The 99-5 Rivalry or the Liquid Sunshine rivalry?

Growing up in the Lower Mainland of B.C., I often wondered why Seattle didn’t have an NHL team.

It had been a successful major junior hockey market with the Seattle Thunderbirds. It was certainly a large enough market to sustain NHL hockey. And while the damp, moderately warm winter climate didn’t scream “winter ice sport city,” it’s still a better fit than California, Texas or Florida.

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And there would be a natural rivalry for my beloved Vancouver Canucks. The Edmonton Oilers had the Calgary Flames. The Montreal Canadiens had the Quebec Nordiques (at least until 1995). The Vancouver Canucks had … the Los Angeles Kings, who were a rival in terms of time zone but not distance, and the Winnipeg Jets, who were a bit of a rival, even though they were in central Canada, and not in the west.

At least we beat the Winnipeg Jets a couple of times in the playoffs in the mid-1990s.

We could have called the Vancouver-Seattle rivalry the Battle of the Pacific Northwest, or the Battle of Liquid Sunshine, or the 99-5 rivalry. (Highway 99 runs through Vancouver, and Interstate 5 cuts through Seattle).

Truth be told, Seattle likely had everything needed for a big league hockey team for many years, except for one thing: a suitable arena. The Key Arena, which opened in 1962, has likely been one of the worst in North American pro sports for a long time.

It was so bad that Seattle’s beloved NBA team, the SuperSonics, moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008. Nothing against the great people of Oklahoma City, but there’s something wrong when a team moves from the most beautiful city in the U.S. to a smaller market like Oklahoma City.

Seattle has been granted an NHL team, and starting in 2020-21, they’re going to play in the Key Arena. Sort of. The Key Arena is going to be completely rebuilt, expect for the roof, which people in Seattle carry some sort of an attachment to.

I’ve never heard of such a plan when it comes to arenas.

Why they’re not going to just build a new arena is beyond me. Maybe the roof is still in great shape, but the rest of the arena isn’t. Maybe they don’t have enough money to build a new arena outright.

But now that Seattle will have its modern arena, the NHL is coming in 2021, and the NBA will likely have a team there as well. 

I’m happy the NHL is going to Seattle. The city gets the NHL team they richly deserve. The Canucks finally have a natural geographic rival. Maybe I’ll go down to Seattle to watch a game at some point. After all, the tickets can’t be more expensive than they are for the Canucks, right?

I’m concerned that the Seattle team will enjoy success right off the hop, just like the Vegas Golden Knights did last year. Will Seattle be better than the Canucks right away? That would be another swift kick in the guts for Vancouver fans.

I’d much rather see the NHL back in Quebec City. That market deserves a team, and they have a magnificent new arena to accommodate them. Hopefully the Florida Panthers or the Carolina Hurricanes will relocate there eventually.

I do have to point out, though, that Seattle has had a lot of trouble with its major professional sports teams. They’ve never had an NHL team. They lost their NBA team. Granted, that was venue-related rather than fan support related, but it doesn’t say “The ‘Sonics moved because the Key Arena was a decrepit relic” in the NBA’s Guide and Record Book.

I don’t remember the Seattle Seahawks threatening to move, or being in a position of having uncertain future. I remember some pretty abysmal years in the 1990s before inching towards respectability in the late 1990s, and finally having some great years in the 2000s.

I do remember the Seattle Mariners (another awful team for many years) having an uncertain future until the Kingdome (another terrible stadium) was replaced by magnificent Safeco Field.

The records show the Mariners had 14 straight losing seasons, but they don’t get a pass for that because they played in the Kingdome.

I hope the new Seattle NHL team does well, that they don’t endure 14 straight losing seasons, but they get waxed by the Canucks in every single incarnation of the 99-5 rivalry.  

As for a team name, I’ll join the chorus that says bring back the Seattle Metropolitans. After all, the “Mets” were the first U.S.-based team to win a Stanley Cup back in 1917.

So that’s one salvo the Seattle NHL team has in the 99-5 Rivalry with the Canucks. Seattle’s last Stanley Cup win was in 1917; it’s been more than 103 years since the Vancouver Millionaires won Lord Stanley in 1915.

Both of those victories pre-date the modern NHL.

And knowing the Canucks, Seattle will get its next Stanley Cup championship before Vancouver.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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