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A rendering of hockey being played in Seattle’s redesigned KeyArena. (Oak View Group Image)

OK, the Sonics aren’t coming back (just yet), but Seattle moved a step closer to giving hockey geeks (raise your hand — are you out there?) a reason to celebrate on Thursday when the NHL announced how it feels about an expansion franchise in the city.

According to various reports — and tweets from Pierre LeBrun, a hockey guru for Canada’s The Sports Network — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the league’s Board of Governors meetings in Florida Thursday that the process for expansion in Seattle has begun.

And it’s not cheap.

The news follows this weeks Seattle City Council vote to approve a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the Oak View Group, which plans to renovate KeyArena, the former home of the NBA’s SuperSonics in the city’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.

There’s no guarantee that Seattle will land a professional hockey team, but it’s now up to sports fans in the rapidly growing city to demonstrate that they’d be willing to support a team — beyond the Seahawks or the Mariners — with their season-ticket dollars.

As The Seattle Times reported on Tuesday, Seattle was once home to the Stanley Cup-winning Metropolitans. Whether that name, from 1917, can rise again with a new franchise remains to be seen. A poll on the newspaper’s website showed the name Totems edging Metropolitans, Thunderbirds and Silvertips.

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