Wayne Gretzky Reportedly Among Investors Looking to Bring NHL Team to Seattle

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 21:  Wayne Gretzky poses in the Infiniti Red Bull Racing garage during final practice ahead of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring on June 21, 2014 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Ever since the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics were moved to Oklahoma City, fans have clamored for a new basketball franchise in the Emerald City.

While that may be a ways off, Josh Kosman and Larry Brooks of the New York Post noted that Seattle could be a new destination for the NHL, and the Great One himself could help make it happen:

Wayne Gretzky has joined a group of investors hoping to bring a National Hockey League team to Seattle, The Post has learned.

The Gretzky group is one of three looking to bring an NHL franchise to the home of Starbucks, sources said — but each faces an uphill battle in that league Commissioner Gary Bettman has not said the league is ready to expand.

However, Gretzky's agent Darren Blake told The Canadian Press something different:

Darren Blake, Gretzky's agent, told The Canadian Press in an email that the 53-year-old Hall of Famer isn't involved in any bid.

"As you can imagine prospective team owners from various franchises call frequently to gauge his interest in coming on board. Seattle is no different," said Blake.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment on the report.

Considering the level of controversy that surrounded the Supersonics’ move to Oklahoma City, it is interesting to note that it is still unknown if the Wayne Gretzky group wants an expansion team in Seattle or has interest in moving an existing franchise.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

For his part, Gretzky tried to become an owner in 2011 with Providence Equity Partners in a bid for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors), but the NHL rejected the offer.

Kosman and Brooks pointed out that the $1.5 billion bid would have broken NHL rules, since it was structured as a leveraged buyout with debt levels higher than 50 percent of the franchise value.

As for the interest in Seattle, Gary Bettman actually visited the area recently to learn about plans to build a new arena.

The commissioner didn’t exactly promise a new team in the process, via TSN.ca:

We had a few hours to kill, we were in the neighborhood, so I figured I'd go to Seattle to find out what the building story was. We weren't there campaigning, we weren't asking for anything, and that's been misreported. Based on the level of interest we're getting from lots of people in Seattle and a fair amount of uncertainty and confusion about the building, we decided 'Let's go find out for ourselves what the story is with the building.' And there's no prospect of a building right now.

Perhaps Gretzky’s involvement could change that.