Bruck­heimer’s hockey dream

The Observer (Sarnia) - - SPORTS - JOSHUA CLIP­PER­TON

Jerry Bruck­heimer says he’s had a cam­era in his hand since the age of six.

Around the same time, the fu­ture Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer also got a first taste of hockey.

“My dad took me to a Red Wings game and I sat in the rafters there and looked down on some of the great play­ers who were play­ing in those days,” Bruck­heimer re­called of grow­ing up in Detroit watch­ing Gordie Howe and his team­mates. “I got very ex­cited about the sport.”

But, as the years passed and the movie mogul’s ca­reer took off, Bruck­heimer drifted away from the game un­til the trade that shook hockey brought the Great One to Cal­i­for­nia.

“When Wayne Gret­zky came to Los An­ge­les I started tak­ing skat­ing les­sons and have been play­ing ever since,” he said. “I get up and down the ice as slowly as pos­si­ble, but I still get there.”

A fre­quent at­tendee of Kings games, the 75-year-old will soon be even closer to the ac­tion as a mi­nor­ity owner with Seat­tle’s new NHL team after the league ap­proved the city’s ex­pan­sion bid at this week’s board of gover­nors meet­ings.

“It’s ex­cit­ing and daunt­ing and scary and all the things,” Bruck­heimer added after the an­nounce­ment in Sea Is­land, Ga. “You just want to do right for Seat­tle, and bring great play­ers and hope­fully pick a name where we won’t get too many peo­ple mad at us. That’s the daunt­ing chal­lenge that we have, but we know that Seat­tle has the great­est fans.

“We’re go­ing to ed­u­cate the ones that don’t un­der­stand hockey on what a won­der­ful sport it is.”

The league’s 32nd team will start play­ing in the pre­vi­ously-un­tapped U.S. Pa­cific North­west be­gin­ning in 2021-22.

Cur­rently shoot­ing a se­quel to the 1986 block­buster movie Top Gun, Bruck­heimer could barely con­tain his ex­cite­ment ahead of Seat­tle get­ting the of­fi­cial thumbs from the NHL, snap­ping pic­tures of the me­dia with his dig­i­tal cam­era be­fore com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman’s of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment at a packed press con­fer­ence.

He said af­ter­wards that join­ing bil­lion­aire ma­jor­ity owner David Bon­der­man’s group push­ing for a team in Seat­tle was a no-brainer.

“It’s a phe­nom­e­nal city, it’s got a great work force, it’s got a very young work force, it’s got some of the great­est sports fans in the world,” he said. “Ev­ery time I turn a Sea­hawks game on I see how ra­bid their fans are.”

Seat­tle team pres­i­dent and CEO Tod Lei­weke said there was in­cred­i­ble an­tic­i­pa­tion be­fore meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the league’s other 31 teams fol­low­ing the unan­i­mous vote.

“We’re out­side the door. We heard our video play­ing. We thought, ‘Well, that’s a good sign,’ be­cause I al­ways get goose bumps when I see that video,” Lei­weke said. “We walked in and there was love and warmth and it felt just right.”

While the NHL’s ex­pan­sion to Seat­tle seemed like a slam dunk from the out­side, Bruck­heimer said he wasn’t count­ing on any­thing un­til get­ting the of­fi­cial word.

“I don’t be­lieve any­thing un­til it’s done,” Bruck­heimer. “You have dis­ap­point­ments when you get your hopes up and it doesn’t hap­pen. To­day was it. When they called us in that room and said ‘con­grat­u­la­tions,’ then I knew we were there.”

Seat­tle’s NHL team is ex­pected to be­gin the process of fill­ing its hockey op­er­a­tions staff as early as next spring or sum­mer, but don’t ex­pect Bruck­heimer to be a med­dling owner.

“I leave it to pro­fes­sion­als,” he said with a smile. “We try to hire re­ally good peo­ple to run the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Smart peo­ple stay out of it (and) let the peo­ple who know what they’re do­ing do it.”

AP FILES

Co-own­ers Jerry Bruck­heimer, from left, and David Bon­der­man pose with Tod Lei­weke ear­lier this year in Seat­tle. The NHL Board of Gover­nors has given fi­nal ap­proval to Seat­tle’s bid to add the league’s 32nd team.

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