Backers of NHL team in Seattle hope for decision in June
SEATTLE (AP) — Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer has been hosting hockey games for a quarter-century. Now he wants to do it on a much bigger scale.
The filmmaker of “Flashdance,” ″Beverly Hills Cop” and “Top Gun” fame joined his partners — billionaire David Bonderman and Oak View Group Chief Executive Tim Leiweke — on Wednesday in discussing for the first time publicly why they’re trying to bring a professional hockey team to Seattle.
One answer, they said, is that the city deserves one: It’s been more than a century since the old Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup, and a decade since Seattle’s last major men’s professional winter sports franchise, basketball’s SuperSonics, bolted for Oklahoma City. Seattle is the biggest market in the nation without a major winter sports team.
But Bruckheimer has also been a big hockey fan since The Great One — Wayne Gretzky — moved from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in the early 1990s. Bruckheimer met Gretzky at a party, and Gretzky arranged for him to get season tickets. Having season tickets, Bruckheimer decided to take skating lessons. And having taken skating lessons, he decided to get some friends together to play hockey on Sunday nights. They’ve been playing ever since.
“It’s something I get so much joy out of watching and doing,” he said. “I’m still playing the sport — poorly — but I get out there with a bunch of the guys and do it every week. That’s really nice, to carry something that long in your life.”
The group submitted its application for an expansion team with the National Hockey League this month and said Wednesday they hope to hear in June whether it’s accepted. In the meantime, they’re embarking Thursday on a season-ticket-deposit drive meant to demonstrate the city’s interest in a team. They declined to say how many deposits would constitute a successful drive, saying they don’t know how many NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expects them to sell.
The deposits run $500 for season tickets or $1,000 for club season tickets, which are center ice, lower-level tickets.
They’re also planning to renovate KeyArena, where the Sonics used to play, to the tune of $660 million — including $20 million in acoustic treatment requested by Seattle’s beloved Pearl Jam — and if they’re approved, the league expansion fee will run approximately $650 million, all privately financed. They say if everything goes according to plan they’ll have an NHL team ready for the 2020-21 season.
“We’re taking the risk; we’re putting up the money,” Leiweke said. “There is no risk to the taxpayer.”
He added that an environmental review is about half complete and has turned up “no game-changers.”
Bonderman, who graduated from the University of Washington and Harvard Law School before embarking on a career in private equity, would be the principal owner of the team, though he said he wouldn’t be involved in day-to-day operations. As a part-owner of the Boston Celtics, he said he has learned how fun running a sports team could be.
“It shows you what you can do with the right kind of team, the right kind of spirit, and how much people appreciate having the ability to go see these kind of games,” he said.