By Dan Rosen – NHL.com
Seattle is home to the NHL’s 32nd franchise.
The NHL Board of Governors voted Tuesday to approve the expansion application from the NHL Seattle group to bring the yet-to-be-named team into the League for the start of the 2021-22 season.
In addition, the Board of Governors approved a realignment package that calls for the Arizona Coyotes to move into the Central Division, making way for the new Seattle team to play in the Pacific Division.
There are eight teams in the Pacific Division, including the Coyotes. There are seven teams in the Central Division.
The Coyotes will remain in the Pacific Division until Seattle enters the League.
Seattle’s ownership group, led by David Bonderman, private equity CEO, will pay a $650 million expansion fee, $150 million more than Bill Foley and his group paid to bring the Vegas Golden Knights into the NHL for the 2017-18 season.
The Seattle team will play at Seattle Center Arena, the former KeyArena which is scheduled to undergo a privately financed $700 million renovation. The project was waiting for NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin. The capacity for an NHL game at KeyArena will be about 17,400.
KeyArena opened in 1962 and was the home of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78 and 1985-2008 prior to them relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.
The ownership group is also scheduled to pay approximately $75 million to build a 180,000-square foot practice facility with three ice sheets in Northgate, a shopping area in the northern part of the city.
The arena and training facility are scheduled to be completed in advance of the start of the 2021-22 season.
The Seattle ownership group was hopeful to have the 2020-21 season be its inaugural season, but beginning in the 2021-22 season allows for completion of arena renovations.
Seattle will follow follow the same rules for the 2021 Expansion Draft as Vegas did in 2017, but Vegas will be exempt.
The NHL authorized the Seattle ownership group to file an application for an expansion team at the Board of Governors meeting in Manalapan, Florida a year ago.
A season-ticket deposit drive was held March 1, securing 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes and 32,000 in the first 31 hours. There is a waiting list of about 10,000 names.
The NHL Seattle group presented its plan for the franchise the Board’s Executive Committee at its meeting in New York City on Oct. 2. The committee gave a report in the Board meeting Tuesday prior to the vote.
Although Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association 3-1 in a best-of-5 series.