The National Hockey League’s 32nd franchise will be in Seattle after the league’s Board of Governors voted on Tuesday to approve the expansion application submitted by Seattle Hockey Partners, fronted by billionaire David Bonderman, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and CEO Tod Leiweke.
The vote needed 75 percent approval — 24 votes — to pass. It passed unanimously according to Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“Today is an exciting and historic day for our League as we expand to one of North America’s most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities,” Bettman. “We are delighted to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family. And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL.”
It was Dec. 2017 when the NHL invited the Seattle group to apply for an expansion franchise, a very costly one. The 32nd team will pay $650M, which is an increase from the $500M that the Vegas Golden Knights needed to fork over.
A ticket drive was held in March and “shell-shocked” the ownership group when their goal of 10,000 season tickets sold was surpassed in the opening 12 minutes. By the end of the first hour over 25,000 had been purchased.
Where and when will they play?
On Wednesday, an $800M renovation of Key Arena will begin, per Leiweke. They are targeting a spring 2021 completion date. The building will hold 17,400 for hockey and there is hope that the NBA will make a return someday.
With the potential for another NHL lockout and just to be safe in case of any construction delays, the Seattle team will drop the puck for the 2021-22 season.
“They’ve always felt that we should have a little more time to build the arena right,” Bruckheimer said. “We wanted to bring it to 2020-21 because we want to get going right away, but it’s not fair to the fans or to the players to not have a 100 percent finished arena when we start.”
The ownership group is also planning to build a practice facility which will feature three ice sheets.
Aligning the divisions
When Seattle does enter the league, they will play out of the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division (here come the “Coyotes to Houston” rumors) so all four divisions will feature eight teams. The two conferences will also be balanced with 16 teams. Bettman said that the Coyotes have drawn better against Central Division teams than Pacific Division teams, which played a part in the realignment.
“It was at the end of the day the simplest, most logical and least disruptive option we had available to us and I think it’ll work well for the Coyotes,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
What does this means for Vegas?
Seattle’s addition will mean two things for the Golden Knights. First, they won’t get a cut of the $650M expansion fee, which will mean approximately $21M will go to the other 30 NHL clubs once the 32nd team enters the league. Vegas also will not have to take part in the June 2021 expansion draft.
The Seattle expansion draft will feature the same rules that the Golden Knights had to work with, an assurance the league gave them early in this process.
Who’s running the show?
Former NHL head coach Dave Tippett was hired as senior advisor in June and has no interest in getting back behind the bench. He told Sports Illustrated last week that he won’t start looking at potential general managers until “late spring.”
What’s in a name?
The Seattle Times held a contest allowing readers to vote on a potential name for the expansion franchise. Over 146,000 votes were cast and Sockeyes beat out Totems. There are plenty of possibilities and SHP vice-chairman David Wright told SI that “certainly in the spring” a name could be determined. The Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 to 1924 and won the Stanley Cup in 1917.