LAS VEGAS — The process to bring NHL hockey back to Seattle is underway, with a target start date of the expansion franchise being the 2020-21 season. But while reports surfaced last week that the league was preparing to vote at next month’s Board of Governors meeting for conditional approval to the Oak View Group, Commissioner Gary Bettman says things haven’t reached that stage yet.
“There is no delay. We just haven’t gotten the train to the station on time,” Bettman said before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday. “The fact is, and I know there’s been a lot of speculation that somehow there’s going to be a vote of some sort conditional or otherwise at the June board meeting, that’s absolutely not true. There will be an update. There is a process that we go through and that question we got frequently while going through the process with Las Vegas.
“There are a number of bases that we have to touch, a lot of due diligence that has to be done, a lot of different interaction with the prospective ownership group, David Bonderman’s group. So we think we’re on target and depending how everything goes, it wouldn’t surprise me that there is a possibility that in the fall, early winter at the latest, that this could be addressed by the board. But we’re not there yet and there’s still work to be done.”
In March, the Oak View Group, led by Bonderman, Tim Lieweke and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, started a ticket drive that saw 10,000 deposits purchased in the first 12 minutes and 25,000 claimed in the opening 60 minutes.
“Shell-shocked is best way to put it,” Leiweke told TSN afterward.
While the Oak View Group, which submitted a $10 million expansion application fee to the league in February, awaits the vote, they still need to move forward with the $660 million renovation of Key Arena. The 2020-21 NHL season could also be affected by another work stoppage, which would obviously be another hurdle.
“There’s never really been a timetable. So I don’t view us to be behind anything,” added NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “It’s really their timetable with respect to how quickly it moves.”
As Seattle keeps its fingers crossed for a team in a few years, they’ve been watching the massive success of the Vegas Golden Knights and hoping they can replicate what they’ve done. OVG would be paying $650 million for the new franchise and have already received assurances from the league that should they be granted a team they would have the same expansion draft rules as Vegas.
Bettman and Daly also noted that there’s been no pushback from the other 30 teams about the expansion draft rules and about the Golden Knights’ first-year success.
“We needed to make the team more competitive at the outset than prior expansions because we’re in the salary era,” said Bettman. “This was the first expansion in the salary cap era and as we afford all of our clubs an opportunity to be competitive, it wouldn’t have made any sense to not have the expansion team the same way.”