We’re back to that daunting C-word.

Could.

The NHL could come to Seattle as soon as next season. The nod could be given within the next two weeks. Outdated KeyArena could be turned into a cozy, temporary hockey home.

And the world could end in five minutes, meaning you would’ve spent your final moments entrapped by speculation.

Life as a Plan B is so polarizing.

On one hand, it’s too enticing to ignore the possibility of having the NHL and even the NBA in Seattle. On the other hand, it’s no fun shopping at a store in which items are for sale only in theory.

The Sacramento Kings could’ve come to Seattle, only they didn’t. Chris Hansen put together an extraordinary offer to make it happen and signed an agreement to purchase the Kings, but they turned out not to be for sale to outsiders. The fatigue of that disappointing failed bid lingers, but here comes the NHL, whispering sweet nothings in the city’s ear, expressing admiration but making no real promises, asking Seattle to be its mistress.

At least NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is being more upfront than the man he once worked for, NBA commissioner David Stern. Bettman admits to wanting to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in suburban Glendale, Ariz. He has said Seattle is the backup plan. This is far more respectful than what Stern did, leading Seattle to believe it was in a wide-open race for the Kings when the plan all along was to push Sacramento to approve an arena deal.

Still, regardless of the tactics, Seattle is back in an uncomfortable role. We’re leverage. We’re the big city with the thriving economy and a transparent desire and new arena plan to lure the NBA and NHL to town. We’re the threat of all threats, a city with the juice to get the attention of any struggling franchise in any indifferent city.

If this keeps up, our new nickname will be Leverage City. Though the NHL situation differs from the NBA fiasco, it’s impossible to get too hopeful when Seattle isn’t in control of its fate. Yet it’s stupid to be dismissive when a franchise opportunity, no matter how unlikely, presents itself.

So here we are, surrounded by could.

Why bother? Because while this is your heart, it is mostly the investors’ money. In the arena deal Hansen put together with the city and county, $290 million of the $490 million project will be privately funded. Hansen’s group of NBA investors are on the hook for everything else, and they were prepared to spend close to $1 billion to build the arena, buy the team, pay the NBA a relocation fee and throw money at other related expenses.

On the hockey side, investors Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza have yet to discuss their plan publicly, but their $220 million bid to purchase the league-owned Coyotes has already been leaked. Forbes magazine valued the franchise at $134 million in November 2012. If Bartoszek and Lanza believe that much in the NHL’s potential in Seattle, then it’s fair to assume they would work out an agreement with Hansen chip in on this arena project. Otherwise, they’d be making a dangerous gamble by moving a team to Seattle, playing in an inferior hockey arena that could only seat 11,000 and merely hoping that this NBA thing works out so that they could be a tenant at the new facility.

But for now, this is all speculation. Glendale is in control, and it has a tentative deal with the Coyotes on a new lease. Tentative is the word, however, and just a year ago, the Glendale City Council backed out of a 20-year, $324 million arena-management deal because it didn’t want to pay so high a subsidy to the Coyotes.

Unlike the NBA process, which lasted a torturously-long four months, this NHL-to-Seattle possibility came to light just two weeks before finality. We will have clarity soon. There’s not much time to get your hopes up.

Then again, after the NBA debacle, everyone is too smart for that now. Until Seattle is in control, it’s best to keep your heart out of speculation. And it’s important to realize that, even though the Kings’ bid didn’t work out and the Coyotes’ bid isn’t expected to work out, Seattle has made an impression that eventually should result in luring the NBA and NHL.

Should. Life as a Plan B is so nerve-grating.

In Leverage City, we’re still stuck in traffic, waiting, waiting, hoping, waiting.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @JerryBrewer