Seattle to Join NHL in 2021-22 as 32nd Franchise

The NHL Board of Governors has approved the location for the league’s 32nd franchise: Seattle. They will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

At the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Sea Island, Georgia today, the vote was unanimous to approve the Seattle ownership group’s application for entry into the league. In addition, the league approved a realignment of the Western Conference’s divisions that would see Seattle join the Pacific Division and the Arizona Coyotes shift to the Central. (The Coyotes will stay put in the Pacific until the 2021-22 season.)

Commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned that this will make the NHL “more balanced” in terms of having an even 16 teams in each Conference. Bettman also mentioned rivalries with teams out West like the Vancouver Canucks, just a few hours across the Canadian border from Seattle.

The ownership group is headed by “a private equity CEO” named David Bonderman. The group will pay $650 million in expansion fees, which Dan Rosen of NHL.com pointed out is $150 million more than Bill Foley’s group paid for the Vegas Golden Knights to join the NHL two years ago.

Bonderman told Rosen that he “went to school [in Seattle]” and went to the University of Washington, where he graduated. He said that he “worked on the Space Needle in 1962” so he has roots in the Pacific Northwest city.

The arena situation is unique, as they will not be playing in a totally brand new building, but rather an existing building that is being completely renovated from the ground up. The skeleton of the KeyArena will remain, but the group will be essentially creating a whole new arena from that. Ground will be broken on the renovation, a privately financed endeavor that will cost $800 million and eventually seat 17,400 for hockey, tomorrow according to the group’s CEO Tod Leiweke. Rosen’s article said that “(t)he renovation was awaiting NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin.”

The arena was formerly home to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA prior to them relocating and becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-09. Rosen said that the group was hoping to begin play in 2020-21 but settled for 2021-22 because it will allow the renovations at (what is now being known as) the Seattle Center Arena to be fully completed. They are also having a training center built.

As for the construction of the team itself, Leiweke and Bettman told Rosen that the expansion draft will take place in June 2021 at the Seattle Center Arena and the rules will be the same as what Vegas got in June of 2017, so start placing bets now on Seattle to win the Western Conference in 2022. In additon, Rosen said that “the Golden Knights will be exempt from exposing players for the draft” likely due to them only having played four full NHL seasons come the time of Seattle’s expansion draft.

Rosen’s article said that the arena will “likely open in March or April 2021 with concerts” according to Leiweke. The first major tenent of the arena will be the Seattle Storm of the WNBA, who will play there in the summer of 2021.

As for what the team will be called? Leiweke told Rosen that “the ownership group will use the extra time it has to do its due diligence before it announces a team name.” Seattle has been host to numerous minor league and junior hockey teams and the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association became the first American franchise to win the Stanley Cup in 1917. They won before the NHL had exclusive control over the Cup and teams still challenged for it.

A few other teams to call Seatlle home over the last century have been the Totems of the professional PCHL, WHL and CHL. They operated from 1944 to 1975 and went by different names, including Ironmen, Bombers and Americans before settling on Totems in 1958. Junior teams to play in Seattle include the Breakers (who our very own Ken Daneyko played for) in the Western Hockey League and the current Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

Another factor mentioned in the Rosen article for why the expansion team was placed in Seattle was the rivalry with Vancouver. Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has been adamant that a team in Seattle would be “impactful” for both the Canucks and the region. He told Rosen “Seattle is a great sports city and we can’t wait to ignite a true regional rivalry west of the Rockies for Canucks fans. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

After Seattle applied for a place in the NHL last year at the NHL Board of Governors meeting, a season ticket drive was held beginning on March 1, they had 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes alone. They had 32,000 within the first 31 hours and Rosen said that “(t)here is a waiting list with approximately 10,000 names on it.”

Devils Fall to Lightning, 5-1

The Devils have finished up their season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and to that, I say good riddance. The Devils ended the 2018-19 season 0 and 3 against Tampa, losing last night 5-1 at Prudential Center.

The Devils slotted Will Butcher back into the lineup on defense. Steven Santini remained the defenseman to be out. Drew Stafford and Jesper Bratt were the healthy scratches up front while Stefan Noesen drew back in.

The goaltending matchup saw Keith Kinkaid start for the Devils, making 16 saves on 20 shots faced. He was pulled before the start of the third period in favor of Cory Schneider, who continues to suffer some struggles. He let in the first shot he saw from Tampa, making five saves on six shots. The Lightning finished the game with a total of 26 shots. Opposing them was Louis Domingue, who would go on to be named the game’s third star. He stopped 26 of 27 shots from the Devils.

New Jersey got behind the eight ball early, conceding a goal 13:31 into the first period to Nikita Kucherov off assists to Brayden Point and Ryan McDonagh. That made it 1-0 and the Lightning train just rolled on from there.

Point scored a little over six minutes later at 19:34 from Kucherov and Victor Hedman on the power play. This was set up when Egor Yakovlev took a slashing penalty at 18:49. On the power play Tampa was 2-for-3 on the night with three shots. The Devils were a very sluggish 0-for-4 on the man advantage with seven shots. They also had one shorthanded shot.

The second period was another rough one for the Devils. Tyler Johnson scored 8:20 in from McDonagh and Kucherov. It was now 3-0 and the Devils seemed to be reeling.

But they would get one back to cut the Bolts’ lead to just two when Yakovlev scored at 11:26 from Sami Vatanen and Noesen. It came when Noesen won the faceoff deep in the offensive zone directly to Vatanen. He quickly found a seam for Yakovlev backdoor and Yakovlev snapped a shot by the right-catching Domingue’s glove hand. That made it 3-1 and was also the 27-year-old rookie’s first NHL goal. He played a few years in the KHL before coming over to North America, but has now notched a goal in the NHL.

Unfortunately for the Devils, as the Yakovlev goal was being announced to the crowd, Tampa’s Yanni Gourde was making it 4-1 at 12:39. He got assists from Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat.

Late in the second period, at 19:52, Blake Coleman was called for slashing Erik Cernak. That penalty would have almost 1:50 of carry over time to the third period, on fresh ice. Also, the Devils decided to switch goalies going into the third with Schneider coming in. All of this was a bit of a recipe for disaster for the Devils.

And sure enough, just 20 seconds into the third frame, Stamkos scored from Point and Kucherov on the power play to make it 5-1. Point would go on to be named the game’s second star with a goal and two assists. Kucherov was the first star with a goal and three assists.

And that was it. While Tampa essentially played keep away from the Devils the rest of the game, they quickly rolled to two more points while New Jersey suffered just their second regulation loss on home ice this season.

In terms of the overall game, the Devils won 49-percent of the game’s faceoffs, out hit the Bolts 23-19, had one more blocked shot then them at eight to seven and had less giveaways at four for the Devils to Tampa’s eight.

The Devils looked to Damon Severson to be a minutes eater, as he logged 19:24 of ice time to lead all New Jersey skaters (including 3:37 on the power play and 14 seconds on the penalty kill). Travis Zajac led the forwards with 19:07 (4:05 on the PP, 2:35 on the PK). Marcus Johansson led the team in shots on goal with four while hits were led by Noesen with four as well. Blocked shots were co-led by Taylor Hall and Yakovlev who each had two and takeaways were led by Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Noesen and Andy Greene who all had one.

Next up, the Devils get out of Dodge and head for California. They will face the Los Angeles Kings in LA on Thursday to begin a three game road trip against the California teams. That game is at 10:30 PM Eastern on Thursday night/Friday morning and we will have that for you right here.