A group of Seattle sports, business and political leaders will make a cross-border pilgrimage next week to learn more about the National Hockey League. The overnight trip to Vancouver, to attend a reception at B.C. Place with sports and tourism officials from that city and then watch a Canucks hockey game, was planned months ago. But the timing couldn’t be better, given continued negotiations behind the scenes to bring an NHL expansion franchise to this city and a sense the league could begin moving seriously toward that soon after the Olympics in Sochi conclude. Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission that is spearheading the chartered bus trip for about 30 local participants, said it’s about more than just hockey — but that the NHL will certainly be on the agenda. “You’ve got some people on the trip who have never been to an NHL game before,” Morton said. “So, at the very least, they’ll come back with a greater understanding of what hockey is and what it takes to present the sport to fans at the NHL level.” One of those greeting them in Vancouver on Wednesday will be Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer for the Canucks and the team’s alternate governor for NHL board meetings. De Bonis is expected to give some welcoming remarks to the Seattle delegation, and other Canucks officials are supposed to attend the reception with him before that night’s game against the St. Louis Blues. There will also be representatives from the B.C. Lions football team and Vancouver Whitecaps soccer squad on hand as officials from both cities explore potential joint marketing and event ventures. But while a variety of topics will likely be discussed, Walt Judas, vice president for marketing and communications from event host Tourism Vancouver, said hockey will be at the forefront. “No question,” Judas said. “I think there’s been some interest expressed by Seattle in having a team, and this is a good step, a small step, in that direction.” Judas suggested the Seattle group should learn more about the NHL experience and what it takes to put on a game, both from an in-game production and customer-service perspective. He also said some officials from Canucks ownership group Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment were involved in running the NBA’s Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1990s and could offer perspectives on arena sharing and cross-marketing between teams from different sports.
Seattle group to visit Vancouver as push for NHL expansion continues
Seattle Times | Feb 20