Skip to content

Free shipping on All Standard U.S. Orders of $100+

The Stories Behind the Shirts

Seattle's Storied Hockey History

by OldSchoolShirts Info 06 Dec 2018
Seattle's Storied Hockey History

One of the biggest mysteries in sports has been put to rest as Seattle has been awarded a National Hockey League (NHL) expansion franchise for the 2021/22 season. And while there are many questions surrounding the new team, perhaps the biggest is: “Why didn’t this happen years ago?”

Seattle, of course, is a northern city with a large metropolitan area and a history of supporting multiple minor league hockey clubs. Many of those teams were quite successful. However, the city has never been able to land a major league team in the sport, though it came close on several occasions.

Seattle’s First Pro Hockey Team

From 1915 to 1925, Seattle did have a professional, major league hockey team called the Metropolitans, also known as The Mets. However, they did not play in the NHL but rather the PCHA or Pacific Coast Hockey Association. That league is considered by hockey historians to have been a major league as starting in 1915, the winner of the PCHA title would face the winner of the NHA (National Hockey Association, the forerunner of the NHL) for the Stanley Cup.

In 1917, Seattle played the Montreal Canadiens for the Cup and won it three games to one, becoming the first American team to do so. The two teams met again in 1919, but the series was canceled due to an outbreak of the Spanish flu.

The Minor League Years

After the 1924 season, due to dwindling attendance at the Seattle Arena, the team folded. In 1928, hockey returned to the city in the form of the Seattle Eskimos of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHL), a minor league circuit.

From there Seattle hosted a succession of minor league teams in various leagues, never going more than a year without a club. Hockey teams calling Seattle home included the Sea Hawks, Boeings, and Stars. Perhaps the best known and certainly the longest lasting team was the Seattle Totems.

The Totems began in the PCHL as the Ironmen in 1944. In 1952, the PCHL became the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Ironmen became the Bombers. After sitting out the 1954-55 season, they returned as the Americans, before changing their name to the Totems in 1958.

The Bridesmaid Again and Again

Always huge in Canada, hockey began to gain popularity in the U.S. in the 1960s. In the middle of the decade, the NHL made a bold decision. After years of resisting expansion beyond the “Original Six” of the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks, the league decided to double in size for the 1967-68 season. A total of 14 cities applied for the six available spots. Oddly, Seattle was not one of them.

This might have been because the WHL, at the time, had thoughts of becoming a major league of its own. That idea was just one of the reasons the NHL decided to expand. Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Minnesota joined the league. In 1970, Buffalo and Vancouver came on board.

Then, in 1972, the NHL’s greatest fear was realized as a rival, major league operation debuted in the form of the World Hockey Association with 12 teams, six of those in cities with NHL teams. Seattle, though a prime hockey city, was not awarded a WHA franchise. That same year, the Atlanta Flames joined the NHL while New York welcomed a second team, the Islanders.

Then, in 1974, Seattle got the call. Just a few months before the Kansas City Scouts (now the New Jersey Devils) and Washington Capitals made their NHL debuts, Seattle, along with Denver, was awarded an expansion team. Both were to begin play in 1976.

The ownership groups for both were the same organizations that owned the WHL teams in those two cities, which essentially meant the end of that league. A similar arrangement had been made when Oakland and Vancouver joined the NHL.

The Seattle group was led by Totems owner Vince Abbey. However, he was unable to raise the additional capital needed to move forward with the NHL expansion team. At the same time, the NHL was knee-deep in a costly struggle with the WHA and were happy to cancel Seattle’s franchise. Denver, instead, joined the rival WHA, and a year later the city also received the relocated Kansas City Scouts.

It was around this time that the Pittsburgh Penguins were struggling financially and on the verge of bankruptcy. Rumors circulated that the Pens were headed for Seattle, but in May of 1975 it was announced that the team would stay in Pittsburgh.

The WHA, meanwhile, would play for a total of seven seasons, but only once was Seattle mentioned as a location for a team in that league. That was in 1975 when the Michigan Stags, formerly the Los Angeles Sharks, folded in the middle of the season and their assets used to form the Baltimore Blades. After finishing out the season under league management, it was suggested the team be moved to Seattle. However, no ownership group could be secured and the franchise was dissolved.

Seattle’s next opportunity came in 1990, but that was thwarted when Barry Ackerley, who also owned the NBA’s SuperSonics, withdrew the expansion application unbeknownst to his two partners.

In 2013, Seattle was being touted as the new home of the Phoenix Coyotes (formerly the Winnipeg Jets). After four years of running the team from the league offices, the NHL issued an ultimatum that included demands for a new arena lease in suburban Glendale, AZ and that a buyer for the team had to be found. Both points were satisfied, and the Coyotes stayed put.

Now it seems the long wait is over, and Seattle will once again have a major league hockey team after a nearly 100-year absence.

Prev Post
Next Post
Someone recently bought a

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Recently Viewed

Edit Option
Back In Stock Notification
this is just a warning
Shopping Cart
0 items