SEATTLE (AP) — The NHL will make the Emerald City the home for its 32nd franchise after Seattle’s expansion bid was approved by the league’s Board of Governors. The move gives Seattle the major winter sports franchise it currently lacks and puts hockey in a market where the NHL believes it will thrive. A rundown of things to know about the decision:
Seattle is the biggest U.S. market that doesn’t have either an NBA or NHL team. Its economy has boomed in the past decade since the departure of the NBA’s SuperSonics to Oklahoma City. It’s a city with disposable income and the itch to spend it on a new team. A season-ticket drive last spring had to be cut off at more than 30,000 deposits.
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The arena at Seattle Center is undergoing a $700 million privately financed renovation. The building started out as the Seattle Center Coliseum for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been the home for the NBA, minor league hockey and thousands of concerts and events. Its roof was given historic landmark designation, adding a complication to the construction, but it will essentially be an entirely new building built underneath the roof. The arena will hold 17,400 for hockey and is being designed with the idea of having the NBA return someday.
WHEN DOES THE PUCK DROP?
The 2021-22 season. Seattle would have loved to have its team take the ice for the 2020-21 season, but arena renovations may not be done in time and no one wants to risk it. Preliminary work has been underway on the arena since an agreement between Oak View Group and the city of Seattle was finalized in late September, but the heavy work can now get started. The construction requires a significant amount of digging to create the space needed for a modern building under that roof.
Labor uncertainty also hovers over all things NHL because owners or players can vote in September 2019 to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement one year later — right before the beginning of the 2020 season.
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Good luck getting any info from the ownership group about a potential name. They have given no hints while the public has taken to online suggestions that include everything from the Metropolitans, Totems, and Breakers (tributes to Seattle’s hockey history) to the Pilots, Steelheads, Sockeyes and even the Kraken. The expectation is that the franchise name will be announced sometime in the first half of 2019. As for colors, it’s anyone’s guess. Seattle franchises almost all have a shade of green included, so don’t be surprised if that’s part of the scheme.
The addition of Seattle will give the Western Conference the 16th team to mirror the East. The Central Division has seven teams, and the Pacific Division has eight. Seattle will be placed in the same division with Vancouver, the closest team by geography, so that means Arizona will be moved out of the Pacific and into Central starting with the 2021 season.
VEGAS, PART TWO?
NHL general managers will be a little more leery about the players made available in the expansion draft after watching Vegas go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in its first year last season. Seattle may not have the same immediate success as the Golden Knights, but with the management team in place — coach and GM still pending — don’t be surprised if Seattle is successful early in its NHL lifetime.
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