National Hockey League approves Seattle expansion for '21-22 season

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"The plan is to have a team in place for 2020", Bettman said in October, after the board's executive committee voted 9-0 to move forward with Seattle. The Coyotes are staying in the desert, but they're moving out of the Western Conference's Pacific Division as part of the NHL's upcoming realignment that will coincide with the welcoming of the new Seattle franchise to the league. Seattle Hockey Partners vice chair David Wright told Sports Illustrated last week he expected the team to be named "certainly in the spring".

Ownership of the Seattle franchise will principally reside with David Bonderman, with Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and CEO and Team President Tod Leiweke also involved.

It follows the introduction of the Vegas Golden Knights as the 31st franchise last season after an expansion draft in which existing teams could only protect certain players, with others made available to be picked up by the new team.

Team and city executives have already secured more than 30,000 season-ticket deposits, got an arena plan passed through local government and wowed the executive committee of owners. Perhaps most notable is that in addition to housing the NHL team, the facility will also host adult and youth hockey, training camps, tournaments, figure skating and public ice skating.

The NHL's launch in Seattle will show how starved fans are for another team. When the rain of the fall and winter drive young athletes inside, they grab a basketball and head for the nearest gym to play pickup games. The building, opened in 1962, was formerly the home of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook.

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Seattle is already an important market for attracting tourists to Vancouver, Speer said, adding the new team just adds one more reason for people to visit.

LeBrun said he has the "sense" that the Coyotes have known for some time that they're the likely team to move to the Central Division when the Seattle expansion franchise begins play.

A change in division will now see the Phoenix-based club come up against the Nashville Predators, the new Winnipeg Jets and frequent trade partners the Chicago Blackhawks.

While Seattle basks in the news, it's not clear the National Hockey League will be satisfied at 32 teams even with the new team providing balance between the Eastern and Western conferences and a natural, cross-border rival for the Vancouver Canucks. He said simply that expansion is appropriate when it adds value to the league.

Professional hockey is coming back to the Emerald City.