Seattle Expansion Team Unanimously Approved by NHL; Expected to Start in 2021

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Seattle Expansion Team Unanimously Approved by NHL; Expected to Start in 2021
People wait to get into KeyArena for an event, Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Seattle. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday that the city will enter into negotiations with the Oak View Group on a proposal for a privately-financed renovation of the city-owned KeyArena. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The National Hockey League is coming to Seattle.

The league’s board of governors voted unanimously Tuesday to award its 32nd franchise to Seattle, beginning in the 2021-22 season.

Seattle has long been a sought-after venue for an NHL franchise, but after numerous starts and stops, the process gathered a full head of steam when the city agreed last December to renovate KeyArena.

“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters. “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.”

The Seattle ownership group, which includes David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, will pay a $650 million expansion fee for the rights to the franchise. The team will have an expansion draft in June 2021. The NHL will follow the same expansion rules it used for the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

The Knights began play in 2017 and have had instant success, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season before losing to the Washington Capitals. Las Vegas’ success both as a market and on the ice has led to optimism the NHL could strike gold in the Seattle market, which has been starved for a winter sports franchise since the Seattle SuperSonics departed a decade ago.

“I think clubs have learned a lot,” Bettman told reporters at the Stanley Cup Final of his outlook on expansion franchises. “We needed to make the team more competitive. … This was the first expansion in the salary-cap era as we afford all of our clubs an opportunity to be competitive, it wouldn’t make any sense to not have the expansion team the same way.”

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