NHL ex­pan­sion to Seat­tle hockey’s worst-kept se­cret

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports | Classified - JOSHUA CLIP­PER­TON

Na­tional Hockey League com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman is ex­pected to con­firm the worst-kept se­cret in hockey on Tues­day — the league will be ex­pand­ing to Seat­tle.

Ap­proval of the city’s bid to be­come the NHL’s 32nd fran­chise needs sup­port from three-quar­ters of the board of gov­er­nors, who are set to meet this week in Sea Is­land, Ga.

Bar­ring some­thing com­pletely un­fore­seen, Seat­tle ap­pears to be a slap shot.

There’s a deep-pock­eted own­er­ship group fronted by ma­jor­ity stake­holder David Bon­der­man and Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Jerry Bruck­heimer, the US$650-mil­lion ex­pan­sion fee and an op­por­tu­nity to balance the league with 16 teams in each con­fer­ence.

Two big un­knowns re­main head­ing into the board meet­ings sched­uled for Mon­day and Tues­day, how­ever.

When will Seat­tle ac­tu­ally hit the ice and how will the NHL realign two of its four divisions?

KeyArena, which was home to the NBA’s Su­perSon­ics be­fore they moved to Ok­la­homa City in 2008, is primed to un­dergo a mas­sive $700-mil­lion ren­o­va­tion, but it’s un­clear if the project will be fin­ished in time for the start of 2020-21 NHL season.

“The po­ten­tial club own­er­ship is very much in­ter­ested in start­ing in 2020-21,” NHL deputy com­mis­sioner Bill Daly said.

“But their arena time­line con­tin­ues to be a lit­tle too tight for that, so we’ll see whether they can move that up or change that.”

The new fran­chise looks tabbed for the Pa­cific Di­vi­sion — the Van­cou­ver Canucks are an ob­vi­ous geo­graphic ri­val, just a three-hour drive north — mean­ing one of the other seven teams cur­rently in the Pa­cific would have to move to the Cen­tral.

At this point, the Ari­zona Coy­otes seem the most likely can­di­dates to make the switch.

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