National Hockey League owners approved an expansion team backed by private equity billionaire David Bonderman in Seattle, betting that the fast-growing city with a flourishing tech economy can attract new fans to the sport.
The Seattle franchise, which doesn’t yet have a name, received unanimous support from current owners of the NHL’s other 31 teams, the league announced Tuesday. The bid had previously received unanimous support from a nine-member executive committee.
“Today is an exciting and historic day for our league as we expand to one of North America’s most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. The team will begin playing in the 2021-2022 season.
The ownership group is led by Bonderman, the co-founder and a principal owner of Texas-based TPG Capital. The coalition also includes movie and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The new team will pay a US$650 million expansion fee, which is US$150 million more than the Vegas Golden Knights paid in 2016. That will be distributed evenly among 30 NHL clubs -- all except Las Vegas.
History of NHL Expansion:
1967: Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars (moved to Dallas in 1993), Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, California Seals (moved to Cleveland in 1976, merged with Minnesota in 1978) - 12 teams in NHL.
1970: Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks - 14
1972: New York Islanders, Atlanta Flames (moved to Calgary in 1980) - 16
1974: Washington Capitals, Kansas City Scouts (moved to Colorado in 1976, New Jersey in 1982) - 18
1979: Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets (moved to Arizona in 1996), Quebec Nordiques (moved to Colorado in 1995), Hartford Whalers (moved to Carolina in 1997) - 21
1991: San Jose Sharks - 22
1992: Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning - 24
1993: Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks - 26
1998: Nashville Predators - 27
1999: Atlanta Thrashers (moved to Winnipeg in 2011) - 28
2000: Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets - 30
2017: Vegas Golden Knights - 31
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to greenlight a new venue in Seattle, the new NHL team will play in renovated KeyArena, the home of the city’s former NBA franchise, which moved to Oklahoma City after the 2008 season. Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council approved a US$700 million renovation plan for the arena, which opened in 1962.
It will also pick up on a hockey history in the city. In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup (back then, the winner of the PCHA played the winner of the NHL for the cup). Seattle has had multiple other minor-league teams, and come close to adding an NHL franchise at various times prior to this year.
Seattle will be the first expansion team in the NHL since the Golden Knights, which made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. The expansion draft rules for Seattle will be the same as they were for the Las Vegas franchise.
One of the next big decisions will be the team name. Washington Governor Jay Inslee hinted earlier this year that it might be the Seattle Totems (the name of a former minor league team), a suggestion that drew both support and outcry.
Other possibilities being discussed by the public include the Emeralds, Sockeyes, Rainiers, Seals and Sea Lions.