Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday the league's board of governors have agreed to consider an expansion application from billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer to bring a franchise to the city.
Seattle is the only city being considered for expansion at the moment, Bettman said. "We've agreed as a league to take and consider an expansion application and to let them run - at some point in the next few months - a season-ticket drive".
Seattle's expansion fee has been set at US$650 million - which is $150 million more than the expansion fee Bill Foley paid for the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team that started playing this season. But keeping its eyes on Seattle won't prevent the NHL from combating suggestions of other expansion - or relocation - possibilities, especially since other cities have already either openly campaigned for hockey or drawn previous consideration from the league.
The news also means that the Bonderman group, who were key in helping Seattle get the KeyArena renovation, will now be able to conduct a season ticket sales drive in the same vein as Vegas when it started its bid for a team.
That announcement came one day after a plan to renovate the KeyArena was approved by the Seattle City Council and signed by the mayor. KeyArena was originally built in 1962 and was occupied by the NBA's Seattle Supersonics over three spans, including until the franchise's relocation following the 2008 season.
"I said yesterday I thought we were on the path, I didn't know it would happen so quickly", Durkan laughed.
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"It is a work in progress but we're very confident that we're going to get this to work", Commissioner Bettman said, "and the amount of data that it will provide in addition to creating opportunities for broadcasters to use it in real time is pretty exciting".
Though Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association's Seattle Metropolitans were the first US -based team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917. Here's one way to quantify it: When Vegas entered the league this season, its expansion fee was $500 million.
However, if you had Houston penciled in as the destination for the NHL's 32nd franchise, it's probably time to flip over to the eraser.
Durkan was asked for specifics on the benchmarks. "But we've got homework to do". "I think we'll meet the benchmarks we need to meet and in the mean time we'll be negotiating the side agreements, doing the environmental work and moving forward so we can open when the National Hockey League wants to come".
Durkan says the deal protects taxpayers and is good for the city. The only thing that kept it from happening was the lack of an arena deal. I'd handicap the odds of Seattle landing a team at very, very high. "We want to work together".