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NHL MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 4, 2018
New York, NY
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Good afternoon, everyone. Today is an exciting day for the National Hockey League. I'm delighted to announce that this morning the Board of Governors unanimously approved a plan of expansion that will bring a National Hockey League team to Seattle, Washington to play beginning in the 2021-2022 season.
Seattle, the NHL is thrilled to welcome you. I know obviously that those words are words that the passionate and patient fans in Seattle have longed to hear. And so today is a day for celebration in a great city that adores and avidly supports his sports teams and for our 101-year-old sports league. And I know how hard this team's outstanding ownership group has worked over the last several years to finally reach this point.
Expanding to Seattle makes the National Hockey League more balanced, even more whole, and even more vibrant. A team in Seattle evens the number of teams in our two conferences, brings our geographic footprint into greater equilibrium, and creates instant new rivalries out west, particularly between Seattle and Vancouver.
The league's expansion decision was only made possible because Seattle will possess the three pillars essential to the success of any franchise -- terrific and committed ownership, a thriving market and a state-of-the-art venue. An expansion, particularly, a second expansion in three years, could only have been even considered and ultimately approved by our board because our league is stronger and more stable than it has ever been.
Our game is more exciting, entertaining and competitive than ever and the pool of talented players is deeper and wider than ever.
So we could not be more pleased to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family.
On top of everything else, Seattle is a city with a hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup.
To commemorate that historic event and this historic event we have a special guest with us today.
Beverley Parsons is the niece of Lester and Frank Patrick. Welcome. The legendary visionaries who, among so many other things, founded the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in 1911 and four years later established the Seattle Metropolitans who won the Stanley Cup in 1917 by defeating the Montreal Canadiens. Beverley, thank you for being here.
The Metropolitans played in a 4,000-seat facility called the Seattle Ice Arena. The new Seattle NHL franchise will play about a mile and a half away in the spectacularly redesigned Seattle Center Arena. And I would like to, in particular, thank Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, both for her critical work on the arena redevelopment project and for her enthusiastic support of bringing the NHL to Seattle. Thank you, Mayor Durkan.
A couple orders of business. Our 32nd franchise will be stocked under the same rules as the ones in place for our 31st expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights at an expansion draft that will take place in June of 2021. The Golden Knights will not participate in this expansion draft, meaning they won't lose a player.
The expansion fee for the Seattle franchise is $650 million, as has been widely reported. And when you include the cost of reimagining and building Seattle Center Arena, this is a transaction with a value of approximately a billion four, which shows an incredible commitment by everyone involved and the commitment just not just to the NHL but also to the city of Seattle.
Finally, as part of the plan of expansion, the new Seattle franchise will play in the Pacific Division while the Arizona Coyotes, who spend most of their season on Mountain Time, will move into the Central Division. We will then have a 32-team league with four eight-team divisions that make the most geographic sense possible.
With that it is my pleasure to invite principal owner David Bonderman and Seattle NHL CEO Tod Leiweke to join me here on the podium.
DAVID BONDERMAN: The Commissioner has said it all, so I'll introduce our CEO and partner Mr. Tod Leiweke to tell you how it really happened. (Laughter).
TOD LEIWEKE: It's hard to contain my enthusiasm, but I'm going to do it. Today is a dream come true, really, for an entire city. And we finally solve a 16-year journey to solve our arena situation.
And tomorrow we break ground on that arena, an $800 million investment that will create a state-of-the-art arena. Some have called it a renovation. We'll keep the historic roof and everything else will be new.
We'll go down approximately 15 feet, expanding from 400,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet. And we believe it will be one of the finest arenas in the world. It's the only arena in the world located in a park. It's right in the heart of our city. And that's why they call it Seattle Center.
The city has been magnificent partners in this endeavor. A lot of work. Lots of agreements. But I call out a couple of folks -- our mayor, who has just been such a stalwart supporter. She's been an incredible fan and a lot of this is to her credit. I also call out councilperson Debora Juarez a architect with the deal with the city.
I call out my brother, Tim. It was really his courage to think differently and to say that KeyArena could be fixed and that we could have the dream that we're having today. And if not for my brother Tim, we would not be here today. God bless you, brother Tim.
Today a dream comes true for the NHL. We are poised to go into this incredibly successful, wonderful market, the fastest-growing market in the National Hockey League.
And we deliver to the NHL great ownership: David Bonderman, who's the Wayne Gretzky of investors; Jerry Bruckheimer is here. And Jerry is not only one of the most creative people in the entire world, he happens to be an avid hockey fan. And, Jerry, I look forward to working with you.
Next to Jerry is David Wright and he represents all of the great local owners who were handpicked to go on this journey with us. Mr. Vice Chairman, welcome, sir.
That ownership group is bound by a common commitment to success and evidenced by announcement recently on a training center. To pull all this together takes an enormous amount of work, and I want to call out you, Len. Len Potter who architected so much of this. And your name might not be in the press as much as others, but you deserve every bit of credit, sir.
But that common commitment really showed up early when we were putting our plan together, and we knew that for this franchise to be successful, we needed a world-class training center.
Seattle is a hard place to develop. We're bound by small pieces of land surrounded by water and mountains. But we found an incredible site at the Northgate Mall. And our training center will be the centerpiece of a redevelopment of the Northgate Mall, a major investment and commitment by owners.
But when this franchise opens, our players will step onto the ice on a three-sheet training facility that will be as good as any in the world. And that training center will not only be the home to our team, it will be the epicenter of hockey in our part of the world.
But ultimately today is a dream that comes true for our fans. And they're there at Henry's, and I shout out to you, thank you. 32,000 deposits in a single day. That's when we all knew that this was the right idea.
So on behalf of our fans we start this journey today to build an organization that will make you proud and to some day bring the Stanley Cup back to Seattle. And I promise you, we will not let you down. Go, Seattle.
DAVID BONDERMAN: Apparently the Commissioner didn't say it all, but we all want you to know that we owe a great debt to the Commissioner and the owners for unanimously supporting this journey that we've started here and we won't let you down.
TOD LEIWEKE: And on behalf of our ownership group, I want to invite Jerry up and David Wright. And we have something special for you, Commissioner.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: I'm here to introduce the hockey past with Beverley here, part of the historic family. We wouldn't be here without her family, the Patricks, and the future of Seattle with our young hockey player.
Jana is a winner for the Washington Wild, and she's the future and a future fan of our franchise. We're thrilled. I want to thank Gary and the NHL for allowing us to be part of this. And thanks to the owners for voting us in. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to be a part of this. It's the greatest game in the world played by the greatest athletes in the world.
And we're thrilled to have Gary honor us to be here tonight. And we have a special presentation for Gary that David's going to give you.
DAVID WRIGHT: Gary, I'd like to present you this jersey, making you the first member of our hockey team. It also includes a patch of your Hall of Fame inductee.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank you very much.
DAVID WRIGHT: Thank you.
DAVID BONDERMAN: So Gary is going to be on the ice with us when we first start. He can get out there.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: First bad decision. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: We have time for questions.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to go with 2021 versus 2020? And also for everybody watching back in Seattle, the question that's on everybody's mind now, the team name. Where do we stand with the team name?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'll defer to the gentlemen on my left or right on the team name, although the league does get to approve it.
The division for 2021-22 actually turned out to be fairly easy through the discussions that we had jointly. It was clear that this team wants to start in the absolute best right way, and the certainty over the construction timeline, or the lack of certainty, led us to believe that making the start of the 2021 season would be speculative at best and unlikely at worst.
And we all agree that it was better to get the building done right, not worry about weather or construction delays, deliveries of steel and the like, and that we were certain that the building would be done in time for 2021-22. And that made all the sense in the world for everybody.
You can comment on that.
DAVID WRIGHT: I would just add we certainly harbored hope. I have business cards that I'm going to have to toss out that says "Seattle 2020." But this is an organization that's going to be built around our fans, so as we thought about this on behalf of our fans, we realize that perhaps we wouldn't open this season with our fans in our new building. Perhaps the training center wouldn't be ready.
Now an expansion draft will be held in our building. Our players will skate on that training center in time for our first camp. And we know opening day will be truly spectacular. So waiting a little longer made sense, and we ultimately agreed with the league.
DAVID BONDERMAN: I would like to just add we're committed to a world-class facility here. The technology is changing rapidly. And taking a little more time to think it through make sure we have the right technological answers suggests that a little longer time is a better choice than a little shorter time.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Tod, you didn't answer the question about the (indiscernible).
TOD LEIWEKE: I was going to let you shag that, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Not my decision in the first instance.
DAVID BONDERMAN: We're aware of that. I'm very proud of the record we have so far. We were unanimous in the city council vote. We got through the EIS without challenge. And we're going to try and do this right as well. We're going to take our time. There's a group of owners, Jay Deutsch, Jerry Bruckheimer. But we're going to listen to our fans and we're going to do it right and we're not going to have a time pressure, but it's something we're working on each and every day.
Q. On behalf of the 33,000 people who put down season ticket deposits last March for the team, at what point do you envision actually selling some of these tickets or allowing these people to see some of the seats that are up for selection?
DAVID WRIGHT: We're generally thinking about all sorts of things. We know we've got an incredible group of supporters. We're trying to figure that out. We have 17,000 fixed seats. We're going to go into the laboratory beginning tomorrow and begin to work this through.
But I can tell the fans who are watching today, they're going to hear a lot more from us now. The Commissioner has lifted the cloak, and we're going to now start to communicate to them much more direct. And we're going to engage them. It's not going to be communication out. It will be communication in. And we're hoping to pioneer on all sorts of things, including ticketing.
DAVID BONDERMAN: I might just add at the moment we have great plans but we don't have an arena. We will. And it's not a good idea to sell tickets to something you don't have. It's been done before. But... (laughter).
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: How long was the prison sentence? (Laughter).
TOD LEIWEKE: I could answer that, but I won't. (Laughter).
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank God.
Q. Commissioner, can you walk us through the decision to move Arizona to the Central, please?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We thought it made the absolute most sense on a whole host of levels: Geographic rivalries, among the other teams in the Pacific. The fact that, for most of the season, Arizona is on Mountain Time, not Pacific Time. So in terms of the way broadcasts and the like, when you look at the matrix of scheduling, the difference between being in the same conference in division and out of division, it doesn't mean there would be a whole lot more travel and in fact our scheduling will ensure like we do with Tampa in the Atlantic, that it's a little more efficient.
And all things being concluded, not the least of which, believe it or not, the Coyotes draw better against Central Division teams than they do Pacific Division teams, we thought it made the most sense when we looked at all the other conceivable possibilities.
Q. Was there any commitment on the new building because of this relaxed schedule starting in 2021, does the NHL have a commitment with NHL Seattle about when the building should be completed? And secondly, is Metropolitans even considered as a name?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: First of all, I would quibble with your use of "relaxed schedule." I think what we're dealing with now is a realistic schedule. And based on everything we understand jointly it will be done well in advance -- the building will be done well in advance of the 2021/22 season. I don't like to speculate. And since Metropolitans hasn't been submitted to us as a possible name, I will reserve judgment. Although, it is worth noting we do have a division by that name. And so that was a long time ago.
TOD LEIWEKE: I'll just comment on the building opening. While the team might be starting in 2021, in the fall, we anticipate the building opening sometime in the first quarter, perhaps March, April, but this additional time we're going to put to good use, as David has said, we're going to refine technology.
There might be some opportunities to do further enhancement of design. But one thing we'll certainly do is be super responsible in how we construct this building and being good neighbors.
And we really pride ourselves on the work we've done there. But as the viaduct comes down, this is a chance to work around that and not feel the pressure of a seven-day, perhaps, 24-hour-a-day schedule. So we'll make really good use of every day. But I wouldn't say it's relaxed. We'll have to work really hard.
But we'll be open in spring and certainly in time for the Seattle Storm schedule. We're very proud that the Storm is going to be the other major tenant in the building.
Q. Mr. Bettman, just wondering if at 32 that's the ideal situation for the NHL, or is expansion still a possibility down the road?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I believe my colleague and partner, Mr. Daly, was quoted as saying there's no magic in 32. And I wouldn't disagree with that statement. However, we're not looking right now, and I think for the foreseeable future any further at any further expansion.
Q. Tod, when you look at 2021 now, does this change your timeline in terms of bringing a hockey operations department into Seattle, and does that adjust your targeting of, say, a position of general manager?
TOD LEIWEKE: I think part of the ownership group is we're extremely competitive. And we're here to win, and we want to win. So we're going to look at these timelines and see how this might be put to our advantage.
Certainly we'll be able to lay eyes on players for an additional season. There is certainly one model where you could bring on staff earlier, and I think ownership's proven they're willing to make investment.
So we're going to make the best use of this time. And I think ultimately we can say to our fans this is a good thing. Not only will the building be on time but we're going to be really sharp on the hockey side of things as well.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: And actually from the existing club standpoint, having certainty as of today lets everybody else plan with certainty for the expansion draft.
So I think from everybody's standpoint, this is going to work very well.
Q. Tod, we often speak about the Battle of Ontario, Battle of Alberta. Do you have a message to the Vancouver Canucks fans in what they can expect out of the Seattle team in the Battle of the Northwest?
TOD LEIWEKE: Well, Vancouver and Seattle share so much in common. Two absolutely glorious cities right on the water with the backdrop of mountains.
I think from a civic standpoint, this will create this incredible connection to our city sister only 130 miles to the north, or approximately 170 kilometers, I believe.
But there's going to be a built-in rivalry. And I don't want to stoke the flames here because those guys are my friends. But bring it on. We can't wait. That's going to be an intense rivalry, and it might be the one night I walk in the locker room and say to the boys, "Give it a little more tonight, guys. Let's go." (Laughter).
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: And I know the Canucks organization is very excited about this. Francesco Aquilini has expressed to me repeatedly how great he thinks it's going to be for Vancouver hockey to have a rivalry right down the road.
Very exciting. Congratulations, gentlemen. And welcome to the NHL.
DAVID BONDERMAN: Thank you, Commissioner. We're proud to be here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports