The NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league's 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with play set to begin in 2021 to allow enough time for arena renovations.
The as-yet unnamed franchise will be the Emerald City's first major winter sports team since the NBA's SuperSonics left town in 2008.
"Today is an exciting and historic day for our league as we expand to one of North America's most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL."
The announcement came a few moments after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan let the news slip at a watch party in Seattle, prompting cheers: "I got a call from a mole in the room and it was a unanimous vote. We're getting hockey."
The decision was widely expected after the Seattle Hockey Partners group impressed the board's executive committee in October with a plan that had all the ingredients the NHL was looking for. Strong ownership led by billionaire David Bonderman and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, a downtown arena in a sports-crazed city and a season-ticket drive that drummed up 10,000 orders in 12 minutes all cleared the way for the NHL to add another team less than three years after approving a franchise in Las Vegas.
The owners will pay a $650 million expansion fee, up from the $500 million the Vegas Golden Knights paid to join the league. The NHL will also realign its two divisions in the West for the 2021-22 season: Seattle will play the Pacific, home to its closest geographic rivals like Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose, and the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division.
The remarkable debut by Vegas in 2017, which included a run to the Stanley Cup Final, gave the league more confidence about moving forward so quickly.