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Seattle Is Awarded an N.H.L. Expansion Team

Category: Other Sports,Sports

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 2021. The league is expected to receive an expansion fee of $650 million, which would be split among the other 31 teams.

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 N.B.A. 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.

Enthusiasm is running high. 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, the Hollywood producer; and Tim Leiweke, a longtime sports executive. They said in February that they hoped to bring an N.B.A. franchise back to Seattle, as well.

The effort to get an N.H.L. team has gone on several years, though the league insisted Seattle would not be considered until it had a viable arena.

The N.H.L. is attracted to Seattle’s growing stature. The region is home to corporate giants like Amazon and Microsoft, and the Pacific Northwest is a relatively untapped area for the N.H.L.

In a quirk of history, the first American team to win the Stanley Cup came from Seattle.

The Seattle Metropolitans, founded by Frank and Lester Patrick, played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. At the time, the winner of the P.C.H.A. played the winner of the National Hockey Association, the precursor to the N.H.L., for the Stanley Cup. In 1917, the Metropolitans beat the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five series.

The Metropolitans again played for the Cup in 1919 and 1920 before folding in 1924.

Since then, Seattle has had multiple minor league hockey teams, including the Thunderbirds of Western Hockey League, who play in Kent, Wash.

Seattle was awarded an N.H.L. franchise in 1974, but the offer was rescinded because the ownership group ran into financial troubles. Another bid fell through in 1990.

Now that the N.H.L. has awarded Seattle a team, the ownership group must start work on the redevelopment of the arena, open a practice facility and hire front-office employees and a coach. A team nickname must be chosen, and tickets sold.

The league will have to determine the rules for an expansion draft. Generous rules for the Vegas Golden Knights enabled them to acquire top-level talent, which propelled them to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season.


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