Plus, this was the first city in the United States to win the Stanley Cup -- the Seattle Metropolitans beat Montreal three games to one in 1917.
But Seattle, the 15th-largest metro area in the country, seldom gets mentioned as a potential NHL location. And there are plenty of arguments against it.
There is no venue, there are few community ice rinks and next to zilch when it comes to youth hockey, and Phoenix -- the 12th-biggest metro area in the nation and the fifth-largest city overall -- is on the brink of losing its team after losing buckets of money over the years. Long Island and Atlanta have been mentioned as shaky spots in the past week, too.
Those in the existing hockey establishment here, though, say that Seattle would be a fine spot for an NHL franchise.
"I don't see any problems with the NHL surviving here," said former NHL player Doug Soetaert, who is now the general manager of the nearby Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. "It is viable, with a new venue. It's a big market with a vast population, a high income level and lots of corporate sponsors. It is absolutely a market that could support an NHL franchise."
There are also plenty of possible deep-pocket owners and a citizenry that jumps on board with vigor given a good product that elicits community spirit. The Mariners got a beautiful new stadium after capturing the town's imagination with a great playoff run in 1995, and the Seahawks have a sparkling, spiffy new building right next door.
"There's definitely a void here, but there's no grassroots hockey." "I think the NHL would work here, but you'd have to have a long-term plan," said Russ Farwell, who is the general manager of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds, based in nearby Kent. "The NHL would love to have this market. I think it would work. I believe it would work."
The best proof that the NHL might have a good shot to succeed here is the MLS Seattle Sounders soccer team, which has average crowds of more than 30,000 at Quest Field. They have shattered the league's attendance records.
"Look how this city has embraced soccer," Farwell said. "The people here have fallen in love with it. People are using soccer terms they didn't know a year ago, it's the trendy thing to do. They did a great job introducing the sport."
OK, so the Sonics -- a once-great franchise -- couldn't get a new arena here or get funding to update KeyArena, but that venue had been redone all of 12 years earlier, and the Sonics ownership wanted $500 million in public money.
That renovation was done with specific parameters, with former Sonics owner Barry Ackerley bent on preventing any NHL encroachment. The arena was left unsuitable for the NHL and the suitability in general for hockey was so poor, Farwell said, that it eroded the Thunderbirds' fan base, too, before the move to Kent.
The absence, at least for now, of the NBA could be an opening for the NHL.
"There's definitely a void here," one Seattle sportswriter said. "But there's no grassroots hockey."
That's why Farwell said there needs to be more civic investment in the sport, period. In a metro area of 3.3 million, he said, there are four ice rinks, and none built in the past 11 years. Compare that to an area such as Dallas, which also had no hockey to speak of 15 years ago but which now has more than 20 rinks. Dallas also is producing some talent out of its youth programs: One of Seattle's best players, Farwell said, is Colin Jacobs, a 16-year-old center from Dallas. Farwell has never had a local player on the Thunderbirds.
Soetaert is adamant that the NHL could not work at KeyArena unless the building were drastically rebuilt, but he said that the area near Safeco Field and Qwest Field would be ideal. Seattle's location, meanwhile, would be perfect for a Pacific Division club, unlike, say, Hamilton, Ont.
"Vancouver is right down the road, and what a great rivalry that would be," he said. "And geographically, it just makes sense to have another team on the West Coast. If the NHL looks to expand, Seattle would be great."