The NHL is closely monitoring the development of an arena in Seattle, according to Chris Daniels of King5.com on Monday afternoon.
Daniels writes that a source informed him that the NHL is gauging corporate and fan interest in an expansion franchise in the city. In addition, the league is waiting to see the result of two meetings involving the project, which are scheduled to take place this week. The meetings are believed to be crucial to the project's continuation. The Downtown Design review board will meet on Tuesday night and the environmental review will convene two days later.
Last week, a Washington appeals court ruled that the arena project did not violate any environmental laws and rejected the challenge brought by longshore workers. The workers contended that the arena project would directly alter their industry by interfering with container shipping and related businesses. The three-judge Court of Appeals panel unanimously disagreed with that position.
The NHL has had rumored interest in Seattle for several months. Many believe the Phoenix Coyotes franchise would have relocated to Key Arena had the team's ownership group not been able to negotiate a lease agreement with the City of Glendale. Even after that situation was resolved, reports surfaced that commissioner Gary Bettman was petitioning the NHL's 30 owners to make an expansion franchise available to the Seattle market.
As it currently stands, the NHL has an uneven distribution of teams across their two conferences, with 16 teams in the East and 14 teams in the West. By most accounts, the NHL is looking to expand to 32 teams in the near future.
However, the NHL has consistently denied that intention when publicly asked about such a possibility.