NHL Approves New Expansion Franchise in Seattle

(Bloomberg) -- 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 $650 million expansion fee, which is $150 million more than the Vegas Golden Knights paid in 2016. That will be distributed evenly among 30 NHL clubs -- all except Las Vegas.

KeyArena Site

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 $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.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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