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Potential NHL Seattle owners Jerry Bruckheimer, David Bonderman and Tim Leiweke. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Seattle has a special place in the heart of famed movie and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Before franchises like Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean and CSI helped turn Bruckheimer into a Hollywood icon, one of his first big hits, American Gigolo, got its first preview showing here. Now, more than 35 years later, Bruckheimer is chasing arguably his biggest blockbuster yet: bringing an NHL team to Seattle.

“This opportunity doesn’t happen very often, when there is a team actually available or the league wants to put a team somewhere,” Bruckheimer said in an interview with GeekWire.

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Bruckheimer is part of an ownership group that includes Tim Leiweike, who heads Oak View Group, the organization re-developing Key Arena; and David Bonderman, a billionaire businessman who is minority owner of the Boston Celtics and a University of Washington alum. The three of them are in Seattle ahead of a ticket drive this morning, where the owners will get to bolster their case for an NHL expansion team in a renovated Key Arena at Seattle Center for the 2020-21 season.

UPDATE, 11:20 a.m.: More than 25,000 people have put down deposits for the first shot at buying tickets.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights, the last NHL expansion team, sold 5,000 deposits during the first two days of its 2015 ticket drive and hit its goal of 10,000 deposits in about six weeks.

Leiweike, Bruckheimer and Bonderman know from experience how hard it is to land an NHL team. In 2007, Bruckheimer and Bonderman were prepared to invest in an NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, while Leiweike, then with sports and entertainment powerhouse AEG, was working to get an arena built. The recession halted those plans, and the project was dropped in 2010. An arena did eventually get built, and it is now home to a team that many consider the most successful expansion franchise in U.S. history, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

A look inside a future hockey setup at Key Arena. (Oak View Group Rendering)

Bruckheimer said he also briefly pursued the Anaheim Ducks and later the Pittsburgh Penguins before the team drafted franchise player Sidney Crosby in 2005.

Bruckheimer marveled at the changes Seattle has undergone since he previewed American Gigolo here in the 1980s. He said it feels like an entirely different city, with a forest of cranes dotting the skyline and an ever-growing highly educated population.

“I love the excitement in the streets; how young the workforce is and how intelligent the workforce is,” Bruckheimer said. “The attitude of the people, the intelligence of the people in the city is better than just about anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place, and I can’t wait to spend more time here as we put this together.”

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Bruckheimer, a life-long hockey fan, demurred when I asked him about what kind of theatrical elements from his background he wants to bring to the new arena and steered the conversation back to a season ticket drive happening today. Hockey fans have the opportunity to put down a $500 deposit in order to lock down an opportunity to be among the first buyers for tickets if a team comes to town.

Should the NHL approve OVG’s bid to bring a team to Seattle, Bruckheimer might be as happy as any fan. He grew up going to Detroit Red Wings games with his father, though he lost track of the game as his career took off. But in the 1990s, he met Wayne Gretzky when he played for the L.A. Kings. That meeting rekindled his love for the game, and motivated him to learn how to skate.

Bruckheimer has been a fixture at L.A. Kings games, seeing first-hand the excitement that Stanley Cup victories can bring to a city. When he’s not watching the NHL, Bruckheimer is playing in a regular weekly Sunday night game. He even built a three-on-three rink in a barn at his farm in Kentucky.

His preferred position? “Anything going forward. I can’t skate backward, so I can’t play defense.”

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