National Hockey League approves Seattle expansion team

Jo Caldwell
December 5, 2018

The Seattle Hockey Partners, led by billionaire David Bonderman, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and CEO Tod Leiweke, have been pushing for an October 2020 arrival.

The announcement came a few moments after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan let the news slip at a watch party in Seattle, prompting cheers: "I got a call from a mole in the room and it was a unanimous vote". Nearly nothing, except the iconic roof, will remain of the old place.

KeyArena, which was home to the NBA's SuperSonics before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, is primed to undergo a massive $800-million renovation.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says it was an easy decision to approve Seattle expansion for 2021, not 2020, because of concerns about when downtown arena renovations will be done. But that is not the goal.

The nine-member executive committee that heard Seattle's presentation in October voted unanimously to move the matter to the full board, which is meeting in Georgia.

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A team in Seattle balances the Eastern and Western Conferences at 16 teams apiece, but also requires realignment to even out the Central and Pacific Divisions. In fact, our scheduling will ensure, like we do with Tampa Bay in the Atlantic, that it's a little more efficient, and all things being concluded, the Coyotes draw better against Central Division teams than they do against Pacific Division teams.

The board of governors is also expected to hear reports on sports gambling, social media and player engagement, this season's worldwide schedule and an update on next season's trips overseas. The ownership group, the plans for the arena - it's all of the above.

Seattle is the largest US city without a major winter sports team since the NBA's SuperSonics left in 2008.

Already more than 30,000 people have made season ticket deposits.

The NHL is coming to Seattle. That isn't expected to be an issue now, despite the record expansion price tag.

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The franchise will pay an expansion fee of $650 million, which will be equally distributed to 30 National Hockey League teams. It will be exactly the same rules that the league's previous expansion franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, were subject to - literally.

It follows the introduction of the Vegas Golden Knights as the 31st franchise last season after an expansion draft in which existing teams could only protect certain players, with others made available to be picked up by the new team.

From Sea Island, Seattle will be off the races. Preliminary work has been underway on the arena since an agreement between Oak View Group and the city of Seattle was finalized in late September, but the heavy work can now get started.

Washington Capitals star T.J. Oshie was raised in Everett, Wash., just north of Seattle, and he didn't hesitate when asked what he would name the team. So a team for them that's close, I think it's great for the area.

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