Following a unanimous vote from the league’s board of governors on Tuesday morning, the NHL has approved an expansion franchise for the city of Seattle, set to play in a renovated KeyArena. According to TSN, the team will begin play in the 2021-22 season.
Seattle has been making overtures towards the NHL for several years now, and this vote was basically a formality in a process that has long been concluded. The Emerald City has hosted the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds since the ’80s and was actually the first American city to win the Stanley Cup when the PCHA’s Seattle Metropolitans did so in 1917. To get their team, Seattle’s owners—primarily private equity CEO David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer—are paying a $650 million expansion fee, along with $700 million in mostly privately financed renovations to the arena, which was previously unsuitable for hockey.
The currently unnamed NHL squad will be Seattle’s sixth major pro sports team, following the Seahawks, Mariners, Storm, Sounders, and Reign. The arena renovations are also meant to attract the return of the NBA, which left town with the SuperSonics in 2008, but any kind of NBA expansion still appears to be a long way off.
This expansion puts the NHL at 32 teams, an even number that should give both conferences 16 teams. The West’s Central Division is currently the odd one out with seven, and many expect the Arizona Coyotes to move over there to make room for Seattle in the Pacific.
Update (12:07 p.m. ET):