The NHL-to-Seattle movement is in full swing, and ESPN’s Emily Kaplan recently caught up with hopeful owners Jerry Bruckheimer, David Bonderman, and Tim Leiweke and talked about everything from the remodeling of KeyArena, to branding, to even acquiring an NBA franchise down the road. For now, the trio are just invested in being the ownership group of the league’s 32nd team (literally, as they paid a $10MM down payment along with their application paperwork earlier in the month). The next step is a season ticket drive, about which Bruckheimer told Kaplan “there’s a lot of momentum working in our direction”. Should the ticket drive prove successful, the NHL is likely to accept the bid and begin planning the next stage of NHL expansion. That would of course include another Expansion Draft. The Seattle ownership group has to be hopeful after seeing the success of the Vegas Golden Knights this season, and Bonderman told Kaplan “The commissioner has been consistent in saying it’s the same kind of process and procedures that they used in Vegas, and we’re going to hold them to that”.
- Well, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about that exact topic today, telling TSN’s Farhan Lalji that the process would be exactly the same for Seattle as it was for Vegas. The expansion process was unlike any seen in professional sports before, allowing the existing NHL teams to only protect a maximum of 11 players from their roster. While first- and second-year players were exempt, Vegas GM George McPhee still had several valuable players to pick as well as several vulnerable teams to manipulate. The resulting roster did not blow anyone away, but proved to be the perfect fit for head coach Gerard Gallant’s system and the Knights are now contenders in their inaugural season. The Seattle ownership group is a ways away from naming a GM or coach, but they’ll have to make strong selections if they wish to maximize the entry draft process like Bill Foley and the Golden Knights did.
- The other decision that may still be a ways away but will nonetheless draw major attention and speculation is the team name. The name, logo, and colors of any sports team is a huge factor and the reveal of the Golden Knights was a major, televised event. So when is the earliest we could find out the Seattle moniker and see some colors and logos? How about the 2019 NHL Draft? The league announced today that the Vancouver Canucks will host the draft in 2019. What better time to reveal the first details about Seattle than at a key league event hosted by the team that will eventually be their natural geographic rival to kick off the league year prior to their planned induction ahead of the 2020-21 season. It hardly seems like a coincidence that Vancouver was chosen to host this specific draft, the last in which they will be the only NHL team from the Pacific Northwest. Bettman and company are thinking ahead. Stay tuned.