SEATTLE – Fans at a downtown Seattle bar erupted with cheers following the announcement that the city was being awarded the 32nd NHL franchise.
There was a hint of disappointment since the date to start play was pushed back to 2021-22.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan took a bit of the suspense away by making the announcement to the crowd about 10 minutes before the official word came from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Congratulations, @NHLSeattle_! 👏🏼
The NHL's 32nd franchise will begin play in the 2021-22 season!!! pic.twitter.com/bekbMiwZos
— NHL (@NHL) December 4, 2018
Bettman said the vote by the Board of Governors was unanimous, pointing out how expansion to Seattle balances out the conferences, gives the NHL a footprint in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and provides the nearby Vancouver Canucks with a natural rival.
Bettman says it was an easy decision to approve Seattle expansion for 2021, not 2020, because of concerns about when downtown arena renovations will be done.
Seattle President Tod Leiweke expects the arena to be ready and open in March or April of 2021.