In this Dec. 6, 2017, file photo, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan acknowledges a reporter while taking questions before signing an agreement to renovate KeyArena in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

NHL is moving forward with Seattle expansion bid

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday the Board of Governors’ executive committee recommended proceeding with Seattle’s expansion application

The NHL is moving forward with plans to expand to Seattle.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday the Board of Governors’ executive committee recommended proceeding with Seattle’s expansion application, with an eye on voting to approve the league’s 32nd franchise in December. The recommendation came a few hours after key stakeholders presented their case to the committee and hit it off enough that Seattle could be awarded a team two months from now.

“The notion is have the board vote on expansion,” Bettman said. “And assuming, as I think everybody is, that it would be approved — I don’t want to be presumptuous of the board’s prerogative — but everything seems to be on track.”

It was the best possible news that could have come out of the meetings for proponents of the NHL in Seattle. Bettman agreed with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan that the preference is for the team to begin play in the 2020-21 season, and that’s still a very real possibility as long as renovations to KeyArena in downtown Seattle proceed as scheduled.

“I’m very confident we’re going to be able to move forward and get what we need from the NHL and the team and stick to the schedule so we have hockey in 2020,” Durkan said. “They know we want it in 2020 and (the league would) like to have it in 2020, too, if we get the team.”

READ MORE: Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

When the board next meets Dec. 3-4, Bettman expects a full report on Seattle expansion and said the goal is to for the governors to vote at that time, with 24 of 32 needed for approval. It’s conceivable the board votes to give Seattle the green light for 2020 contingent on the arena with the option to push things back to 2021 if necessary.

Approval seems assured at this point. Bettman said the endorsement by the nine-owner executive committee “speaks volumes,” and it seems unlikely the board will turn down a $650 million expansion fee for the opportunity to expand to the U.S. Pacific Northwest, provide a natural geographic rival for the Vancouver Canucks and balance the Eastern and Western conferences at 16 teams each.

“It looks good,” Vancouver owner Francesco Aquilini said. “It’s exciting. We want a team in Seattle. It’s great for Vancouver. It’s great for the league. It’s eventually going to happen. KeyArena is going to be built. So I think it’s imminent.”

After meeting with the executive committee for well over an hour, Durkan, Seattle Hockey Partners President and CEO Tod Leiweke, majority owner David Bonderman did not want to do a victory lap yet.

“It’s been a long time coming and we can be patient,” Leiweke said.

Tod’s brother, Tim, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer and fellow minor owner David Wright were also part of the contingent that made what Bettman called an “excellent” presentation.

“With the mayor’s help, what we tried to get across was Seattle is ready for a team, we got potentially a facility that will get built, a partnership with the city and away we go,” Bonderman said. “All we need is a franchise.”

The NHL had been at 30 teams since 2000 when it decided in 2016 to expand to Las Vegas. The Golden Knights began play a year ago and made a stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

That process began with a season-ticket drive the league approved in the winter of 2014 to see if Las Vegas would be a viable hockey market. Seattle sold 10,000 season-ticket deposits in 12 minutes, and team officials say they now have 32,000 as excitement builds for the return of a major professional winter sports team in the biggest U.S. market without one.

The ticket numbers, a plan to renovate KeyArena and a video showcasing the benefits of Seattle expansion were all part of the presentation at the league office. What did not come up in that meeting was the status of the collective bargaining agreement, which the owners or players could choose in September 2019 to terminate effective Sept. 15, 2020.

Bettman downplayed the buzz about a potential 2020 work stoppage and said arena construction was a bigger hindrance to a 2020 start for Seattle.

“They have a lot of work to do initially,” Bettman said. “They’ve got to stop using KeyArena, there’s some demolition, they’ve got to dig a bigger hole, they’ve got to put the steel in. Once that’s all accomplished … we’ll have a better sense. But everybody’s goal is 2020 if it can be accomplished. If it’s not, then we’ll do it in ‘21.”

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sold-out in Surrey: the ‘Second Coming of Delamont’s ‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’

‘The title tends to scare a few people away,’ Victoria-based performer says of his hit show

White Rock neighbours to host second-annual ‘Feast for Friends’

Victoria Terrace residents to raise money for food bank

Task force brainstorms on support for Semiahmoo homeless community

Community service providers gather to discuss options for housing, income safety and more

Two people reportedly sent to hospital after two-vehicle collision in Surrey

Collision happened on the 16500-block of 64 Avenue

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Most Read