OK- identifying Seattle only with the grunge alternative music movement of the early 90’s widely credited with “killing” 80’s hair metal is selling the fine Pacific Northwest city short, but today, the NHL’s Board of Governors unanimously voted to grant Seattle a franchise, making it the 32nd city in the NHL- to begin playing in the 2021-22 season.
That will be 20 years after the San Jose Sharks became the league’s 22nd team in the 1991-92 campaign, starting a wave of expansion that saw the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers all join the NHL in 1992 and 1993.
Back then, grunge (defined as a fusion of punk rock and heavy metal with a characteristic “dirty” or “fuzzy” sound) was in its heyday- the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains all taking the music mainstream. To a lesser extent, Seattle bands like Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Screaming Trees, Green River, 7 Year Bitch (more punk than grunge probably, but from Seattle), Skin Yard, TAD to name a few helped keep the movement popular throughout the decade of the 90’s. It’s also interesting to note that of the “Big 4” of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is the only frontman still alive (see what I did there?) and even so, he succeeded Andrew Wood, the former lead singer of Mother Love Bone. MLB was the band that essentially became Pearl Jam after his death to a drug overdose in 1990, with guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament teaming up with Vedder, Mike McCready and drummer Dave Krusen to launch the group who is arguably the face of Seattle grunge (but you can certainly make an argument for someone else).
The city is no stranger to hockey, as the Seattle Metropolitans existed from 1915-24, and won the 1917 Stanley Cup, the first U.S.-based team to capture the silver hardware. You can read up on Seattle’s history of pro hockey teams in a pretty good Seattle Times piece here. More recently, the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds have been in existence since 1985, succeeding the Seattle Breakers (1977-85) after the team sold to new ownership, who instituted the name change. They play at the ShoWare Center in Kent, some 20 miles south of downtown Seattle. The franchise has won a single WHL title in its existence and has never captured a Memorial Cup as champions of the Canadian Hockey League (major junior).
Notable T-Birds alumni include: Glenn Anderson, Mathew Barzal, Ken Daneyko, Tim Hunter, John Kordic, Brooks Laich, Patrick Marleau, Petr Nedved, Chris Osgood, Turner Stevenson and Ryan Walter. Former Bruins who played for the T-Birds: Zdenek Blatny, Matt Hervey, Jamie Huscroft, Jeremy Reich, Rob Tallas and Nate Thompson.
The Seattle NHL team has a full slate of franchise-building ahead, starting with a name and then all of the foundational work that will go into creating a full front office, plus the hockey operations and business staffs. Hey- anybody looking for a Midwest USA-based amateur scout? Anyone? Bueller?
And, we haven’t even gotten into what the 32nd member of tbe NHL will mean for divisional realignment, but it will all be sorted out in due time.
Hockey and grunge- the NHL came to the Pac-NW 20 years too late to capitalize on the music craze, but you know the old saying- Better late than never. And given the fact that Seattle has a 101-year-old Stanley Cup champion on record, as the late great Chris Cornell would sing (scream?): “I’ve been away for too long…”