Seattle approved as the NHL's 32nd franchise

The Seattle franchise will begin play starting with the 2021-22 season

Brayton Wilson
December 04, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Photo: Elaine Thompson - Associated Press


The National Hockey League has its 32nd franchise.

The NHL's Board of Governors unanimously approved the vote in Sea Island, Georgia on Tuesday to grant to city of Seattle, Washington with the league's 32nd team, which will begin play in the 2021-2022 season.

"Today is an exciting day for the National Hockey League," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday. "I am delighted to announce that this morning, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a plan of expansion that will bring a National Hockey League team to Seattle, Washington to play beginning in the 2021-22 season."

Ownership of the Seattle franchise will principally reside with David Bonderman, with Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and CEO and Team President Tod Leiweke also involved. The team will play its home games at Seattle Center Arena, which is currently undergoing some extensive renovations.

"I know how hard this team's outstanding ownership group has worked over the last several years to reach this point," Bettman said. "The league's expansion decision was only made possible because Seattle will possess the three pillars essential to the success of any franchise: terrific and committed ownership, a thriving market and a state-of-the-art venue."

The franchise will pay an expansion fee of $650 million, which will be equally distributed to 30 NHL teams. This excludes the Vegas Golden Knights, which entered the NHL last season with an expansion fee of $500 million.

"A second expansion in three years could only have even been considered, and ultimately approved by our board because our league is stronger and more stable than it has ever been," Bettman said. "Our game is more exciting, entertaining and competitive than ever, and the pool of talented players is deeper and wider than ever. We could not be more pleased to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke, and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family."

"Today is a dream come true, really for an entire city," Leiweke said. "We are poised to go into this incredibly successful, wonder market - the fastest growing market in the National Hockey League, and we deliver to the NHL great ownership.

"32,000 [season ticket> deposits in a single day. That's when we all knew that this was the right idea. On behalf of all of our fans, we start this journey today to build an organization that will make you proud, and to some day bring the Stanley Cup back to Seattle. I promise you we will not let you down.

Starting with the 2021-22 season, the Seattle franchise will play as part of the Western Conference in the Pacific Division. To make room for Seattle, the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division in the Western Conference, and that will be the only chance in the NHL's alignment.

"We thought that it made the absolute most sense on a whole host of levels," Bettman said of Arizona's move to the Central. "The fact that for most of the season, Arizona is on Mountain [Standard> Time, not Pacific [Standard> Time, so in terms of the way broadcasts and the like - when you look at the matrix of scheduling, the difference between being in the same conference in division and out of division, it doesn't mean that there will be a whole lot more travel. In fact, our scheduling will ensure, like we do with Tampa Bay in the Atlantic, that it's a little more efficient, and all things being concluded, the Coyotes draw better against Central Division teams than they do against Pacific Division teams. We thought it made the most sense when we looked at all the other conceivable possibilities."

During the summer of 2021, the Seattle franchise will hold an Expansion Draft that will follow the exact same rules as Vegas did in 2017. However, Vegas will be exempt from the Expansion Draft and will not be required to surrender a player from their roster.

Seattle has a history of hockey with the Seattle Metropolitans that existed from 1915-16 to 1923-24. In 1917, the franchise become the first U.S.-based team to win the Stanley Cup after defeating the Montreal Canadiens for the title.

As for the name of the Seattle franchise, Leiweke says that they have no timetable to finalize on a name just yet.

"We're going to take our time," Leiweke said. "There's a group of owners involved, Jay Deutsch and Jerry Bruckheimer, but we're going to listen to our fans and we're going to do it right. We're not going to have a time pressure, but it's something we're working on each and every day."

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