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Seattle NHL expansion team can build on revived legacy of Metropolitans

Kim sparked interest in first U.S. Stanley Cup champions, city's hockey heritage

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

A Seattle expansion team will play in the NHL starting in 2021-22. NHL.com posted a series of stories this month about the NHL Seattle organization, the local hockey scene and the city's rich hockey history.

Today, the final installment: Paul Kim, owner of the Seattle Metropolitans logo and name.

SEATTLE -- The legacy of the Seattle Metropolitans had faded like an old photo. No plaque honored the site where Seattle Arena once stood and the Metropolitans became the first U.S. team to win the Stanley Cup.

Until an enterprising fan dusted off the history and brought it to life again.

 

[RELATED: Complete Seattle expansion news]

 

Thanks to Paul Kim, players skated in replica Metropolitans jerseys when the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League held a throwback game. The Stanley Cup returned to Seattle - - twice. A plaque was installed.

And people wore Metropolitans merchandise, "S-E-A-T-T-L-E" snaking through an "S," to a watch party at Henry's Tavern on Dec. 4 when the NHL announced Seattle expansion in Sea Island, Georgia.

"In my mind, [Seattle winning the Stanley Cup] was one of the coolest things ever," Kim said. "So, I was going to do something."

Kim, 28, grew up in Seoul, South Korea. He had asthma, his mother wanted him to find something to play away from dirt and pollen, and his cousin played hockey. When he saw his first game, he fell in love.

He played hockey in Seoul from ages 8 to 10. Then the family moved to the Seattle area. He was trying to learn English in school, and his teacher was trying to find something he'd enjoy reading. Kim can't remember the title, but his teacher gave him a book about Seattle hockey history.

The Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, he learned, won the Stanley Cup when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association 3-1 in a best-of-5 series in Seattle in 1917.

"I knew it was a championship cup when I was in Korea," he said. "I didn't understand exactly how big of a deal it was until I moved to the States and saw kids going crazy every single time it's playoff time."

Kim played hockey from squirt to midget in the Sno-King Amateur Hockey Association. His favorite NHL player was Paul Kariya of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. After Kariya left Anaheim in 2003, Kim stopped being a Ducks fan.

"I decided I was just going to wait for a Seattle team and root for the underdog for most of the games just to make it more fun," he said.

Kim played club hockey for a season at Western Washington University. Toward the end of college, he decided he wanted to do something involving his passion: hockey. He realized the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Metropolitans was coming up in 2015.

When he asked around to see if anyone was commemorating it, Kim found nothing. When he looked up the owner of the Metropolitans trademark to see if he could use it to raise money for an event, he received no response. He went to business help groups and met with lawyers to research options.

"They're like, 'You can start using it, and you can challenge their rights since the person has never used it,' " Kim said.

Video: Nick Cotsonika on Dave Tippett's role with Seattle

Kim started using the "S" logo first. After a year passed without a challenge, he became the owner. Then he started using the name "Seattle Metropolitans." The owner challenged him, and they settled out of court, making him the owner of that, too.

How much did it cost?

"Thousands," Kim said. "But I would say less than tens of thousands."

Kim contacted the Hockey Hall of Fame to ask for a picture of the 1917 Stanley Cup champions. He ended up talking to Izak Westgate, manager of outreach exhibits and assistant curator.

"He's like, 'This is a really cool project. Let me see what else we can do with this,' " Kim said. "And I found out, 'Hey, we can bring the Stanley Cup over.' And then things started to roll."

The Stanley Cup was there Dec. 5, 2015, when the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League wore replica Metropolitans jerseys against the Tri-City Americans almost exactly a century after the Metropolitans' inaugural game against the Victoria Aristocrats on Dec. 7, 1915. Forward Mathew Barzal, now of the New York Islanders, scored twice as the Thunderbirds won by the same score the Metropolitans did: 3-2.

The Cup also toured a local arena and a children's hospital on that visit.

It couldn't come back in March 2017 for the exact 100th anniversary of the Metropolitans' title. But Hockey Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard brought a sweater and a pair of skates worn by Frank Foyston, plus Foyston's PCHA most valuable player award from 1916-17.

The Cup returned in December 2017, stopping everywhere from the site of the 1917 series to the mayor's office to the observation deck of the Space Needle.

Kim said the Thunderbirds helped him fund the first event, and he footed the bills for the next two from his sales of Metropolitans merchandise, which can be found in six hockey pro shops and three other stores in the Seattle area. He drives around and restocks the stuff himself, while also selling it on seattle-metropolitans.com.

In March 2018, almost three years after Kim first inquired about putting up a plaque, one was unveiled at Fifth Avenue and University Street downtown. Seattle Arena housed the Metropolitans there from 1915-24 and hosted two Stanley Cup series. (The Metropolitans played the Canadiens again in 1919, this time with the Canadiens in the NHL, but the series was not completed because of a flu epidemic.) The arena was converted into a parking garage in 1924 and demolished for an office building in 1963.

"HOME OF THE 1917 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS," the plaque says.

Kim has gone to NHL Seattle events -- including the watch party for the expansion announcement Dec. 4, when he wore a Metropolitans jersey, of course -- and has met CEO Tod Leiweke twice.

"He says I did a good thing, I'm smart, and he'll talk to me later," Kim said, smiling.

You can guess what Kim wants the new team to be named and what he wants it to wear, if only for a throwback game.

"I do want it to be Metropolitans," Kim said. "But if a team's here, that's most important for me."

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