When Wayne Gretzky was spotted by the cameras on YES Network on Wednesday in Seattle shaking hands with Derek Jeter during a Yankees-Mariners game, it appeared to be just two outstanding champion athletes saying "No, you're the best!"
But upon further review, Gretzky might have just been taking in a game at Safeco Field while he just so happened to already be in town. Now why would Gretzky, who has no ties to Seattle that I know of, be in Seattle? Having grown up there I can tell you it's absolutely beautiful this time of year so it's entirely possible it was just a vacation.
Or, as KJR Sports Radio personality Dave Softy Mahler reported, the conspiracy theorists were right: Gretzky was there to talk hockey.
Breaking Arena News: Confirmed Wayne Gretzky in town, set to meet with Bellevue officials about NHL possibilities.— Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) July 25, 2012
The Bellevue Reporter had a little more to add to the growing fire with Gretzky's visit to the Northwest.
A source close to the situation said talks between Bellevue and suitors for an NHL arena have been ongoing, but the source did not want to go into any particular individuals.
"There are people working on it," the source said.
But no proposals have been turned in, the source said. Were an arena plan to materialize, no Bellevue dollars, not even in the form of bond financing, would be included, the source added. Anything else is a non starter. This position has been echoed in the past by Bellevue officials.
It's important to note that this is different than the more publicized effort to get an NBA and NHL arena in Seattle that is led by Chris Hanson. He is trying to convince county politicians to go along with his $500 million arena proposal for a new arena south of downtown Seattle, more than half of it privately financed. Seattle's neighbor city across the lake of Bellevue is lurking in case that plan doesn't go through to take advantage.
In fact, before Hanson's proposal came forth there was some chatter about an arena going up in Bellevue. Chicago Wolves owner Dan Levin was linked to the chatter then and his interest was bringing the NHL to the Seattle area.
And how exactly does Gretzky fit into all of this? Well he does have experience on the ownership side of hockey, even if it's not positive. He was involved with the Phoenix Coyotes and, well, I think we all know how that turned out.
But, and this is just pure speculation on my part, Gretzky is as great an ambassador as there is for the sport. What better way to convince politicians in an area that has never had an NHL team (but it does have a Stanley Cup thanks to the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans) that hockey is a great sport? Even people who don't know a puck from a burnt biscuit know how Wayne Gretzky is. He's the Great One!
If there was any doubt that the Seattle area is indeed serious about getting an arena for the NBA's return and the NHL's arrival then this should help end that, even if it's unknown in what capacity Gretzky is involved, if he is even, in fact, involved.