SEATTLE - Dreams on the ice are finally a reality. The NHL awarded Seattle a hockey team. Now the real work begins to make the team a success and keep Seattle a hockey town.
The National Hockey League made it official. An expansion team will begin playing here in 2021. Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed Tuesday morning in Georgia that Seattle's team would begin play then. Thirty-thousand fans put down deposits for a team that didn't exist several months ago.
But what comes next, before the puck drops?
It is a question being asked all day. But hardly anyone in Seattle is more qualified to answer than Anne Levinson. Levinson led an all-female investor group who negotiated the sale of the Seattle Storm to them. That prevented the championship winning WNBA team from following the Seattle Super Sonics to Oklahoma City back in 2008.
She says the new hockey owners have already put in place major pieces. A new practice facility has been unveiled and, most importantly, they are building a brand new arena.
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"And then headquarters," Levinson said. "You need to make sure you have a headquarters that works for the fans and for the employees. And then bringing in the right coach at the very beginning who embodied the spirit of the team and the community. And then security players who had the commitment to what we were about was very important.
But the lifeblood of any team are its fans. Plenty of them took the time to be there when the big announcement was made.
"There's a great fan base in this town," said Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, who teaches in the sports management department at the University of Washington.
But, she says, the entire league will need to be involved to keep fans engaged.
"I think it's a real opportunity for the NHL to come in here and learn about our community," Hoffman said, "and for the ownership group that's going to come in and build that team to really bring something that the fans here are excited about."
Anne Levinson agrees.
"It's going to be great to see," Levinson said. "So I look forward to how they will showcase and shine. And for Seattle, it's just a terrific next step."
Another way to get the entire community on board, she says, is how the team comes up with a name. Will they name it themselves? Have a contest? Invite school children into the process?
Whatever they decide, it will all be followed very closely now that Seattle is a hockey town once again.
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