Seattle’s NHL expansion team is looking for its top-level affiliate, and Boise is in the mix

The newest National Hockey League team will begin play in Seattle in the 2021-22 season, and as part of the process of starting the expansion team, it must identify its minor league affiliates.

As a Western, growing city already with its own built-in fan base, Boise is one of the two finalists to become the Seattle franchise’s American Hockey League city. The AHL is the top level of minor league hockey in the United States, a step above the Idaho Steelheads’ current league, the ECHL.

The other finalist is Palm Springs, Calif., which currently does not have a team.

“We’re still doing an analysis of the two markets, but I will acknowledge those are the two markets,” Seattle NHL CEO Tod Leiweke said last week in a radio interview on KJR 950 AM.

It is unknown if the Idaho Steelheads would move up to the AHL, or if the franchise would move, and a new one put in its place. Steelheads president Eric Trapp did not comment further, but had stated previously there had been contact with the Seattle franchise. The Colorado Eagles moved up from the ECHL to the AHL last season as they became the Colorado Avalanche’s affiliate.

Though Boise would already have its own arena in CenturyLink Arena and a base that often fills it up, the California option appears to be the front-runner. Though the desert city is smaller than Boise and often seen as a retirement destination, a plan was announced last summer to build a 12,000-seat stadium and sports complex just outside of the city at a cost of approximately $300 million.

Appearing on the “31 Thoughts” podcast in Canada, AHL commissioner David Andrews said Palm Springs appears to be the likely choice, but more work needs to be done.

“There’s no building there. ... I think in an ideal world, Seattle would end up in a new arena in Palm Springs,” Andrews said.

On this week’s 208 Podcast, we discussed the AHL news, Boise State’s latest twist in the baseball stadium saga, fans’ first looks at the new blue turf and plenty more.

Listen to this week’s podcast episode above. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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Dave Southorn, the Idaho Statesman’s Boise State sports reporter, and KTVB sports director Jay Tust are the hosts of the weekly podcast “The 208: Sports. Stats. Stories.”
Dave Southorn is a 2004 graduate from the University of Colorado. He has covered Boise State athletics since 2005, and worked at the Idaho Statesman since 2013. He’s won multiple Idaho Press Club awards and once won a contest designing a play for the Seattle Seahawks.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.