NHL Exec Committee Unanimously Approves Seattle Expansion Bid
The NHL Exec Committee "recommended and forwarded the bid" to the league's BOG by a 9-0 vote for an expansion NHL franchise in Seattle, according to a front-page piece by Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The BOG will vote on the bid during its December meetings in Georgia and requires 75% approval to pass, though it has "never failed to approve an expansion recommendation by its executive committee." The NHL will "monitor the progress of KeyArena's construction" to see if the arena would be "completed in time" for the expansion team to begin play in the '20-21 NHL season. The Oak View Group, which led the expansion bid process and is "handling the massive renovation" to KeyArena said that it can "have the renovation finished" by October '20. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the "focus for everybody" is beginning in Seattle with the '20-21 season. Bettman: "There are a variety of factors that could impact that, including the construction timeline. The sooner construction can begin, obviously, the more likely an early start." Baker reports members of the OVG and NHL Seattle groups "left little to chance" with their pitch to the Exec Committee. They had "planned to keep their presentation fast-paced with multiple speakers covering an array of topics." Potential team owner David Bonderman, NHL Seattle President & CEO Tod Leiweke, OVG CEO Tim Leiweke, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and new minority investor Len Potter all spoke to the committee. Film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another investor in the team, was "brought in for some closing wow factor." Durkan was tasked with "talking up the city as enthusiastically as she could while sounding genuine in her ability to make things happen" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).
FINAL VOTE PENDING: The AP's Stephen Whyno notes the approval for the Seattle franchise "seems assured at this point." Bettman said the unanimous endorsement by the Exec Committee "speaks volumes" for the bid. He added that it "seems unlikely" the BOG will turn down a $650M expansion fee for the opportunity to expand in the Pacific northwest and "provide a natural geographic rival" for the Canucks. Seattle also would balance the conferences with 16 teams each. Canucks Chair Francesco Aquilini said the Seattle bid is "exciting" for the league. Aquilini: "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" (AP, 10/3)
KEY DETAILS: Bettman said that if the KeyArena renovation "hits snags that delay" the projected '20 opening, the league will go with '21 as the start date, though "everybody's preference would be sooner rather than later." Tod Leiweke said that the Exec Committee "didn't spend much time" dwelling on the start date. He said, "We were talking about not one-year but the long-term viability and that's what they're thinking about. Not a year, not a day." Bonderman added, "This is not about this year. This is forever. It's a long-term partnership with the city, with long-term issues. And we're not about to get overwhelmed by short-term issues." The TIMES' Baker notes the readiness of KeyArena "won't be the only issue owners weigh when deciding" whether to launch the Seattle team in '20 or '21. Aquilini said that some of the other BOG members are "concerned about having enough time to prepare for an expansion draft so they can protect their best players better" than when the Golden Knights "pillaged the league" last summer (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).
EMERALD OWNERSHIP: Tim Leiweke called the bid's ownership team "as good a group of owners as I've seen, starting with David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer." Leiweke: "We've been very lucky to get David Bonderman to jump into this and we've been very lucky and very fortunate to bring in the kind of partners that have come in. If you look at those investors from Seattle, if I'm in Seattle it would give me great comfort about the future of the franchise to know that these local investors are engaged and activated." THE ATHLETIC's Jeremy Rutherford noted the Seattle group has "already paid" a $10M deposit to the NHL, and if the bid is approved, will "fork over a record" $650M expansion fee -- $150M more than the Golden Knights paid to enter the league last season. But if the Seattle franchise has "half the success the Golden Knights had" in their inaugural season, it will be "money well spent" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/2).
GET EXCITED: The AP's Whyno noted "excitement is brewing" for the potential of bringing an NHL team to Seattle. Capitals RW T.J. Oshie, a Seattle native, said, "I talked to a lot of people out there and they want this team. It'd be great for the area" (AP, 10/1). NBC's Jeremy Roenick said of the Seattle expansion, "It will happen. It's one of the bigger markets in the United States and it's right near the Canadian border, have that competition between Vancouver" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 10/2).