SEA ISLAND, Ga. (NEWS 1130) – It’s official — the NHL is coming back to the Emerald City.
Seattle’s mayor was first to make the announcement, before NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could make it official.
The new team will be the league’s 32nd franchise.
The NHL Board of Governors met to give final approval to Seattle’s bid this morning.
Twenty-four of 31 votes was needed, but Bettman says the vote was unanimous. He pointed out how expansion to Seattle balances out the conferences, gives the NHL a footprint in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and provides the nearby Vancouver Canucks with a natural rival.
"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." – Gary Bettman pic.twitter.com/L3eEqHiOve
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 4, 2018
“On top of everything else, Seattle is a city with a hockey history, that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup,” Bettman said.
The Seattle Hockey Partners will pay NHL owners $650 million to join.
Bettman explained the new franchise will be stocked under the same rules as the ones that were in place for the league’s 31st expansion team — the Vegas Golden Knights.
“At an expansion draft that will take place in June of 2021,” Bettman said. “The Golden Knights will not participate in this expansion draft, meaning they won’t lose a player.”
KeyArena is currently undergoing a multi million dollar renovation.
There’s still no word on a possible name for the team.
A rivalry is born
With the addition of a team in Seattle, Vancouver now has a rival that’s just a short two hour drive away.
“There’s going to be a built in rivalry,” Seattle Hockey Partners President and CEO Tod Leiweke said with a laugh on Tuesday. “I don’t want to stoke the flames here, because those guys are my friends, but bring it on. We can’t wait, that’s going to be an intense rivalry and that might be the one night I walk in the locker room and say to the boys ‘give it a little more tonight guys, lets go.”
Bettman added he’s been told the Canucks are excited for a team just 200 kilometres away.
“Francesco Aquilini has expressed to me repeatedly how great he thinks it’s going to be for Vancouver hockey to have a rival right down the road,” Bettman said.
Great to welcome Seattle to the NHL!
I've got a feeling this will become a classic rivalry. https://t.co/VKNr32iqyF
— Francesco Aquilini (@fr_aquilini) December 4, 2018
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-With files from the Associated Press