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Seattle can begin NHL expansion process

Team would cost $650 million, begin play in 2020-21 season

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

MANALAPAN, Fla. -- A Seattle ownership group has been authorized to file an application for an NHL expansion team that would begin play in the 2020-21 season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday.

The cost of the team would be $650 million, and Commissioner Bettman said the NHL is looking at only Seattle for possible expansion.


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The group includes Jerry Bruckheimer, a Hollywood producer, and David Bonderman, a private equity CEO. Seattle would become the 32nd NHL team.

"That doesn't mean we have granted an expansion team," Commissioner Bettman said following the Board of Governors meeting. "We have agreed as a league to take and consider an expansion application and to let them run in the next few months a season ticket drive."

The Vegas Golden Knights, who began play this season as the NHL's 31st team, paid a $500 million expansion fee. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the $150 million spike in the expansion fee reflects the value of the team in a specific market and allows for inflation.

"Including the fact that the Vegas franchise went for $500 million and, it's been … a successful expansion," Deputy Commissioner Daly said.

Seattle became a viable option for an NHL team this week with the agreement between the city and Los Angeles-based Oak View Group for a privately financed $600 million renovation of KeyArena, which opened in 1962 and was the home of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78, 1985-1994 and 1995-2008 before they relocated to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding between the city and Oak View Group. The memorandum was approved by the Seattle City Council in a 7-1 vote Monday.

Video: The guys discuss possible expansion in Seattle

Commissioner Bettman said Bruckheimer and Bonderman approached the NHL this week to request permission to file an expansion application for a Seattle team. The Board of Governors approved the request Thursday.

"We now have an interested ownership group, we have a commitment on an arena, and we have a market we now have to explore," Deputy Commissioner Daly said.

Commissioner Bettman, however, said he had no expectation for how long it would take for the Seattle group to submit its application and that even after it does, the League has to go through a long vetting process similar to what it did with Vegas.

Vegas owner Bill Foley was granted permission to conduct a season ticket drive in December 2014, but the League didn't announce it would start taking applications until June 2015. Vegas was granted a team one year later.

"We're a little familiar with the city, but the level of due diligence that we will do is something the expansion process contemplates," Commissioner Bettman said. 

Though Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in a best-of-5 series. Seattle was the first U.S.-based team to win the Cup.

"From everything I know viscerally I think [Seattle] will be a good market," Commissioner Bettman said. "I think the geographic rivalry with [the] Vancouver [Canucks] as potential will be nice. Building up a bigger presence in the Pacific Northwest for the NHL, a place that we know has great hockey interest at a variety of other levels, it's an intriguing possibility. But we've got homework to do."

In addition, Commissioner Bettman also downplayed the possibility of Houston as a viable market for the NHL either through expansion or relocation. He stressed relocation isn't an option for any current team.

"There is nothing going on right now with Houston," the Commissioner said.

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