With so much about to start happening with NHL Seattle, we felt it time to implement a regular hockey-themed mailbag. Questions needn’t be NHL-related, either, as hockey is new to many readers wondering about all aspects of the sport. So, let’s provide answers.
Answer: Ozzie, March is now likeliest, but possibly late February.
My personal preference is “Sockeyes’’ because it’s recognizably local — demonstrated by those constant cutaways to Pike Place Market salmon-tossing during national Seahawks telecasts — and contains an element of toughness.
Hockey is still a very tough sport. It no longer has the brawling of prior eras, but nobody can tell me the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues aren’t as tough as the 1970s Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers. The Blues just show toughness by dishing out punishing checks and absorbing them to make a play, as opposed to punching some guy’s lights out.
So, I don’t think Sockeyes misrepresents the skilled-but-still-tough modern NHL.
Along those lines, I dislike passive names. There’s nothing intimidating about “Seattle Evergreens,’’ and I think there’s a psychology that plays into for an expansion team and fan base still defining itself. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Mighty Ducks were laughingstocks their first decade. Sure, expansion teams typically struggle regardless of name, but why worsen things by saddling Seattle’s squad with a wimpy one?
I’ve never been a “Kraken’’ supporter. It screams gimmicky.
Also, the name must avoid trademark issues, so no Metropolitans or Steelheads. That’s partly why this announcement is delayed again, as the league wants extra trademark diligence given the Vegas Golden Knights fiasco.
I’d like “Totems” but totem poles are not indigenous to Seattle. Teams also won’t go near a name that risks cultural appropriation or misrepresentation. Unless salmon find a way to protest outside the arena, Sockeyes seems a logical choice. Now, watch the team pick Kraken.
A: I think teams this time won’t fall in love with a single player enough to risk giving up multiple just as talented. They can protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender (or seven total skaters and a goalie) and will inevitably lose a decent player. But every team is in the same boat. They got hurt three years ago by out-thinking themselves in trying to dodge a straightforward process.
Most youngsters are rarely the second coming of Bobby Orr, or Connor McDavid. And losing multiple talents to keep somebody like Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba isn’t exactly a career-booster.
Sure, Dumba shows promise as a goal-scoring defenseman. But he’s regressed since an injury last season and hardly seems worth Minnesota losing prospect Alex Tuch and forward Erik Haula to Vegas. The Wild dealt Tuch so the Golden Knights would sign Haula as a restricted free agent instead of drafting Dumba.
Haula then notched a career-high 29 goals and 26 assists his lone Vegas season in their 2018 Stanley Cup Final run before being traded. Tuch scored 15 goals for the Golden Knights his rookie 2017-18 season, then added 20 more and 32 assists last year. Though he’s slumped recently, this isn’t a deal former — note, former — Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would likely repeat.
Fletcher, now GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, seemingly admitted as much. “No matter what you do, you’re going to lose a good player,’’ he told USA Today.
Still, I think some of the salary shedding thought behind Minnesota sacrificing Haula will benefit Seattle, despite teams having more time to get financial houses in order ahead of this draft. Some contenders will inevitably “go for it” by splurging next season and feel the salary cap squeeze come June 2021.
A: Can’t argue, Greg. Initial time frames for just about everything have been off. The most egregious was the team taking about 1½ years longer than expected to let season-ticket deposit holders start making seat selections.
The KeyArena rebuild is mostly to blame. As someone who recently rebuilt a home, I witnessed the local nonsense regarding overinflated materials costs, difficulties booking skilled subcontractors and government red tape on top of weather issues. But the team shares responsibility for repeated change-orders and upgrades. The inability to finalize costs threw off the initial ticket-selection time frame. Remember, this rebuild is private. Ticket strategy needed adjusting to cover escalating arena costs.
Also, the league-imposed one-year delay launching the franchise due to construction issues nixed any team name announcement last summer. After all, what would be left to keep fans interested this year?
So, upcoming you’ll have general season-ticket pricing and selection right after the Super Bowl in early February, with groundbreaking for the AHL arena in Palm Springs and the Northgate Mall practice facility also next month. Come March, we should have a team name.
We’ll know by June whether KeyArena will host the 2021 draft. Then, between this fall and spring 2021, a head coach will be hired.