NHL approves new professional hockey team for Seattle

Dec 3, 2018, 4:16 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2018, 10:46 am
New York-to-Seattle transplant and Islanders fan Max Rubin, 26, said he is thrilled to have the Seattle (fill in the blank) officially as his #2 favorite hockey team. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Ryan Kelly, left, Otto Rogers and Rebecca Moloney cheer the announcement of a new NHL hockey team in Seattle at a celebratory party Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Seattle. The NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league's 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with play set to begin in 2021 to allow enough time for arena renovations. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern SLU to hear the announcement that Seattle is getting a new NHL hockey team. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio) Fans posing with hockey sticks at Henry's Tavern SLU as they await the expected announcement that Seattle is officially getting a hockey team. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern SLU to hear the announcement that Seattle is getting a new NHL hockey team. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern SLU to hear the announcement that Seattle is getting a new NHL hockey team. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern SLU to hear the announcement that Seattle is getting a new NHL hockey team. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio) Kris "Sonics Guy" Brannon who sees the NHL as a gateway for a return of the NBA to Seattle. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood for the NHL's decision on a new hockey team. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Sports fans wait in line to get into Henry's Tavern to await news if a new hockey team is approved for Seattle. (Matt Pitman, KIRO Radio) Sports fans gather at Henry's Tavern in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, awaiting the NHL's decision on a new hockey team. (Mike Lewis, KIRO Radio) Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, high-five's Washington Wild hockey team wing Jaina Goscinski, 11, as Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle, looks on during a news conference in Seattle Oct. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Seattle gained a new major sports team Tuesday when the board of the National Hockey League voted in favor of a franchise for the Emerald City.

NHL Seattle timeline: Seattle’s push for hockey

“Today is an exciting day for the National Hockey League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced at a press conference in Georgia. “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 2021-2022 season. Seattle, the NHL is thrilled to welcome you.”

The NHL’s executive committee has moved the proposal for a Seattle hockey team along so far. On Tuesday, it came to a vote by the NHL’s Board of Governors which met in Sea Island, Georgia. The decision was announced immediately following the vote. Bettman said that the addition of a Seattle team will make the NHL more balanced, whole, and vibrant. Seattle will be home to the 32nd hockey team in the league.

“This is the start of a new era of sports, we are going to have the greatest arena, a new sports team that everyone can cheer for, a great rivalry for the Canucks, The Storm are going to have a new home,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said among a crowd of hockey fans gathered at Henry’s Tavern early Tuesday morning to hear the news.

“We know hockey is going to be successful here,” she said, noting that she favors The Krakens as a potential hockey team name. “Because it’s like the sea creature that is strong. But I think there is going to be a dig debate. Whatever they are, they are going to be ours, and we are going to win.”

Durkan also said that developing the hockey team and KeyArena will be a priority, after which “we can talk about whether we bring back the Sonics.”

Upon the approval, NHL Seattle (the group behind the Seattle expansion) is expected to pay $1 million cash to the NHL, which is part of a total $650 million non-refundable franchise fee. According to KIRO 7’s Gary Horcher, the new Seattle team will get to poach a player from each of the other NHL teams to form its roster, except for the Vegas Golden Knights since that team is new.

Seattle gathers for the big news

In the early morning hours leading up to the big announcement, Henry’s Tavern in South Lake Union opened up early for Seattle fans awaiting the news.

Paul Buxton of Seattle waited since about 6:15 a.m. to get into Henry’s for the hockey party.

“Just to be here for this day because it is so important for hockey in Seattle, and a lot of us have been waiting for this for so long,” Buxton said.

Buxton, like many others, had a few preferences for the new team name.

“A couple favorites, like there’s the Totems, that’s a traditional old-school name from the ’60s, and there are fresh ones like the Kraken,” he said. “Whatever they pick, I’ll be down with it because we have a team.”

Otto Rogers traveled from Puyallup to be in line at Henry’s at 6 a.m.

“Hockey means the world to me,” Rogers said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, this day for the longest time. It means a lot. It will be great to be there with my son on opening day.”

“I’m going to be honest, I’m partial to Seattle Kraken (for a team name),” he said. “If we’re going historical, I like Totems, but Kraken is one of my favorites.”

Rebecca Malloney from Seattle got in line in front of Henry’s at 7 a.m.

“Seattle Kraken! Go octopus!,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t care what they call them, as long as they drop the puck here.”

Seattle already preparing for NHL team

Seattle has been ramping up to such a decision. About 30,000 fans paid earnest money for tickets to an eventual game in the lead up to the approval.

There are also planned renovations to KeyArena that will cost about $700 million. That upgrade is expected to be finished by 2020. But is has been largely dependent on the approval of an NHL team. With that approval, work can begin.

It is unclear if any potential NHL team would be ready to hit the ice by 2020, as it has been hyped. NHL Seattle CEO Tod Lieweke told KIRO 7: “There’s some pretty smart hockey advisors saying, ‘If you can get an additional year to build this, you’ll do right by your fans.’ So, we’re really good with any outcome and I think the key issue is convincing the other owners that 2020 is practical.”

What is known is that Seattle is preparing for a hockey team, even without official approval. A practice facility for a hockey team is expected in Northgate. The 180,000 square-foot practice space will be part of the mall’s remodel over the coming years and will be located at the east side of the mall property. Construction on that will begin “as soon as feasible,” according to Simon Malls COO Michael E. McCarty.

Even before the team’s approval, the NHL Seattle group has said that its name will be revealed in spring 2019. There are many opinions on the eventual title from folks around Seattle, including one romance novelist.

Seattle has been favored as an addition to the NHL’s lineup even before Tuesday’s vote. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently told the AP:

Seattle’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. It gives us a geographic balance. It creates a nice geographic rivalry with Vancouver. I know Vancouver’s particularly excited about the possibility. The ownership group, the plans for the arena – it’s all of the above. It’s never one factor. If you’re going to have a successful expansion application, all of the bases need to be touched and all of them need to be checked off as being appropriate and right.


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NHL approves new professional hockey team for Seattle