Seattle granted NHL franchise for 2021-22 season
SEA ISLAND, Ga. - Make it 32.
The NHL will officially expand to 32 teams after granting a franchise to Seattle at the Board of Governors meetings on Tuesday. Needing 24 of 31 existing teams to vote "yes" to approve their expansion application, the Seattle ownership group received unanimous 31-0 support from the power brokers gathered at the swanky Cloister resort in coastal Georgia.
The unnamed club is slated to begin play in fall 2021. Seattle will join the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division, ensuring both conferences have 16 teams and every division contains eight teams. Realignment will stop there, and it will not come into effect until the 2021-22 season.
Seattle's ownership group - known officially as the Seattle Hockey Partners - is led by private equity CEO David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer. They are required to pay the league an expansion fee of $650 million, or $150 million more than the Vegas Golden Knights' fee back in 2016.
The group hoped to enter the league in the fall of 2020, but the NHL's concerns about the timeline for extensive arena renovations kicked the club's debut a year down the road. Work being done on KeyArena, the former home of the NBA's SuperSonics, will cost north of $700 million. Another $70 million has been earmarked for a practice facility, with both venues scheduled to open around October 2020.
While the NHL has never stationed a franchise in Seattle, the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association won the 1917 Stanley Cup. Multiple groups have tried to bring a team to the Pacific Northwest hub over the past few decades. This attempt succeeded in large part because it had private financing, an arena plan, and close to 35,000 season ticket deposits.
The NHL is now the second North American pro sports league with 32 teams, joining the NFL. It beat the NBA - widely considered this generation's "it" league - to Las Vegas and will be the lone winter sports league with a presence in Seattle.
The 15th-largest metropolitan area in the United States with a population of 3.867 million, Seattle is home to the NFL's Seahawks and MLB's Mariners. The SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.
John Matisz is theScore's National Hockey Writer. You can find him on Twitter @matiszjohn.