Friday, 14 December, 2018

NHL adds Seattle as league's 32nd team, play begins in 2021

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Jennie Wade | 07 December, 2018, 10:16

Bettman and company have not only made a lot of friends on the west coast with an NHL team bound for Seattle, but he has no doubt strengthened his relationship with the league's board of governors.

On Tuesday, the NHL announced that Seattle would be the site of the league's 32nd franchise, with the newly renovated Seattle Center Arena playing host to the franchise beginning with the 2021-22 season. To the liking of the Seattle ownership group, Gary Bettman repeatedly has said that this draft will follow the same rules as the Vegas Golden Knights did just two summers ago. To accommodate the newest team, the Arizona Coyotes will be moving into the Central Division, finally balancing the NHL's conferences and giving each division eight teams. However, Vegas will be exempt from the Expansion Draft and will not be required to surrender a player from their roster.

"Today is an exciting and historic day for our league as we expand to one of North America's most innovative, handsome and fastest-growing cities", said Gary Bettman.

Seattle's ownership group will pay a $650 million expansion fee to join the league.

On a Whitecaps game night, Seattle Sounders fans are usually quite visible, but due to the Canuck's geographic isolation from other National Hockey League teams, it's rare to see larger groups of visiting fans.

The new franchise will hope to experience the same immediate success achieved by the league's last expansion franchise, the Golden Knights, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first ever season.

"It will be a little bit different for us because we have the extra year now to go through it".

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While this is great for the people of Seattle, this move brings some baggage along with it (and not just the players who will be sent there during the expansion draft).

As CEO Tod Leiweke said, "That's when we all knew that this was the right idea". "If it was someplace else, I wouldn't have done it".

Seattle is now home to a Western Hockey League team, the Seattle Thunderbirds.

After the National Hockey League said it would consider the potential ownership group's expansion application at this time previous year, a season-ticket drive to gauge interest resulted in a jaw-dropping 32,000 deposits, including 10,000 purchased in the first 12 minutes. A season-ticket drive last spring had to be cut off at more than 30,000 deposits. KeyArena is scheduled to open in March 2021. "That's why today happened".

According to Station Index, Seattle is the U.S.' 14th largest TV market, and it's the largest city without a winter sport.

And unlike Quebec City, its location in the northwest of the United States allows the NHL to add balance to a league that is Eastern Conference heavy, while also providing a natural rival for the Vancouver Canucks.

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