If you haven’t heard already, Seattle has been granted a NHL franchise for the 2021 season. The excitement is real for a city that hasn’t had a major professional sports team in the winter since the Seattle Supersonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.
The Seattle Metropolitans were the last time a professional hockey team called Seattle home, playing in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915–1924. In 1917, the Metropolitans became the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup — 11 years before any other American team to do so. There is rich hockey history in this city so it was only a matter of time before the NHL finally decided to award Seattle an expansion franchise.
One of the requirements for approval by the NHL is a season ticket drive, where the team must show that there is interest in the area for a hockey team. Seattle’s ownership set a goal of 10,000 season ticket deposits. They reached that goal in under 12 minutes and ended up with 25,000 deposits in the first hour. This number is especially impressive when compared to Las Vegas’s drive when they were trying to receive an expansion franchise, only reaching 5,000 deposits in two days.
On Dec. 4 2018, the NHL approved the proposal made by the Seattle partners to officially grant the city an expansion team. This comes just two years after the league gave Las Vegas the 31st NHL franchise. For scheduling purposes, most leagues do not stay at an odd number of teams for long. Therefore, the NHL was looking to expand in the near future and Seattle jumped at the opportunity. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed his excitement for the expansion to the Pacific Northwest.
“Today is an exciting and historic day for our league as we expand to one of North America’s most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities,” Bettman said. “And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL.”
In order for this to happen, Seattle had to settle its ongoing arena problem since the Sonics left over 10 years ago. The two options were either to remodel the aging Key Arena, or build a brand new state of the art arena in a different location. The new arena proposal never gained any traction, leading to an unanimous approval by the Seattle City Council to begin a $700 million renovation of Key Arena to be ready by the year 2020.
With the arena problem being settled, the real debate has now been what the new team’s name will be when they begin to play in 2021. The owner group have kept their list confidential — giving the public no idea of what name will be chosen. Some have suggested that they go the historical route and bring back the Seattle Metropolitans. However, due to the fact that there is a division in the NHL named the “Metropolitan Division,” that idea has been shot down by the executives part of the team. Other popular name ideas have been the Steelheads, Krakens, Sockeyes, and Totems.
The NHL’s move to Seattle is hoped to have sent a message to NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the league that the city is ready for a return of the Sonics. The success of the season ticket drive is just a taste of how big of a hockey city Seattle can be, and also shows the NBA that Seattle can support multiple professional sports teams at once. Tod Leiweke, the CEO of NHL Seattle, says the fans are a big part of why this was accomplished.
“I woke up today thinking about the fans,” Leiweke said. “What did they feel on March 1 when they put down deposits without knowing anything? No team name, an ownership group they didn’t know very well, a building plan that was back then somewhat defined but fairly vague. Today is a great day for the fans and we owe them so much. That’s why today happened.”