Team on its way, arena construction now begins in Seattle

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By TIM BOOTH (AP Sports Writer)

SEATTLE (AP) — The celebration outside the building Seattle’s NHL team will eventually call home Wednesday came with all the formality of a groundbreaking event with the principals taking turns giving remarks and ceremonially shoveling dirt.

It also came with a new price tag even higher than what was stated a day earlier when Seattle was awarded the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

The cost now is $850 million for the new arena at Seattle Center, according to Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, with construction expected to get started almost immediately. That’s an increase of $200 million from the initial projections for the privately financed project, but the principals involved believe the increased investment is part of making the new building one of the top arenas in the country.

”We never value engineered. That to me was an amazing commitment on behalf of ownership,” Leiweke said. ”We did not do any value ownership on this project. Everything we dreamed about and more we have kept in this building and will write the check.”

The ceremonial event – complete with heavy construction equipment sitting nearby the stage waiting – concluded a whirlwind 36 hours for hockey fans in the region. While it seemed a foregone conclusion, the unanimous vote from the NHL Board of Governors on Tuesday ended a lengthy dance between the league and the city and solved Seattle’s winter sports void created when the SuperSonics departed in 2008.

The franchise will begin with the 2021-22 season after the league and ownership group decided not to risk an already tight arena construction schedule. Rather than having the franchise start for the 2020 season with the potential of delays possibly creating adverse conditions for the new team, the launch was delayed by a year.

That does provide a cushion in the construction timeline, but it’s not a complete year. Leiweke noted the start of the hockey franchise will be pushed back a year to October 2021, the extra time on getting the arena finished is only a few months. The goal is to have the building open by March or April of 2021 so that the WNBA Seattle Storm can play the 2021 season in the building and other events can be scheduled to start recouping the investment on the project.

Tod Lewieke, the CEO and president of NHL Seattle, said the additional time should allow the team to have its three-rink practice facility completed in time for the team’s first training camp in 2021. The team also intends to have its expansion draft in the new arena in the summer of 2021.

And the extended time frame should reduce some of the construction disruptions in a neighborhood that is dense with condos and apartments.

”We’ve always wanted to build in a very responsible way so we’re going got have a little more time to do that,” Tod Leiweke said.

By the time the entirety of all the projects and investments in the franchise is realized with the team’s first game – arena, expansion fee, practice facility and other costs – bringing the franchise to Seattle could end up running in the neighborhood of $2 billion.

”This marketplace is brilliant,” Tim Leiweke said. ”This marketplace is the fastest growing marketplace in North America. So it demands brilliance and we’re going to answer it so we make sure we don’t sit here five years after it opens and say ‘we could have done better.’ We’re going to be great day one and that’s what Seattle deserves.”

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Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.