Seattle is awarded an NHL expansion team

Ken Belson
New York Times News Service

The National Hockey League’s board of governors has unanimously approved a new franchise in Seattle, putting the league’s 32nd team in one of the country’s wealthiest and fastest-growing cities.

The still-unnamed team in Seattle arrives less than three years after the league awarded a new team to Las Vegas, whose inaugural 2017-18 season was a smashing success.

The Seattle franchise is expected to begin playing in the 2021-2022 season. The league will receive an expansion fee of $650 million, which will be split among every other team, except the Vegas Golden Knights.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said after the vote that the new franchise had the “three pillars” for success in the league: “Terrific and committed ownership, a thriving market and a state of the art venue.”

Seattle adds another team to the Western Conference, which will now have the same number of clubs — 16 — as the Eastern Conference. Seattle’s team also will have an instant rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, who play about three hours by car to the north. To make room for Seattle, the Arizona Coyotes will move from the Pacific Division to the Central Division.

Investors in Seattle had sought a new NBA team to replace the Supersonics, who moved to Oklahoma City after the 2008 season. Plans to build a new arena in Seattle fell apart repeatedly. Instead, the city landed a hockey team in part because its City Council in September approved a $700 million plan to refurbish KeyArena, just north of downtown.

Tod Leiweke, the team’s president, said the team would break ground Wednesday.

Well before the league made clear it would put a team in Seattle, more than 33,000 fans placed deposits for season tickets, leading the ownership group to create a waiting list.

That group is led by David Bonderman, a billionaire investment banker; Jerry Bruckheimer, a Hollywood producer; and Tim Leiweke, a longtime sports executive. They said in February they hoped to bring an NBA franchise back to Seattle, as well.

The league will hold an expansion draft in June 2021, and the rules will be the same as those for the draft for the Vegas Golden Knights.

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