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.

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Rec users are not entitled to access to range

DND land is excluded from local control, says letter writer

Foot ferry service in Nanaimo won’t happen this summer

Island Ferries says it still needs to secure funding

Goalie gear found in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Mounties want to return goalie gear to owner

Thieves steal tents meant for Nanaimo school’s Grade 7 camping trip

Businesses, staff and parents ensure trip goes on

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Strengthening privacy laws should be an election issue

In other places, political parties are held to the highest standards of openness, says letter writer

Timbermen beat league’s first-place team

Nanaimo’s senior A lacrosse team handles Maple Ridge Burrards 11-6

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Suggested street names bizarre

Letter writer would be mortified to live on any of Lantzville councillor’s bizarrely named streets

Complex with more than 200 apartments pitched for Nanaimo’s south end

Construction planned for next spring on Junction Avenue in Chase River

Nanaimo teachers’ union president worries new deal could see job losses

Teachers’ federation and Ministry of Education negotiating with contract expiring at month’s end

Historian recalls Nanaimo’s drunken disorder back in 1890

Imagine the seamen’s surprise when they found themselves inside a brewery, writes columnist

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island Marmots… Continue reading

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Most Read