On December 4th at the Winter NHL Board of Governors Meeting, the NHL Board of Governors is expected to vote on whether to award Seattle the 32nd franchise in the league. Although we hate assuming here, because of the unanimous recommendation out of the Executive BoG Expansion Committee in October, we should feel reasonably confident this vote from the full BoGs goes in our favor. Other than the vote itself, here are some of the other newsworthy items that we should be looking for from this meeting.
Unanimous approval is not a requirement, but I hope to see every team supporting Seattle joining the league. I want to think the all-star team of NHL Seattle executives, the Hollywood connection in the ownership group, the opportunities of a young, culture-rich, fast-growing, tech-savvy Seattle market, and the smashing success of the season ticket deposit drive makes this a no brainer for the entire league. My pitch for Seattle has always been about the growth opportunity of putting a franchise in a relatively untapped market that will grow the game in participation and viewership. I anticipate all the league franchise owners recognize the opportunity and see the long-term benefits of Seattle joining the league.
Bill Daly has already teased 2021-22 as the likely start of a Seattle franchise; while the NHL Seattle group has maintained that they are targeting the 2020-21 start. I doubt we will get much clarity next week, but it will be interesting to hear how the league messages the start date of the potential Seattle franchise. NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, mentioned in October that the target is 2020 and I anticipate similar comments next week with a bit of a hedge. The hedge of a possible 2021-22 start date is fine. The Arena project timeline is complicated and challenging. It will only get clearer with time and that time is needed before the league will lock on a hard start date. There is also a potential labor agreement that the NHL and NHLPA need to address that could expire after the 2019-20 season that has the potential to impact a start date of the 2020-21 NHL season. Most NHL insiders have implied that both sides are happy with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), but, as most NHL fans know, we shouldn’t assume the CBA gets signed without a lockout. I can’t imagine the league, nor the NHL Seattle group, would want to launch a franchise right into a lockout, hence the need to hedge on the launch date in Seattle.
By next October, I believe both construction timelines and CBA issues will be a lot clearer for the NHL Seattle group and the NHL to make a more definitive commitment.
Expansion Draft Rules
Bettman has been saying since last December that the Expansion Draft rules will be the same for Seattle as it was for the Vegas franchise with Vegas exempt from participating in the (potential) Seattle Expansion draft. Yet, this question continues to come up when anyone from the league speaks about Seattle. Hopefully, we can put this question to bed forever as Bettman or Daly confirm that the expansion draft rules will indeed be the same for Seattle.
More engagement from the NHL Seattle team
I don’t know if I expect this to happen or if it is just wishful thinking. To date, the NHL Seattle team has been fairly quiet in their communications and engagement with the fans. This could be based on direction and guidance from the league itself, since they literally don’t have a franchise yet. Upon the awarding of a Seattle franchise increased engagement might not happen right away, but I do anticipate an increasing amount of outreach, communications, and interaction with the local fan base and season ticket depositors through the rest of this NHL season.
What not to look for