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

Urban Safari Rescue Society starts online video presentations

Animal shelter struggling to stay afloat during pandemic

Surrey RCMP say $14K in stolen phones recovered following investigation

Police say phones reportedly being sold on Facebook Marketplace

Young Muslims offer helping hand to isolated residents throughout Lower Mainland

Neighbourhood Helper campaign aims to get help to people who can’t leave their homes

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 9: Abbotsford inmate diagnosed with COVID-19, temporary rent-supplement applications open

White Rock’s promenade to close to the public

Public access to popular waterfront walkway closing April 10: city

B.C., Alberta health ministers urge public to stay home Easter weekend

Regional politicians, online petition calling for closure of provincial border to non-essential traffic

Human rights complaint over city’s Pride flag tossed out

Kari Simpson’s attempt to block Langley City’s flag raising has failed

Abbotsford prison has confirmed COVID-19 case

Pacific Regional Treatment Centre is the third prison in B.C. in one week to confirm case

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Canadian Olympian diagnosed with heart failure, possible exposure to COVID-19

Olympic soccer star Karina LeBlanc diagnosed with pleural effusion

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C. First Nations Health Authority launches virtual doctor program

Program to provide primary health care through COVID-19 pandemic

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Most Read