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Volume 24 No. 176
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NHL Allows Seattle To Apply For Expansion Team With KeyArena Renovation Deal Done

The NHL announced an expansion process Thursday that "likely will lead" to Seattle gaining the league's 32nd franchise, according to a front-page piece by Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the NHL has "received a request to file an expansion application" from TPG Capital Partner David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, who have already "partnered" with Oak View Group. OVG earlier this week finalized a deal with the city for a $600M renovation of KeyArena. The NHL has "agreed to review the application," has set a $650M expansion fee and "now will gauge progress by the Seattle group in coming months before deciding whether to award a franchise." 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." Baker notes the process will be "similar" to what the Golden Knights did "ahead of being awarded an NHL expansion team." Bettman reiterated that the process is "exclusively about Seattle when asked whether Quebec City might again be considered." Bettman also mentioned that relocation of one or more teams is "still on the table and did not rule that out." A renovated KeyArena is "not expected to be ready" until October '20 at the earliest, leaving "no place to accept a relocated team in the short term." The league also would stand to "gain double in expansion fees what it would get from any group offering to take in a relocated team" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/8).

TRUST THE PROCESS: TSN.ca's Frank Seravalli wrote unlike with Las Vegas, the Seattle bid is "beginning on second base." Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley in '14 was initially "only first permitted to seek deposits for season tickets to demonstrate potential interest." He was then "invited to formally apply for expansion nearly a year later after proving the interest." That Seattle has "already jumped to Step 2 in the process signifies Bettman's confidence." The NHL was "intrigued enough by the Pacific Northwest" in '15 that it "continued dialogue with three separate potential ownership groups, but none of them featured a concrete arena plan." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said of the OVG deal with the city, "That's what's changed. We now have an interested ownership group, we have a commitment on an arena, and we have a market we now have to explore" (TSN.ca, 12/7).

DONE DEAL? THE ATHLETIC's Pierre LeBrun wrote it would be "shocking at this point if Seattle doesn't indeed get an NHL team." That is the "only conclusion one can draw" after Thursday's announcement. Unless Bonderman and Bruckheimer "don't want to write a fat cheque" for $650M, the "jaw-dropping expansion fee this time around, there's no question NHL hockey is going to Seattle" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/7). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote it "seems all but certain the NHL will be setting up" in Seattle in due time. The NHL has "long coveted Seattle as a market and the city has spent the past decade or so in a series of fits and starts, trying to establish a suitable playpen to lure the best league in the world" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 12/7). In Seattle, Matt Calkins writes though Bettman "offered no guarantees," it "just feels like it's gonna happen" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/8).

NOTHING TO SEE HERE: ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan noted Houston had been a rumored expansion site, but Bettman on Monday said there was "nothing going on right now." Bettman "stressed" that a condition of the sale of the Hurricanes to Texas-based Topgolf Chair Tom Dundon is that the club "remain in Raleigh" (ESPN.com, 12/7).