Seattle awarded NHL franchise set to begin play in 2021

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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, right, high-five’s Washington Wild hockey team wing Jaina Goscinski. | AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

It’s onward to the Emerald City for the NHL.

The league’s Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to expand to Seattle beginning with the 2021-22 season. The as-yet-unnamed franchise will be the league’s 32nd, evening each conference at 16 teams. Seattle will play in the Pacific Division, and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central, joining the Blackhawks.

Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton, who played games in Seattle during his days in the Western Hockey League, called it a “great market.”

“It’s an underrated hockey area,” he said. “The Western League presence is large, and a lot of hockey fans are out there. I’m sure it’ll be a success.”

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The franchise — which forked over an expansion fee of $650 million — has the ownership backing of billionaire David Bonderman and famed film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The team will play downtown in the former home of the SuperSonics of the NBA. The arena is scheduled for a large-scale renovation.

It’ll be a big change, as well, for the Coyotes, who’ve been a common trade partner with the Hawks.

“I guess the initial reaction is you’re going to be playing a lot of former teammates,” Patrick Kane said. “It’ll be nice to travel to warm weather. That’s a team that’s up-and-coming, too, so it just makes the Central that much tougher.”

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