R. Aaron Houde \ Aug 21st, 2019
On December 4th, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the board of governors had voted and a 32nd team is going to be added to the NHL, with the team set to play in the 2021-2022 season in Seattle, WA. This has been a long time coming, as in 1974, the NHL announced that a Seattle group was awarded an expansion into the NHL along with a team from Denver. This franchise never came into fruition after the end of the minor pro-Western Hockey League (1952-1974), and lack of necessary funding to meet the deadline. A second attempt for a Seattle-based NHL team failed in 1990, once again coming down to financial demands.
The team, who is currently without an official name, will be the first professional ice hockey team in Seattle since the Seattle Totems who played in the WHL, and are set to play in the Seattle Center Arena, which was previously home to the Seattle SuperSonics, who relocated in 2008 to Oklahoma City and rebranded as the Thunder. This will be a chance for the people of Seattle to be reunited with the Stanley Cup, since the Seattle Metropolitans were the first US-Based team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, during the time of the National Hockey Association, and officially becoming the National Hockey League.
Seattle named their first-ever General Manager as Ron Francis on July 18th, 2019. Francis played in the NHL from 1981-2004 and won the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He would later return to the NHL Stage as the Director of Hockey Operations of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011 and in 2014 named General Manager. On April 30th, 2018, his contract with the Hurricanes was terminated.
With their entry into the NHL, Seattle will join the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, which will cause the Arizona Coyotes to shift into the Central Division. Now, each of the four conferences will be comprised of eight teams. An expansion draft, similar to the one held in 2017 with the Vegas Golden Knights joining the NHL, will occur upon their initial season. The Golden Knights, however, will be exempt from the expansion draft, since their team is still young.
While it is still two years away from the inaugural season for the Seattle team, they are expecting to have more names for staffing in early 2020, along with an official team name. While many are speculating resurrecting the name of Totems or Metropolitans, the Seattle Times had an unofficial fan vote that ran from August through October of 2018, having names submitted by fans of the future team. After a hard-fought battle, the Seattle Sockeyes came out on top, hinting that fans will be throwing fish on the ice purchased from the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.
We expect a lot more news and development from Francis and the team ownership as the construction on the arena concludes, and the ownership of the franchise gives the proverbial green light to hire, scout, and bring Seattle back to the limelight of professional hockey.
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