Vancouver Canucks looking to build rivalry with new Seattle hockey team

NHL announced its 32nd team in the west coast city

Seattle’s new NHL team may seem like a natural foe for the Vancouver Canucks, but some in the hockey world say building a rivalry between the regional neighbours will take time.

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini welcomed Tuesday’s news that the NHL board of governors unanimously approved a yet-to-be-named franchise in Seattle, set to start play in the 2021-22 season.

“Great to welcome Seattle to the NHL!” he tweeted. “I’ve got a feeling this will become a classic rivalry.”

But while the Emerald City is located just over 200 kilometres south of Vancouver, Canucks head coach Travis Green said rivalries aren’t solely based on where teams are located.

“They come from hard playoff series, going through battles and being battle tested against each other,” he said.

Vancouver defenceman Troy Stecher — who’s from the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C. — also believes creating a grudge between teams requires some history.

“I definitely think it could become something, but it’s going to take time,” he said, noting that a there’s already an intense competition in Major League Soccer between the Vancouver Whitecaps and their regional adversaries, the Seattle Sounders.

“You can’t just say it’s a rivalry. You’ve got to go through games, you’ve got to build that personality, you’ve got to have battles with guys on their teams. And I think that’s what creates it.”

Giving both Vancouver and Seattle fans an opportunity to drive to games in another market will be huge, Stecher said.

“I played at a college that had really good fans that would travel a ways,” said the University of North Dakota alum. “So maybe this is a good step for the Canucks.”

Creating a new rivalry could be a boon for the Canucks business side, said Peter Tingling, a professor with Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Burnaby, B.C.

“You want engaged fans and it will certainly be good from that perspective,” he said, noting that it’s been a long time since Vancouver’s Rogers Arena was regularly sold-out for hockey games.

READ MORE: Seattle to officially get NHL team

READ MORE: To 32 and beyond: Seattle may not be end of NHL expansion

Having a new team in the Pacific Division could also put pressure on the Canucks to perform both on and off the ice, Tingling added.

The NHL’s last expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, upped the ante for competition and entertainment, making the Stanley Cup final in their first year in the league, and quickly gaining a reputation for over-the-top in-game experiences and fan engagement.

“There’s nothing like footprints behind you to make you up your game,” Tingling said. “It’s not just winning in the arena, although that’s always a good thing. If you start to see some innovation in how they engage with fans, for example, that’s going to put pressure on Vancouver.”

The Canucks are currently in rebuild mode after finishing second last in the Pacific Division last year. The club had a hot start to the season, thanks in part to rookie sensation Elias Pettersson, but the team has since cooled, winning just one of their last 12 games.

A continued slump could be dangerous if another franchise enters the market and performs well, Tingling said.

“Fans can be fickle,” he said. ”They will only put up with a poor performance for so long. And if they can look a few hours south to a winning team, that’s going to create some resentment, I would expect.”

While a new rivalry with Seattle could capture attention short-term, it’s not the best way to create and retain fans, Tingling said.

“Quite simply, there’s nothing like winning to fill an arena,” he said. ”And if you’re not winning, then what else are you doing?”

While some say animosity between the Pacific Northwest teams could take time to boil over, politicians were already trading barbs Tuesday.

“I’m excited to see Seattle’s #ReturnToHockey today,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted. ”I look forward to seeing the goalie sunburned by the goal light as the new @NHLSeattle_ team beats the Vancouver @Canucks in 2021.”

“Won’t be as bad as the sunburn your goalie’s going to get from playing golf after the regular season’s over,” responded B.C. Premier John Horgan. ”Congratulations City of Seattle. Go @Canucks go!”

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cermaq Canada continues to adapt operations amid Covid-19 pandemic while supporting employees and local communities

As governments, communities and Canadians continue to modify behaviors and activities based… Continue reading

No more ferries will sail from Departure Bay, Mill Bay, Brentwood Bay during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Ferries announces major changes to sailing schedules for 60 days starting Saturday, April 4

COVID-19: North Islanders bang pots and pans to honour essential workers

‘Hopefully we can keep it going for them because these people are showing up at work every day for us’

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Juvenile eagle

‘I was able to drive up close to it and get a few pictures without getting out of the truck’

VIDEO: How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

Officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don’t feel alone

Federal NDP suggests universal benefit to streamline aid payments

Those who do not need money will repay at end of tax year

Saanich mayor receives his foster bees through pollinator rental program

‘I feel like I’m an adoptive father,’ Fred Haynes says of his rented mason bee colony

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Most Read