It's official. The NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve Seattle as the 32nd NHL franchise for the 2021-22 season on Tuesday.
"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," said Gary Bettman. "We are delighted to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family. And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL."
As a result, the NHL will slightly realign in 2021. The Seattle team will play in the Pacific Division, and the Coyotes will move to the Central Division.
The Seattle franchise will begin play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and the @ArizonaCoyotes will realign to the Central Division. https://t.co/gYSiUWAreM #NHLSeattle pic.twitter.com/bT9myflZLF
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 4, 2018
The NHL Seattle group will pay the NHL a $650 million expansion fee.
NHL Seattle met the NHL's required 10,000 season ticket deposit goal in just 12 minutes and has already met its cap of 32,000 depositors for season tickets. Those numbers are unprecedented for any expansion team in professional sports.
Seattle is currently home to a Western Hockey League team, the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds ranked ninth in WHL attendance last season, averaging 4,950 fans a game.
Derek Grant is a native of Abbottsford, B.C., which is about a one-hour drive east of Vancouver and a two-hour drive north of Seattle. Chris Bradford asked Grant about the NHL's newest franchise.
"It's great," Grant said. "They have Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, so they have a rivalry there (for the Canucks). So a team for them that's close, I think it's great for the area. Obviously, Seattle's a great city. Think it's going to be big hockey market, for sure. It's an exciting time for the league."
Though he didn't play in the WHL, many of his friends did, and played for and against the Thunderbirds. "They had nothing but good things to say about the fans, the city and the market."
Seattle's expansion draft will take place in 2021, and the Penguins will likely lose one player to the new franchise. The rules for the latest expansion draft, including how many players teams will be allowed to protect, will be announced at a later date. The rules will likely be similar to the 2017 expansion draft for the incoming Vegas Golden Knights, which allowed teams to either protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender or, one goaltender and eight skaters regardless of position.
Players with no-movement clauses will have to be protected in the expansion draft. The Penguins have four players with NMCs under contract in 2021 -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang.
Judging on early graphics created by the NHL Seattle group, it appears that the new team will use red and black as its colors. The group registered domains for 13 potential names back in January 2018: Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Kraken, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems, and Whales.
Groundbreaking for Seattle Center Arena will be Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.
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