a team to play in the arena.  Public funding would be sorted out after it is built.  This is the current front runner, and unless local politicians have a change of heart about redeveloping the KeyArena site, the likely winner.  

The major concern is that the arena will be built without an immediate tenant.  While it’s likely Seattle would be able to throw $500 million at the NHL for an expansion team without contention from any of the current owners, the timelines could result in an empty season.  The arena’s existing operations group is in discussions with Pearl Jam to set up a residency (compared to Billy Joel’s frequent shows at Madison Square Garden) to fill the gap.

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While Seattle is active with new developments, Phoenix is stuck in the same holding pattern ever since ASU pulled out of their proposed joint arena.  Gary Bettman himself stated that the Coyotes will not remain in Glendale, but local politicians are struggling to garner public support for financing the region’s third hockey arena in 20 years.  Until the ownership group proposes entirely private financing, hockey fans in Phoenix are running out of ice time.

Speaking of the ownership group, Coyotes majority owner Andrew Barroway is reportedly trying to buy out the other stakeholders.  He hasn’t publicly stated his motivation, but singular ownership makes it easier for the team to move, so this is good news for hockey in Portland.  A sudden move all but guarantees Portland as the new location, because the Seattle arena would not be ready yet.  Seattle’s ownership would not want to pay the $500 million expansion fee if the Coyotes are for sale for less; the timing of the Coyotes’ seemingly inevitable departure will factor into their destination.  It’s also possible the NHL might force Seattle’s hand to expansion or nothing in order to get to a round number with 32 teams.

The fact that Seattle’s arena isn’t an overnight slam dunk and Phoenix’s majority owner wants total control are steps in the right direction for the NHL to come to Portland.  If we don’t get an NHL team from Phoenix, however, we would be a shoo-in for Seattle’s AHL affiliate, so pro hockey is likely on its way.  Stay tuned for which league lands a franchise in Portland.

After the Dust Settles: NHL’s Olympic Quagmire

In an expected but not well-received statement, the NHL announced it will not halt its season next February for players to participate in the 2018 Olympics.  Emotions have simmered and the dust is settling, but it’s not clear who will be representing Canada and the United States in the Olympics.  Will their teams mirror the World Juniors rosters?  Will it be players from the AHL, NCAA, CHL or KHL/European leagues?  

Gary Bettman knows that this will contribute negatively to his already tainted legacy, but it is clearly the will of the owners for the league to play hardball.  They see the players as assets with assigned dollar amounts in a salary cap structure, not individuals with national pride and personal aspirations.  At the same time, the IOC is reviled as a horrible example of corruption and collusion.  The NHLPA also could have avoided this situation by agreeing to extend its current Collective Bargaining Agreement beyond the 2018-2019 season, so there is plenty of blame to go around.

While frustrating for fans, this isn’t the canary in the coal mine for Olympic hockey.  With the games in South Korea, it’s only die-hards that will watch the games live, so television ratings were likely going to be low for hockey regardless.  At the same time, NBC can’t be happy about this decision, and as one of only a few networks willing to broadcast hockey on a regular basis, it’s not a relationship the league can afford to sour considering how much more lucrative other sports can be for television networks.

Meanwhile, the NHL is building rinks and scheduling exhibitions games in China, which happens to be hosting the 2022 Olympics.  Trying to tap the Chinese market and its population of 1.4 billion, but not allowing their product into the country flat out won’t happen.  It’s hard to imagine this would be more than a one time abstention.  There’s no guarantee the IOC will allow NHL skaters the next time around, however, and their reaction indicates they are at least considering that as a bargaining chip.  A few players are speculating that this wasn’t a final decision on the part of the NHL, remaining optimistic that the statement is leading to more serious progress in the negotiations.

The league thought it could supplant the Olympics with The World Cup of Hockey this past September, but it failed to garner the interest or ticket sales expected, and its future is uncertain.  It is slated for a 2018 spinoff and 2020 rehash, but that doesn’t mean it will happen or continue after then.  Had it been more successful, the league wouldn’t be perceived as negatively in the media for their Olympics decision.  

From where the rosters fill will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on, and if the decision isn’t reversed, it will still be high level hockey in the Olympics.  The KHL is not only allowing players to participate, but is marketing their league as an opportunity for Russians in the NHL to play pro hockey and the Olympics in the same season.  This is first and foremost targeted at Alex Ovechkin, who stated he is going to the Olympics regardless of the league’s decision.  It’s possible non-Russians will give this alternative some consideration, especially those in the twilight of their career.  It’s not a given the AHL will allow its players to participate, as their parent teams won’t want their top call-ups unavailable, but the league has yet to say otherwise.  Blue chip prospects in the CHL and NCAA will receive consideration for roster spots as well, and unlike the World Juniors, there won’t be age restrictions.  

While not ideal for any of the parties involved, the fallout from the Olympics decision pales in comparison to the damage potentially caused by a play stoppage before the 2019-2020 season.  Any hockey fan would prefer losing the Olympics to another lockout, and the NHLPA’s refusal to extend the contract for Olympic participation is a clear message to the owners.  It’s also not fair to the non-Olympians for the Player’s Association to prioritize a small percentage of its members.  An unexpected consequence of the Olympics decision is the public being reminded of the pending CBA negotiations.

At the end of the day, this announcement didn’t catch anyone off guard, and it’s not going to ruin the sport.  The drama will continue to unfold until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, but missing the Olympics and locking the players out could be the last straw for many fans.  That could make Portlanders not want anything to do with the NHL.  Borrowing the terminology from another sport, this Olympics decision is strike one.

What needs to happen?

There are a number of potential scenarios resulting in Portland landing pro franchise.  This post will explore them and discuss their feasibility.

Expansion

NHL: An NHL team would require an owner or ownership group willing to pay the NHL’s expansion fee.  Bill Foley was awarded an expansion team in Las Vegas for $500 million.  It is highly unlikely it will go up from there, but it’s not expected to drop, either.  There are not a lot of people for whom that is possible (let alone desirable), but we identified and reached out to some to start a dialogue.  Alluding to progress in those talks is the best we can do in a public forum.

The NHL current has an imbalance between the Eastern and Western conferences, with 16 and 15 teams, respectively.  The conferences are separated by time zone, with every team on Eastern Standard in the Eastern Conference (except Nashville).  The Western Conference spans Pacific, Mountain and Central, with the teams on Mountain Standard split between the Pacific and Central Divisions.  The NHL needs a team in any of those three time zones to round out the Western Conference.

Feasibility: Nobody in Portland is itching to pony up $500 million for a franchise, and there are not many people with local ties that could even feasibly muster up the fee.  This is the least likely of the possibilities.

AHL: Seattle would need a affiliate if they get an NHL team.  The NHL expected a bid from an ownership group in Seattle during the last round of expansion, and there are a few sites and possibilities for them to get an NHL-ready arena.  They are widely considered the front runner for the 32nd franchise.  Having their top prospects nearby for call ups would be desirable, so Portland would be the first on Seattle’s list for AHL affiliate destinations.

Roughly half of the AHL’s teams are owned by their NHL affiliate.  The other half are independently owned, and then pay an affiliate fee to the NHL club, who then supplies their roster with contracted players.  An AHL team in Portland could operate under either model, and arguments could be made in support of either as the preference.  We would welcome either AHL ownership model with open arms.

Interestingly, Las Vegas has yet to choose a location for their AHL affiliate, and while initial reports indicated the Chicago Wolves were receiving consideration, Las Vegas’ owner Bill Foley demonstrated a preference to own the AHL franchise rather than have an agreement with an existing affiliate and ownership group.  Foley has also stated that he may find an affiliate in the short term while a long term location for the AHL team is determined.

Feasibility: The NHL appears to have an abundance of patience for Seattle to get their arena situation together, which is a topic to be elaborated upon in many future blog posts.  Las Vegas would also be well advised to consider Portland for their AHL affiliate.  Should relocation not preclude it, this feels like the inevitable path to pro hockey.

Relocation

NHL: Teams relocate occasionally in the NHL due to issues including (but not limited to) ownership, venue, fan support, public perception, and any combination thereof.  Should a team want to relocate to Portland, we would be a plug-and-play destination with as few roadblocks as possible for an American city.

The above-mentioned conference imbalance means that a team from the Eastern Conference could move to the Western Conference, resulting in the chance for a city in the Eastern time zone to land an expansion franchise.  Quebec City publicly funded an NHL-ready arena and submitted an expansion bid at the same time as Las Vegas, but was denied. Hockey pundits speculated it was due to concerns with the value of the Canadian dollar as well as the perpetuation of the conference imbalance.

The arena woes plaguing the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes are well documented, and without the passing of a bond to fund a new location in Phoenix, they will need to move in the near future.  Portland, Kansas City, and Houston are the only cities lacking pro hockey with NHL-ready arenas within the geographical footprint of the Western Conference.  Rumors were also recently published claiming officials from the Coyotes toured the Moda Center.

Feasibility: All eyes are on what happens in Phoenix.  If they can’t get the bond passed and have to move at the 11th hour, Portland would absolutely be in play.  Blazers owner Paul Allen has the spare cash to buy an NHL franchise at a discount, and if the Coyotes wind up being available in a fire sale, other individuals, collectives or investment firms would show interest.  This is the ideal situation, but the stars need to align.

AHL: On January 25, 2015, it was officially announced that five AHL franchises would relocate to California to be near their NHL affiliate.  The migration had two notable exceptions: Vancouver and Phoenix.  Phoenix has since relocated their AHL affiliate to nearby Tuscon, but Vancouver’s AHL affiliate remains in Utica, New York, with a lease signed through 2019.  They are expected to move their team west at the end of their lease (at the latest), and Portland would be a logical destination for them.

Another notable tidbit of the California migration: San Jose’s AHL affiliate now plays in their same arena while they search for a permanent home for the team.  In the immediate vicinity, both Oakland and Sacramento have arenas suitable for the team, but relocating the affiliate to Portland is far from out of the question.

It’s also possible for Calgary and Edmonton to decide their affiliate would be better suited closer by with better airport access.  Neither is in proximity to an airport with direct flights to their parent teams’ city.  PDX flies direct to Calgary on Air Canada, and has numerous flights to Vancouver on a daily basis as well.

Feasibility: Vancouver’s AHL affiliate is likely moving west from Utica; Portland will at least receive consideration.  The franchises in California aren’t likely to move so soon after their initial migration, but stranger things have happened.  This would be the most sporadic and unanticipated of the possibilities.

So What Does It All Mean?

There are a number of ways Portland could land pro hockey.  We have the facility, we just need the pieces to start falling into place.  Keep an ear to the ground, as it seems inevitable.

Dual Franchise Arenas

If Portland landed an NHL team, the Moda Center would be the eleventh arena in North America to host both NBA and NHL teams.  When the Moda Center was built, it was designed with both sports in mind, so sight lines for hockey are not an issue.  There are other arenas that can host either sport, but for the sake of comparison, only these ten will be discussed.  Here’s a brief rundown of the ten existing facilities:

United Center, Chicago: Blackhawks and Bulls

Staples Center, Los Angeles: Kings, Clippers and Lakers

Madison Square Garden, Manhattan: Rangers and Knicks

Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn: Islanders and Nets

TD Garden, Boston: Bruins and Celtics

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia: Flyers and 76ers

American Airlines Center, Dallas: Stars and Mavericks

Air Canada Centre, Toronto: Maple Leafs and Raptors

Verizon Center, Washington D.C.: Capitals and Wizards

Pepsi Center, Denver: Avalanche and Nuggets

A major similarity between the ten facilities listed is they all have access to public transit.  This will be further elaborated upon in its own article down the road, but the Moda Center is served by four light rail lines, two street cars and six bus routes.  In terms of transit access, the Moda Center is one of the best-served sports districts in the country, and definitely the best for a city of its size.  This is in stark contrast to fellow Pacific Northwest city Seattle, which has one light rail line and a street car.

Despite the Moda Center’s excellent transportation access, looking over the list you can’t help but notice that most of the cities have larger populations than Portland.  The exception is Denver, which incidentally has the shortest-tenured NHL team on the list.  The Avalanche moved to Denver in 1995, and immediately won the Stanley Cup, building a fanbase as quickly as possible.  Besides being similarly sized, Denver and Portland have a number of other similarities at the moment:

Red-hot real estate market

Booming tech scene

World-class outdoors access

Thriving microbrew community

Legal recreational marijuana industry

Western vibe attracting transplants from all over

It would be a stretch to say that Portland and Denver are sister cities (climate, landscape, zoning, politics, transportation, and other differences), but Denver’s ability to host and retain an NHL franchise over the last twenty years is encouraging.  An NHL rivalry between the cities wouldn’t be as natural as Vancouver or San Jose, but all it would take is a few intense playoff series. Red Wings/Avalanche, Penguins/Capitals, Wild/Blackhawks all come to mind as rivalries built in the postseason.

It’s not far-fetched to believe that if it works for Denver, it would work for Portland.  We have everything ready but the actual franchise.  Regardless of the situation behind the team, we could accommodate them almost instantly.  Let’s hope pro hockey finds its way here sooner rather than later.  Viva la revolution!