The NHL Board of Governors has voted to expand to 32 teams, with a Seattle franchise beginning play in 2021. Photo courtesy NHL.

The NHL Board of Governors has voted to expand to 32 teams, with a Seattle franchise beginning play in 2021. Photo courtesy NHL.

The NHL is officially coming to Seattle.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced approval by the board of governors to expand to the Emerald City for the league’s 32nd team following meetings Tuesday.

The new Seattle franchise was unanimously approved in the governors’ vote and will begin play in the 2021-22 NHL season.

Seattle’s ownership group led by billionaire David Bonderman and a number of minority partners, including Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, will pay an expansion fee of US$650 million.

The Vegas Golden Knights, which began play in the NHL last season, paid an expansion fee of $500 million in 2016.

With Seattle joining the NHL, the governors approved a new division alignment with the new club joining the Vancouver Canucks and other rivals in the Pacific division.

The Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central division and with 32 teams, the NHL will have an even split of 16 teams between the Western and Eastern Conferences.

Prior to the vote, Seattle is the largest U.S. market that does not have an NHL or NBA franchise.

In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup by defeating the Montreal Canadiens.

A ground-breaking ceremony is expected Wednesday morning in downtown Seattle with a $700 million renovation planned for Key Arena, the former home of the NBA’s SuperSonics before they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

There are also plans to construct a $70 million practice facility.

A season-ticket drive to gauge interest on a new team saw 32,000 deposits, including 10,000 bought in the first 12 minutes after the NHL said it would consider the ownership group’s expansion application.

Thirty NHL teams, minus Vegas, will split the $650 million expansion fee.

The Knights will be exempt from the expansion draft.

The Knights set a high bar for the new Seattle franchise to reach in its first season.

In their inaugural year, Vegas went all the way to the Stanley Cup championship series before falling to the eventual champion Washington Capitals.

With files from the Canadian Press.

CHEK