Tukwila NHL arena news will reshape Seattle arena debate

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In one moment on Monday morning, the entire arena debate in Seattle changed.

Maybe the entire sporting landscape in the Puget Sound region did, as well.

When ESPN’s Craig Custance posted on Monday morning that Ray Bartoszek’s RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment had filed a request for a zoning code interpretation with the city of Tukwila, with the intent of building an arena in the city, that woke up hockey fans across the region. Suddenly, the long-awaited alternative to the painfully-slow arena process in Seattle had arrived. Custance said that the zoning request was filed last Wednesday, with the SEPA application (basically, the start of an environmental impact study) to be filed by Friday. Tukwila officials said that Bartoszek’s group first approached the city about the arena site early in 2014.

Oh, and the arena would be privately-funded, too. That’s a big point and crucial to the coming process.

If the name Ray Bartoszek rings a bell, that’s because he was part of the ownership group that almost brought the National Hockey League to Seattle in 2013. The then-Phoenix Coyotes were one Glendale City Council vote away from being sold to Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza, who would have moved the team to Seattle and have them play in KeyArena for three seasons as a new arena was built. He’s stayed in contact with the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman since, and as Bettman wants a team in the Seattle area, this could be a major step towards that.

While both Tukwila officials and Bartoszek emphasized to Custance that it is still early in the process, with Bartoszek calling the current situation a “potential real estate project”, the intent is there. A possible arena in Tukwila was now not just a thought, but steps are being taken to make it a reality. The date mentioned for a possible opening for an arena is the fall of 2017, about the time any new NHL expansion teams would likely start playing. So, likely, that date being mentioned has a larger meaning, and maybe an end date for any NHL team starting in the Seattle area.

Maybe the biggest surprise from what we learned on Monday morning was the planned location for the arena. For months, the assumed arena site in Tukwila was believed to be the “Sabey site”, land owned by David Sabey at the south end of Boeing Field, just inside the Tukwila city limits on the border with Seattle. This was the one mentioned in previous articles.

But the site Bartoszek is working on is not that location. Instead, his arena location is on the east side of the city, south of I-405 and between the West Valley Highway and the former Longacres site, just north of the recently remodeled Tukwila Amtrak/Sounder station. It’s in an area that Tukwila has designated as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area, planning to make it an area where public transit, such as Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail line, Metro Transit’s RapidRide bus rapid transit system and other Metro routes (all of which serve the arena site, or run close to it) could easily serve employers in the area. An arena would benefit from solid transit, as traffic on I-405 around the West Valley Highway interchange, and around Southcenter to the west and Renton to the east, can get very congested.

What’s not at the location is Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail line. That goes through the Sabey site, and Tukwila’s light rail station is on the far west side of the city, along Highway 99 and near Sea-Tac Airport. So a direct transit connection from and to Seattle, outside of the Sounder, is out of the equation for the time being. That might become an issue down the line.

The timing of the Tukwila arena news doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Chris Hansen’s proposed arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, south of Safeco Field, is to be released on May 7. With that process being drawn out for years, with opposition from the Seattle Mariners and the Port of Seattle starting to be known again, the anticipation on what the FEIS will say, and what timelines that the city of Seattle puts on the next phases of the project will be crucial to whether it even can get to the point of considering a date to break ground. The news from Tukwila now puts a lot of pressure on the process, especially on the point where construction of the SoDo arena could only start when an NBA team was gained. It forces the city, and Hansen, to take more seriously the need to allow the arena to proceed if it’s the NHL that comes to Seattle first.

That’s where the pressure goes up on Vince Coleman, as well. He’s been negotiating with Hansen on trying to get the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) changed from only allowing the arena to be built if Hansen brought the NBA back to Seattle. He’s been in constant contact with Bettman on the arena situation, and there was a time when it seemed like progress was being made. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who was seen at the beginning of his term by some as anti-hockey, had even begun to soften his stance on a possible NHL-first MOU change.

But Coleman hasn’t been heard from recently, and the state of his negotiations with Hansen is still unknown. Much of this hinges on what the FEIS says when released next week, but Coleman needs to let Seattle fans know that he’s still interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle. He needs to be talking to Murray and the Seattle City Council, trying to get the MOU changed so it can be NHL-first. He needs to be seen, or announce some sort of action that tells NHL fans in the region that he’s still in the race. Otherwise, he will be seen as out of the picture, and Bartoszek becomes the only one with Bettman’s ear. Then again, with Monday’s news, and that Custance’s story mentioned that Bettman will talk to the NHL Board of Governors about Bartoszek’s plans, he may already be the only one.

If the NHL arena plans in Tukwila gets on a fast track, that likely means the SoDo arena project becomes much less likely. And much of the blame has to go to Hansen, as his attempts to bring the NBA back to Seattle seem to have done more harm than good, on many fronts. His failed attempts to buy the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks may have ticked off a number of NBA owners, and the NBA keeps saying that there’s no plan to put a team in Seattle anytime in the next few years, or even within the decade (if at all).

The tide has already turned against Hansen, at least from one front. King County Council member Pete Von Reichbauer told KOMO NewsRadio’s Charlie Harger that Bartoszek’s arena plan in Tukwila was better, and with Steve Ballmer’s purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers, he believed that Hansen no longer had the money to get an NBA team or to build an arena. He also believed that Tukwila was a better location than SoDo for the arena. Since King County is also involved in the SoDo arena process, if Van Reichbauer is expressing the majority opinion of the county council, that’s a massive blow to Hansen.

That Hansen made the exact same mistake that Barry Ackerley made in 1990 likely led to a similar result, only coming much faster. It was Ackerley who killed the hopes of an NHL expansion team at that time when he bailed out on the prospective ownership group and struck a deal with the city of Seattle to remodel the Seattle Center Coliseum into a basketball-centric arena, which became KeyArena. It can be argued that the end of the Sonics in Seattle began with that decision, as it meant KeyArena couldn’t make the money it needed to make a profit and helped give the NBA the first excuses it needed to say that the building was obsolete, and gave the city a reason to let the team go away.

Hansen never learned from that. Insisting on making the MOU NBA-first was a monumental mistake, but it came at a time when he was making many in the region believe that he could…no, he would…bring the Sonics back. The excitement was very high, and it seemed like Hansen could do no wrong. He got the deal he wanted from Seattle and King County, and it seemed like a matter of time before the arena in SoDo would be built, even if the Mariners and the Port of Seattle came out strongly against it. The M’s even took a massive public relations hit for opposing the arena, and that played into Hansen’s favor, as well.

But Hansen also said that he had no interest in hockey, and that the NBA was his sole focus. Even the rendering of the arena in a hockey set-up seemed half-hearted, as many pointed out that the proposed look lacked player benches and penalty boxes. He said that he wanted hockey to be a part of the arena project, but he himself wanted anything to do with a team. Someone else had to get the hockey team to become his tenant. It was only after it became more apparent that the NBA still had no interest in Seattle, and that the NHL still had strong interest, that Hansen started to talk with possible owners. For a time Jeremy Roenick was connected with Hansen, but that soon went away.

Eventually, it became clear that the lack of an NHL-first plan for the SoDo arena would be the Achilles heel of the entire project. That Bartoszek and Lanza were so close to moving the Coyotes to Seattle in 2013, maybe closer than Hansen had been with the Kings, added to the angst. It was clear that Hansen was seemingly living in a dreamland where the NBA would still allow him to bring back the Sonics, even when the evidence was increasingly against him.

Meanwhile, the arena FEIS dragged on. First it was supposed to come out in late 2014, then early 2015. Then Murray announced a date of May 7, and it seemed like the arena might finally make a little progress. But all outside of Hansen, and maybe some on the City Council, had come to realize that there would be no new Seattle arena unless the MOU allowed for NHL-first. Hopes were raised when the news that Hansen had started negotiating with Coleman on a possible NHL-first plan, but that was back in 2014. Not much has come out since, and if Tukwila gains momentum, then the idea of an arena in SoDo is all but dead. Then Hansen would have to deal with Bartoszek if he wanted an arena for the Sonics, and he would be dealing from a position of weakness. And, in the end, he can only blame himself.

That Bartoszek’s group would build the arena in Tukwila with no public money works against Hansen, as well. The SoDo arena plan is based on Seattle and King County chipping in about $200 million (the county contributing $80 million if the NHL was involved, $5 million if not), with Hansen paying the money back in installments. Some on the Seattle City Council have been hesitant to support giving Hansen that money, and if Tukwila ends up approving a privately-financed arena there, then the anti-arena forces on the council could kill it right there. Monday’s news may already have the Seattle arena project closer to not happening, even with the FEIS coming out on May 7.

And what about the other proposed arena location in the Puget Sound region, in Bellevue? No news has come out of there since the site at 116th Avenue NE and NE 4th Street since it was mentioned in February, but the car dealership at that location burned in a massive 3-alarm fire on Saturday. That puts the future of the site in doubt, but with the news from Tukwila, any arena plans that may be in the works could be dead very quickly.

Which brings us back to Monday’s news, the news of Ray Bartoszek’s possible arena plan for the east side of Tukwila. That Gary Bettman will be mentioning those plans at the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting in June, along with the Las Vegas season ticket drive, is a massive endorsement for Bartoszek. That the fall of 2017 was mentioned as the earliest opening date for the arena is also big, as that would be the earliest any NHL expansion teams would begin play. The dream of the NHL coming to the Seattle area, a dream that was supposed to happen in 1976, and was supposed to happen again in the early 1990s, may actually be back on track.

It will take a while to know if it is. But, for today, the hopes of hockey fans across the Puget Sound region just got raised significantly.

And Ray Bartoszek may become what Chris Hansen wanted to be. The arena builder.

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The Monster Hides in the Darkness

The Monster hides in the darkness, always out of sight.
But you know The Monster is always there, day or night.
The Monster is patient, willing to wait things out.
It is always ready to strike, ready for the next bout.

The Monster knows your weaknesses, knows your strengths.
To take advantage of you, The Monster will go to great lengths.
The power of The Monster is strong, for it has the greater might.
The challenge of every day is to defeat The Monster, to win the fight.

The darkness you live in, the fear is always strong.
The time you’ve fought The Monster, it is very long.
There are the battles where you’ve held back The Monster, had it on the edge.
There are the battles where The Monster gets close to pushing you off the ledge.

There are those who say they are willing to help, ready for the bout.
But The Monster has planted that big piece of doubt.
Are you willing to trust? Are you willing to let them come in?
Because The Monster works hard to keep you from the win.

When the battles are won, the excitement is strong.
But The Monster never goes away for long.
And when suddenly things turn for the worse, when another struggle begins,
The Monster comes back and starts the battle again.

You look for help, you see those around you.
You have the hope that there is much that they can do.
But The Monster knows you’re weak, knows it’s ready to atone.
The Monster plants the doubt, that you really are alone.

Some who don’t know, those would rather not care,
Say that it’s all in your head, that The Monster is not there.
But it’s in your head that the battle rages on,
Where you fight to not be The Monster’s pawn.

Then comes the moments, when the battle reaches its peak,
When The Monster goes in for the finale, hoping you are meek.
You feel lost, you don’t know what to do, you have that deep fear.
You try to fight off The Monster, fighting for everything you hold dear.

The battle never ends, The Monster always is ready to fight.
The battle never ends, you have to go with all your might.
Even when there seems to be no hope, when all might go away,
You think about what might happen, then you try to find a way.

Because when you are weak, that’s when you have to be strong.
You have to beat The Monster, it doesn’t matter how long
It takes, because the battle is one that is always about to start.
You and The Monster are never that far apart.

And when it is all at its darkest, when you feel long you can go on,
That’s when you have to say, the conclusion isn’t foregone.
Because The Monster wants you to feel that, wants you to have no hope.
You have to resist that final act, to fight it off, to say, nope.

Otherwise, The Monster wins.

Endless rejection & never-ending hope: The great roller coaster ride that was 2013

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(Wikimedia Commons photo of the Space Needle at New Year’s by “X-Weinzar”.)

That 2013 was a massive roller coaster ride for me would be a great understatement.

Professionally, it was as bad as I’ve ever gone through. Personally, I’m sure I’ve not gone through a year quite like it. As a sports fan, it’s as good as I can remember.

(And, yeah, I haven’t been here in a while. Meek explanation to follow.)

I think the last time I went through an entire year without a full-time job was when I was 21. I had just come back from spending time in Minnesota, where nothing went as planned. My mother said I should take some time off and regroup for whatever happened next. Soon after I turned 22, I was working full-time in a library and starting to plot my return to college. So the break turned out pretty good, in the long run.

I’m hoping something like happens this time around. Between applications, interviews, classes, a gazillion resume revamps and reformats, endless cover letters and wondering if I’d ever see a workplace again, it’s currently as bad as my professional life has ever been. I’ve been agonizingly close to a job on numerous occasions, while at other times I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get past a specific point of an interview process or even get contacted. Frustrations have been high, and sometimes it got to the point where I wondered how much more I could take. How many times can I handle getting the emails saying thanks, but no thanks, about a job? How many times can I not get a return phone call, or a return email, about a position? How many times can I impress in the interview, but not enough to get the job? Yeah, the frustrations are great. But all I can do is grind, to keep applying, to keep hoping. Because at some point, I’ll get that job, whatever it is, and all will be fine again. All I can do, is hope.

I did get to start writing again. I have been writing a weekly column for Soccer Newsday, a site that covers many levels of soccer around the world. My focus has been on the Portland Timbers, and I haven’t been short on things to write about. No, I’m not getting paid, but I am writing regularly, and it gives me a bit of a schedule to work on. It’s been fun so far, and it’s even allowed me to add on some followers on Twitter.

(And that’s why I haven’t written much on here lately.)

Speaking of sports…2013 has likely been the best year I’ve had as a sports fan in many, many years. First, there was the run to the Super Bowl by the San Francisco 49ers, and coming so close to actually winning it. Arsenal made the UEFA Champions League again, and finished 2013 on top of the Premier League. The Portland Trail Blazers are stunning the NBA by being one of the best teams so far in the 2013-14 season, shocking a lot of pundits (and fans) in the process. Washington State’s football team made their first bowl game in 10 years, but, being the Cougs, they lost the game after blowing a big lead late.

Then there are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their run into the MLB playoffs, and getting that first winning record in 21 years, brought my interest in baseball back to the levels of my youth. After so many years, I could say that I was a Pirates fan and not have people give me strange looks. Yeah, they lost to St. Louis in the playoffs, but just being there was amazing. I haven’t screamed at a TV as loud as when the Bucs beat Cincinnati in the wild card playoff. That was fun…baseball, fun! That hadn’t happened in so long, at times I didn’t know how quite to respond. That 2014 could be better makes me smile, and that the Pirates are now contenders rather than afterthoughts is incredible.

Speaking of going from afterthoughts to contenders, may I present the Portland Timbers. What Caleb Porter and the club did in 2013 was nothing short of miraculous. Being one game away from the MLS Cup Final, qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, being the best team in the Western Conference during the regular season, beating Seattle in the playoffs…things that only could be distant dreams after a horrendous 2012 season. But, that’s what happened. Will Johnson and Diego Valeri became favorites, the ol’ stadium in Portland was rocking like it hasn’t in a long, long time and hope now springs eternal. That was some season, and I can only hope that 2014 can bring more of the same, and maybe take another step or two forward.

Yeah, there was some bad spots in my sports world. That was mainly reserved for the Edmonton Oilers, who at times made me really question why I support them after all of these years. That I love hockey so much probably saved me from going completely AWOL from the Oilers, but maybe someday they’ll be good again. But that doesn’t look like that’ll happen anytime soon.

But, throughout it all, I just keep living. My wife has been my rock, the calming influence when I’ve just about reached the breaking point. Having good friends, those who keep encouraging in spite of my situation, has also been a big help. Someday, I hope to repay them in some way. Then again, for as much as my wife has gone through with me this year, I don’t know if I can repay her enough. She puts up with my extreme lows and my hopeful highs. I can’t say “I love you” to her enough.

So, 2014 is almost here. All I hope for is that it’ll be better than 2013. That there’s a job in my future, that I can be a good friend and a better person.

The line that sticks in my mind is this: “Believe Beyond Reason”. Because, no matter how bad things get, if you still believe, if you still hope, then things will get better.

To you and yours, a great 2014. Let’s hope for good things, for all of us.

And, maybe, believe beyond reason.

How TV rating systems shortchange some sports

I was reading an article not long ago about how Major League Soccer still lags behind in TV ratings, with smallish numbers compared to other sports, and it got me wondering.

Can TV ratings ever be accurate for sporting events?

At this point, I don’t think so. That’s simply because the viewing habits of sports fans have been changing drastically in recent years.

One has to remember that those ratings only count those watching an event from home. While that’s a fairly accurate way to gauge how many watch a comedy, drama or some other recorded event, it’s not an effective way to figure out how many people are watching a specific sporting event.

The first problem is that the rating systems don’t count televisions outside of the home. With a growing amount of people opting to head to bars, pubs, restaurants or other establishments to watch games, that means a large number of viewers will never be counted towards the ratings. This especially hurts the ratings for sports such as hockey and soccer, where fans tend to prefer being at gatherings to watch games with friends instead of being home by themselves. The games have become social events, but the ratings will never show that.

Another issue is that some fans are increasingly watching games online, whether on a laptop, a mobile device (phone or tablet) or a desktop. Some of these sites do count how many viewers they have at specific times, but those figures are not part of the ratings that executives with television and cable networks are concerned with. It’s still the ratings connected with home viewing.

This affects the bottom line with leagues and networks, as advertisers still rely on the ratings to help determine where they should purchase time to promote their products. The effect is that an advertiser may see that a game in, for example, MLS had around 200,000 viewers according to the published ratings based on home viewing, but the actual number may be many times more than that if those watching in bars and other establishments were able to be counted. But they aren’t, and the advertiser is left with a ratings number that is quite skewed.

This doesn’t just affect the “smaller” sports, either. Imagine what the ratings for the NFL would be if those who watch the games in sports bars and restaurants were counted. Weekly records could easily be set, because the the NFL’s fanbase is so massive. The real viewing number for Sunday night’s 49ers-Seahawks game could be 30 percent more than the already-high published ratings, simply because of where people watched the games.

There’s no real solution to the issue, of course. Until Nielsen or some other company develops a way to count the TVs in a sports bar set to specific games, the ratings for a live sporting event will always be lower than the real number of viewers. Occasionally, for some sports the number will likely be much lower than reality.

But money is connected to those ratings. Networks rely on revenue from advertisers to pay for the contracts with sports leagues. Ad buyers will see the ratings, see that some are low, and then look for another show or event to advertise on.

It’s not a big deal to football and baseball, but it is to hockey and soccer. And nothing can be done about it.

What’s next? The continuing ripple effects of Dempsey-to-Seattle

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Clint Dempsey, playing for the US National Team against Belgium on May 29, 2013 in Cleveland. Photo courtesy of Flickr member Erik Daniel Drost.

Five days later, the shock waves are still being felt. Very likely, the Clint Dempsey situation will continue to be a topic for weeks, with many questions yet to be answered.

As Dempsey made his first appearance in training for the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, it was beginning to look like he would make his debut in Toronto on Saturday. When he steps onto the pitch at BMO Field, a new era in Major League Soccer begins.

Much has been written on the Twitter frenzy that tipped everyone off that the Dempsey-Sounders deal was possibly happening. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl wrote a fantastic article on how MLS and the Sounders put together the deal, and it raised as many questions as it does answers. The talk about how things went down, and its after effects, will go on for months.

Of course, the deal also shook up the Seattle sports landscape. After all, when was the last time a superstar in his sport chose Seattle for his professional home? Ichiro Suzuki was a big star in Japan, but when he came to Seattle in 2001, he was an unknown on this side of the Pacific. Think about the last major free agent, seen as a major star in their sport and in the prime of their career, who decided to sign with the Seahawks, Mariners or Sonics. There probably is one somewhere that I have forgotten, but the point is that it doesn’t happen often.

Now that the Sounders have Dempsey, what’s next? First of all, they have to figure out where Dempsey fits in with the club’s two other big scorers, Eddie Johnson and Oba Martins. Johnson would likely adjust quickly, as he’s played with Dempsey on the US Men’s National Team for a number of years. Martins would have to adjust a little for Dempsey’s style, but having Johnson around will help Martins get used to his new teammate’s on-field traits.

Not being in the CONCACAF Champions League for 2013-14 and being eliminated early in the US Open Cup may be a help for the Sounders. They can concentrate on making the MLS playoffs, and that they have between 2-4 games in hand on the six clubs above them in the Western Conference standings, a good run could quickly put them near the top of the standings. That also would get them in a better position for a run at the MLS Cup, a major reason why Dempsey was brought to Seattle.

The first big match for the Sounders in the Dempsey Era is likely in Houston on August 17. Not only would it be a homecoming for Dempsey, who is from east Texas, but the Dynamo are much like the Sounders in fighting for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Add on what will likely be a hot and humid night, and it will be a big challenge for Seattle.

Of course, the one match everyone is pointing to is the Cascadia clash against Portland on August 25. It will be on ESPN2, it will have a crowd that could get close to the MLS single-game record for size and the anticipation and pressure will be high for Dempsey and the Sounders to perform. Their one advantage will be rest, as the Timbers will have played Real Salt Lake at home four nights before.

What will be on the line will go beyond just a win. Of course, there’s Cascadia bragging rights, with a win by either side jumping them past Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings. There’s the playoff implications, with both clubs battling to make the postseason. A Seattle win becomes the springboard for the rest of the season. A draw, and status quo holds for another week. A loss, and the critiques of the Sounders, and of head coach Sigi Schmidt, will renew.

A lot on the line for the Sounders over the next few weeks, climaxing with that Portland match. It will be interesting to see how the club plays and whether they can take advantage of the big talent now wearing #2 in the Rave Green.

Failure is not an option.

NHL expansion: Seattle and…who else?

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Seattle’s KeyArena, the likely temporary home for an NHL team in the Emerald City. (Wikimedia Commons photo by “paulyb6″)

Hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest got a major jolt on Tuesday night, and they could be excused if they have started dreaming of pucks in KeyArena again.

A series of tweets by Mitch Levy, the long-time morning host on Seattle sports station KJR, indicated that Commissioner Gary Bettman was getting ready to recommend that the NHL place an expansion team in Seattle for the 2014-15 season. It would obviously depend on an ownership group coming together quickly and that the planned arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood is still on track, meaning an adjustment to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so that the arena could start construction with an NHL team on deck, not just an NBA team.

If this pans out, that means Seattle would be the 31st team in the NHL. They would quickly go into the Pacific Division and be its eighth team. But to balance out scheduling, the NHL would likely need another team to come in at the same time.

But which cities could be ready to host the NHL right away? The obvious choice is Quebec City, as it is already building a new arena and still has Colisee Pepsi (the former home of the Nordiques) available for a temporary basis. Quebec wants the NHL back badly, and with the financial backing of Quebecor, one of Canada’s largest media companies, they may be able to be ready to put something together quickly.

Other cities often mentioned for possible NHL expansion and/or relocation likely couldn’t be ready for 2014. Kansas City, Las Vegas, Houston and a second Toronto team likely couldn’t be ready in time with organization or investors.

Which gives us what may be the wild card in all of this: Portland. Paul Allen is now very interested in the NHL, according to reports from the Rose City. He owns the Rose Garden, which already meets NHL specifications and could host a team tomorrow. That in itself is important, as there would be no lease issues to deal with. While Allen was at one point not keen on an NHL team, especially after he came so close to buying the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999 and moving them to Portland.

Allen was supposedly involved in talks about the future of the Phoenix Coyotes, and while he never made an offer, Allen is now convinced again that the NHL could work in Portland and be a viable partner with the Trail Blazers in the Rose Garden. Having an owner like Allen in the mix could be very attractive for the NHL, and this is where it could get interesting.

The NHL has long wanted a team in the Pacific Northwest. They’ve also seen how huge the Cascadia rivalry of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver has been for MLS & how those matches have become must-see games, even for some non-soccer fans. There’s also two fewer teams in the new Western divisions than in the East.

Would the NHL take a chance and put teams in both Seattle AND Portland? Would the league push away a guaranteed money machine in Quebec for hopes of an instant rivalry on the ice in Cascadia? This is a big question, and if Bettman wants two teams for 2014-15, and Seattle has to be one of those two teams, then Quebec and Portland could be the only obvious choices for the second team. Quebec would be the heavy favorite, but Portland, with Paul Allen involved, could be a major factor when all is done.

It will be an interesting few months for the NHL as they look to expand. What direction the league goes, who gets the teams and when they will start could be decided in that time.

Time to sit back and see how it all plays out.

Courage, inspiration in the toughest times

When I was younger and struggling to get my career going the way I had hoped, there was a phrase that I would tell myself to try and convince myself things weren’t as bad as it could be.

“It could always be worse.”

At times, as I have been looking for a job over these past seven months, it has felt like that statement has been a challenge to my state of mind. Could it be worse? At times, I’m haven’t been sure.

But two events over the past two weeks has seemed to bring myself out of the doom and gloom that occasionally has overtaken me as the job search has dragged on. Both involved maybe the worst thing of all: death.

First came the passing of a friend whom I never met, at least in person. Shonda Kearns and I spoke to each other on countless occasions, griping about our favorite college teams (she was a Kentucky gal, I a Wazzu grad). speaking lovingly about our families and always curious about what the next thing for us would be. We talked on Twitter, messaged each other on Facebook and even had brief conversations on LinkedIn. There were times when we tried to actually meet, which on the surface wouldn’t seem that hard. She lived in Mill Creek, while I was down the road in Lynnwood. But when we actually tried to plan it, something always came up and it never happened.

That can no longer happen. Early last week, Shonda lost her fight with colon cancer. She faced that cancer with determination, courage and a sense of humor. She was always more worried about the effect on her kids than on her. At one point, it seemed like she had won the battle. But cancer always seems to have one final attack, and when they found those last tumors a couple of months ago, we all knew it was a matter of time. The courage that Shonda had in facing down cancer inspired many of us, and she was in good spirits right to the end. She was a woman of faith, and that faith helped her right to the end.

When I heard Shonda had crossed over, I was hit with sadness, but also relief in that she no longer suffered. But the pain that Lee (her husband), Andrew (her son) and Rachel (her daughter) must feel, I can never imagine.

The last thing Shonda posted on her Facebook page was a photo, taken from her hospital room in Everett. It was of a rainbow, with the end coming down in Possession Sound just off of the Everett waterfront. It seemed fitting, as Shonda touched so many lives. She was that rainbow to many, and it showed her optimism, even as it seemed the end was near. Less than a month after she posted that photo, she was gone. But Shonda’s impact was massive, and she will never be forgotten by anyone who came in contact with her. Even those she talked to, but never met. Like me.

The second was from someone who many know. Scott Simon is a host and reporter for National Public Radio, but for the past week he has been the loyal son. His mother was in a hospital, drifting towards death, and on his Twitter account he shared some of the moments of her final days, as he went to Chicago to be by her side until the end. It was a mix of sadness, humor and admiration for the nurses who took care of her until the end. It may be as human as Twitter gets, as he mentioned his fears, her quips and their special moments. Simon always has been a master with words, and for the past week, he was at his best in what may be the toughest moments of his life.

The sadness that everyone who followed his Twitter account felt when his mother passed on was joint. You could see the sadness in Simon’s words, along with pride of being his mother’s son.

It also hit a nerve with me. I never got that final moment with my mother. She died suddenly on New Year’s Day, 2006. By time my wife & I made it to Portland from Spokane, my stepfather already had her cremated. That I never got that final moment with my mother, who was the most influential and inspirational person in my life, has haunted me since. I can still hear her voice on some nights, and wonder what my last words would have been to her, and hers to me. So, in a sense, I was a bit jealous of Simon, because he got the moments with his mother that I never got with mine.

Death is the final act of this life. After that, there is no more. But even when the final act has happened, the courage shown by those who pass on inspires all touched by that person who has crossed over. It is a life well lived.

Can it always be worse? It can. But drawing strength from those who have faced the end with a smile, and from those who were supported them to the end with love, is the inspiration to keep going and to live life as well as it can be lived.

Because it can be worse. We can no longer be here. And that, above all, is the worst fate we can get.

Enjoy life and be kind to others. We don’t know how long we have to make an impact.