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Seattle to join NHL in 2021 after being awarded expansion slot

As was widely expected, the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with the as yet unnamed team set to join in 2021 instead of 2020 to allow enough time for stadium renovations.

To accommodate the new team, the NHL will realign its two divisions in the Western Conference for the 2021-22 season. Seattle will play in the Pacific Division, home to its closest geographic rivals Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose, while the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division.

Renovations at KeyArena – which are now expected to cost $800m  (€706m) – will begin on Wednesday.

“When you include the cost of re-imagining and building Seattle Center Arena, this is a transaction with a value of approximately $1.4bn,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Which shows incredible commitment by everyone involved – commitment not just to the NHL but also to the city of Seattle.”

Team president and chief executive Tod Leiweke said that the organisation will “take our time” over a team name.

Houston, Quebec City and Toronto have all been touted as other possible expansion cities but Bettman said: “We’re not looking right now and I think for the foreseeable future at any further expansion.”