When a team hits the ice in the National Hockey League, the most important people are the players and coaches. It is their decisions, actions and reactions that determine the outcome of the actual game, but long before the referee drops the puck, there are other people that play important roles for a successful franchise. The players and coach are selected by the general manager, who is in turn chosen by the ownership group. When it comes to the NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken are off to a strong start.
With sound financial footing and worldwide name recognition, the Kraken’s ownership group will be the envy of many teams around the league. The impressive waitlist for season seats means that the team will not struggle to attract fans in the early stages, playing in front of a mostly empty rink. Instead, there will be a full house, with raucous fans adding a vibrant atmosphere to home games. In a gate-driven league like the NHL, that’s important because it will mean the Kraken can spend to the cap if they need to do so without relying on ownership’s deep pockets.
We are still around a year away from having actual games played in the Climate Pledge Arena. Back when the Kraken were still the “Seattle Hockey Team,” my fellow writer, Anthony Barberio, wrote up a quick bio on each of the three principal owners, David Bonderman, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Tod Leiweke. He surmises that Bonderman has the deepest pockets and Leiweke is the sporting brains of the operation, but, to me, Bruckheimer is the interesting one.
Bruckheimer is a Household Name
Born on Sept. 21, 1943, Bruckheimer has been a Hollywood staple for 50 of his 77 years. His love of sport is well documented and rivalled only by his love of film. You can expect him to regularly attend Kraken home games at Climate Pledge Arena. With a net worth of over a billion dollars and more than 40 Oscar nominations to his name, it’s clear why he is often referred to as the most powerful person in Hollywood.
Jerry Bruckheimer brings elite fame to the Seattle Kraken ownership group. As a household name, his involvement in the expansion bidding process turned heads when it was first announced. He is also known to be a good friend of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and while that shouldn’t officially matter, it’s very possible that he picked up the phone and called the commish at some point looking for tips on how to turn the group’s initial bid from a concept into an actual franchise.
From the Arena to the Silver Screen
There are potential marketing advantages for the NHL by having Bruckheimer so closely tied to the sport of hockey. While he is perhaps most famous for his blockbuster action movies, the producer does have a number of sports-themed film credits as well, including famous titles such as “Remember the Titans” and “Days of Thunder.” His filmography has an obvious gap where hockey is concerned, and the right movie can galvanize an industry (just ask the cruise ship industry what happened after Titanic came out). It could be a perfect fit.
The plot for a hit hockey movie almost writes itself. It could be the story of a hard-partying Russian superstar who finally captures the Cup late in his career, or a journeyman tough guy who gets sent to the All-Star Game by an internet prank, only to end up winning Most Valuable Player honours. A top-notch producer like Bruckheimer can bring these stories to life on the big screen and the league will only benefit from the attention.
Seattle Isn’t Bruckheimer’s First Shot at NHL Ownership
The filmmaker has been repeatedly tied to ownership bids over the years before successfully landing the Seattle franchise. In 2006, when the Pittsburgh Penguins were on the block, there was talk that he might purchase the team right up until former star Mario Lemieux entered the picture. Before Bill Foley was awarded the franchise that became the Vegas Golden Knights, Bruckheimer and fellow Seattle owner Tod Lieweke expressed interest there as well. Finally, after adding David Bonderman to their group, they landed the Kraken.
Related: NHL Owners: Who Are They?
It’s doubtful that Bruckheimer will be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the team, which is not only the right decision but something one wishes for with any owner. The correlation between heavily involved ownership and organizational struggles is quite strong across professional sport, with few exceptions. Having hired an established and competent general manager like Ron Francis, the best strategy for all the owners will be to simply enjoy the games and help the team (and league) in other ways.