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Seattle expansion frequently asked questions

Everything you need to know regarding the NHL's 32nd team

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SEATTLE -- The NHL Board of Governors approved Seattle's expansion application Tuesday. answers some burning questions:


[RELATED: Seattle NHL expansion approved | Seattle mayor inspired by Stanley Cup visit]


When will the team debut?

The 2021-22 season. NHL Seattle had aimed for 2020-21, but the League wanted to be sure the $800 million-plus renovation of KeyArena would be completed for the first game.

This will allow more time for the renovation of the arena and the construction of the $75 million training center. NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said each should be done in the first quarter of 2021. The NHL Expansion Draft could be held in the arena, and the team's first training camp will be at the training center.

"We want to start in style, and that's really always been the League's orientation," Leiweke said. "If you're going to do this, those are defining moments. Make sure that those defining moments are perfect."


What about the name, logo and colors?

Sockeyes defeated Totems in the final of a four-round Seattle Times poll that attracted 146,144 votes. Metropolitans finished third. Next came Steelheads, Kraken, Sasquatch, Freeze and Emeralds.

"We paid close, close attention," Leiweke said.

NHL Seattle has been doing focus groups. Each day, Leiweke listens to suggestions and opinions.

"It's a process of really putting your ear to the track and understanding and hearing what fans feel and believe," Leiweke said. "That's the art form. The science is then bringing in professionals who can take direction and sentiment and begin to apply it to what practically could be a name and a logo that will stand the test of time. And I'm confident we'll land on the right thing.

"We want to be deliberate, but we're not going to rush this to the point we don't feel great about it."


Who will hire the general manager and when?

The decision will involve ownership, Leiweke and Dave Tippett, the former NHL player and coach working for NHL Seattle as a senior adviser. It probably will come after the 2018-19 NHL season.

Tippett said he does not want to be the GM or coach. He likely will have an executive title in hockey operations.

"I have a list of guys right now, and most of them are people that I can't talk to [because they are under contract]," Tippett said. "I think there would be a benefit if we're starting in '21 to hire the GM two years in advance. I really think there would be. Tod and I have talked about this. So in that realm, you'd look at the window of next summer to start to put your staff together."

The hire will be critical.

"It's the one thing that actually causes my palms to sweat a little bit, because I think it's actually the most important thing we're going to do, building out a competitive team," Leiweke said. "That's the ultimate reward to our season-ticket holders for their faith here, and so we're going to do it right."


What are the rules of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft? 

The same as they were for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, except the Golden Knights will be exempt. 


What will the arena be like?

The iconic roof will look the same as it has since the 1962 World's Fair, and Seattle Center's park-like campus of cultural attractions will retain its character. But everything underneath that roof will be new, and the area will be revitalized.

Oak View Group, the company leading the renovation, will lower the floor of the arena 15 feet to a total of 58 below grade. The arena will be 750,000 square feet and seat 17,400 for hockey, with a large lower bowl of 8,400.

"We're going to have all the modern amenities, but the action will happen in the bowl, and what they're going to see is a very steep and very intimate bowl," Leiweke said. "It's really by design. This is a building built subterranean. … Most of our fans will walk down to their seat, and they're going to have a game experience second to none."


What about the training center?

NHL Seattle is building its headquarters at Northgate, a shopping area in the north of the city. The 180,000-square-foot facility will have state-of-the-art amenities for the NHL team and locals too, with three ice sheets, lots of seats and ample parking. NHL practices will be open to the public.

"We didn't just take an existing rink and put some trailers in the back," Leiweke said. "We said, 'How can we truly grow the game?' And our facility will be a place where skilled hockey players will come and take their game to another level. And it will also be a place where someone who has never put on a pair of skates will come and find incredible inspiration.

"It's very exciting that our ownership has made this decision to make this kind of investment early on in a facility like that, and that will be the beachhead for growing the game."

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