After years of discussion and rumors, the NHL finally firmly set and approved an expansion to Seattle, Washington. The team will become the league’s 32nd franchise and begins play in the 2021-22 season.
Congratulations, @NHLSeattle_! 👏🏼
The NHL's 32nd franchise will begin play in the 2021-22 season!!! pic.twitter.com/bekbMiwZos
— NHL (@NHL) December 4, 2018
For sports fans in Washington, this is fantastic news. The city of Seattle has long sought an NHL franchise, and the dream finally caught steam last year when the city approved renovation of Key Arena. It also brings a major winter sport back to Seattle for the first time since they lost the SuperSonics a decade ago.
Seattle Gets Unanimous Approval for NHL Expansion
For the previous five years, the NHL has been on a fairly obvious mission to grow the league to 32 franchises. In 2017, the league held an expansion draft to add a 31st team in Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights began play that fall and is now in their second season.
Then, Seattle buckled down to make their own push for that 32nd spot. Led by ambitious owners David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer, the city approved renovating Key Arena to make it suitable for NHL play. They paid the $650 million expansion fee, $150 million higher than the fee charged to the Knights. Then their season-ticket drive shocked everyone by reaching the 10,000 order threshold in just 12 minutes. All that made the Board of Governors decision easy, explaining the unanimous approval we finally saw today.
Seattle Preparing for Hockey
Although they’ve already been gearing up, the official announcement makes everything much more serious. Bruckheimer and Bonderman already hired Dave Tippett over the summer to help build the team’s foundation. Now, they can start bringing in other employees and departments to truly build the franchise.
There’s much to be done, too. After this year, they’ll still have two full seasons before hitting the ice. While that may seem like a lot of time, Seattle will be under some serious time constraints to not only build the franchise but also field a competitive team immediately. They can learn a lot from Vegas, who reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural campaign.
Expansion Re-Alignment – Coyotes to Central
In order to properly fit a new franchise in to the existing divisional set up in the league, a little movement will occur. Obviously, the team will play in the league’s Western Conference as a member of the Pacific Division. To make space for them there, the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division. None of that happens until Seattle joins in 2021, so for now Arizona stays put.
Arizona became the odd man out due to its closer proximity to Central Division teams. They join the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, and Minnesota Wild as the eighth club. Seattle will be the Pacific Division’s eighth team as well, along with the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Vegas Golden Knights.
This results in a perfectly balanced Conference system, with 16 teams a piece. Good news for anyone bothered by the bizarre, unbalanced re-alignment from 2013-14. The league has had 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East since then. Adding Vegas, and now Seattle, fixes that.
Welcoming Hockey Back to Seattle
For the first time in over 100 years, Seattle now has professional hockey again. The city won the Stanley Cup in 1917 as members of the PCHA, but this will be their first edition of an NHL team. They’ll have the same expansion rules as the Golden Knights faced a couple summers ago, meaning they’ll be allowed to pick one unprotected player from every other franchise. Of course, trades and such will be allowed (and expected) too.
From scouting to marketing to every other segment of business, Seattle has its hands full.
And we couldn’t be more excited.
KeyArena at Seattle Center is located north of downtown Seattle, USA on the grounds of Seattle Center (the site of 1962’s Century 21 Exposition, a World’s Fair).