When we heard Seattle was getting an NHL team, the thundering stomps and battle cry of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” automatically erupted in our heads. You can hear it, can’t you? For many, this is a long-awaited historical moment, and one that couldn’t come soon enough.
The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors voted on Dec. 4, to approve Seattle as the 32nd NHL Franchise, and the team is set to start playing in the 2021-22 season at the (soon-to-be) renovated KeyArena. Jay Deutsch, co-founder and CEO of BDA, a branding and merchandising company based in Woodinville, is among its minority owners, which is no surprise upon examining his storied sports-fueled career history, with fan gear being the first product Deutsch and childhood friend Eric Bensussen created. BDA is now a global company, and among its clients are nearly every major league sport. And Deutsch is ready to cheer on his new team.
“First of all, it’s an investment in the city I love and an opportunity to be a part of something historical,” he said. “Being a minority owner comes with responsibilities and perks, like sitting on the advisory board, invitations to team events, and box seats. Plus, I get to chime in on the name of the team.”
Deutsch shared with 425 what it means to him to have a Seattle NHL team and why he wanted to be involved.
Q: Throughout your life — from business to personal — one common thread has been a love of sports. Where did that start in your childhood?
A: Growing up in Seattle, my best friend Eric and I were always in the pits at the Seafair hydroplane races. Getting to experience the thrill and excitement of a sport like that launched my passion for sports and became the inspiration for our business.
Q: When you and Eric Bensussen started BDA in 1984, why did you two launch the branding company with a Seahawks sweatshirt as the first product?
A: Eric and I were only teenagers back then, with no plans to build an international company. We just wanted to celebrate our love for sports, and help others do the same. We got the idea for the sweatshirt — which still hangs on the wall of our world headquarters — when we realized our friends in Alaska didn’t have an NFL team to root for. However, not many people realize our very first product was actually a pin we created and sold during the Seattle Seafair hydroplane races.
Q: What made you want to become part owner of a team?
A: I have been a Seattle sports fanatic since I was a kid. From being a hydroplane, Sonics, Mariners, Huskies, Sounders, and Storm fan to starting a local (now global) company at the age of 16, to creating a platform for fans to demonstrate their love of the Seahawks; I’ve been a thread in the city’s sports history. Now, 35 years after BDA’s inception, I find myself in a position to demonstrate my love for Seattle and respect for the power of sport to galvanize a community by helping bring NHL Hockey to Seattle. It’s an immense honor and something I couldn’t pass up.
Q: What does it mean to you personally to have this new team coming to Seattle?
A: This project is a dream realized for so many individuals across our community — including myself. I think there’s been a void since the Sonics left Seattle. This team is already bringing so much energy and excitement to the region. Just look at the number of tickets sold in the first six minutes of the presale: 12,000!
Q: There’s a few popular team names on the bracket for choosing — Sockeyes; Totems; Metropolitans; Steelheads; and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s pick, Kraken — are you vying for any particular one to win?
A: We’ve got some great contenders! We won’t announce the name until summer 2019, so I’m trying to stay impartial … for now.
Q: How do you anticipate the arrival of the NHL team will affect the two minor league teams in Kent and Everett?
A: Overall, I believe the NHL team will create more hockey fans in the area that will only benefit all who love the sport.
Q: OK, and just for fun: If you could magically become a pro-caliber player in any sport, what would it be, and why?
A: I’d probably want to be an NFL cornerback (like I played in high school), because you can perform and be celebrated as an individual as well as a team. We look for the same kind of individual drive and team spirit at BDA. It’s about being all in and playing to win.