NHL in Seattle: Gary Bettman discusses All-Star Game, NHL draft and more

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in town on Wednesday, to discuss what the league has planned for Seattle’s hockey fans.

It’s been a little over a month, since the NHL officially approved Seattle’s expansion franchise. For many hockey fans, however, it’s going to be a long wait until the team hits the ice for the start of the 2021-22 season.

Regardless, there is still a lot to be thrilled about, as we count down to the return of professional hockey in Seattle. This was helped on Wednesday, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a one-day visit to the Pacific Northwest.

Bettman was in town to meet with, among others, members of the team’s ownership group and Mayor Jenny Durkan. He toured Northgate Mall, where a $70 million practice facility will be built.

Afterwards, Bettman held a press conference at the Space Needle. While there, he announced what the NHL has planned for Seattle:

“We’ve promised an All-Star Game to Seattle within seven years of playing. It doesn’t mean we’re going to wait seven years. We’ve got to look at scheduling, both ours and in terms of the city’s availability to host all of our guests in our hotels and everything. But we’re going to be bringing big events here. This is where we want to be.”

At least one other event which will all but certainly take place in Seattle, is the expansion draft. As previously confirmed, the team will have the same expansion draft rules as the Vegas Golden Knights, who will be exempt from losing a player:

“We are looking at when it would be appropriate to bring the draft here. Obviously, we need to have an expansion draft. So we are looking at the possibilities. Nothing has been decided (on a date).”

One event which could be an issue, is the prospect of an outdoor game in Seattle. No matter how fair the stereotype might be in respect of the city’s rainy weather, Bettman was still right to at least question the logistics.

As you’d anticipate, one of the most immediate matters of intrigue for hockey fans, is what the team will be called. Bettman stressed that the NHL would not be involved in this decision.

One possibility is to call the franchise the Metropolitans, the name used for the previous franchise in Seattle. Bettman does not believe the team will use this name, although he did add that nothing should be definitively ruled out at this stage.

Bettman was flanked at the press conference by deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly and Seattle team CEO Tod Leiweke. As far as Leiweke is concerned, the fans will be heavily involved in various aspects, including naming the team:

“We’re going to have them weigh in on all sorts of things. If I have my way, their fingerprints are going to be all over this franchise. Certainly team name, but they’re going to help us build this up.”

Bettman has said on several occasions the NHL wanted to place a franchise in Seattle for a long time and he’s excited about what lies ahead, both for the city and the league as a whole. This outlook was only reinforced on Wednesday.

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