NHL Announces Expansion To Seattle, Following Success In Las Vegas

Originally published on December 5, 2018 7:19 pm
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The National Hockey League has announced it is adding another expansion team. Its second in three years. The new professional team will be in a city that already has some ice hockey history. Casey Martin from member station KUOW in Seattle reports.

CASEY MARTIN, BYLINE: Tuesday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made this announcement.

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GARY BETTMAN: I am delighted to announce that this morning, the board of governors unanimously approved a plan of expansion that will bring a National Hockey League to Seattle.

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MARTIN: And that was the reaction from a packed watch party in Seattle. Hockey fans here started lining up at 6 a.m. in near-freezing temperatures to hear the announcement live from New York. One of those fans was Paul Buxton, who was covered in vintage Seattle Metropolitans gear, the city's team from nearly a century ago.

PAUL BUXTON: It's a pretty momentous day for the city. It's finally time for the rest of the hockey world to see that, you know, we've been fertile ground for the sport for a long time.

MARTIN: A thriving market is one key reason the NHL said they chose Seattle. In other words, they can make money here. A regional junior league has three teams in western Washington state already. And Commissioner Bettman wants to get a rivalry going with Seattle's neighbor to the north, the Vancouver Canucks in British Columbia. Over 30,000 people have already placed deposits for season tickets.

Bettman also noted Seattle's unique hockey history. It was the Seattle Metropolitans who were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, the year the NHL was founded. The league's decision comes a year after they also expanded to Las Vegas, where the Golden Knights went all the way to the finals in their inaugural year. Seattle hopes to also strike beginner's luck but will have to wait until 2021, when a stadium is finished with renovations. There's still one thing the team needs - a name. At the announcement party, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she already has a favorite team name.

JENNY DURKAN: I kind of like the Krakens because it's like the sea creature that is strong.

MARTIN: Someone even showed up with a sign - release the kraken. That name would have to be approved by the league. Seattle evens out the league as the 32nd team and will play in the Pacific Division. NHL says they currently have no plans to expand to any more cities. For NPR News, I'm Casey Martin in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.