NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jon Ledecky values the two-year transition period he and Scott Malkin had before taking over control of the New York Islanders this month.
Ledecky visited every NHL arena and met with about 20 team presidents, picking their brains about the best practices in running their franchises.
“Having those two years to learn and do that was very helpful,” Ledecky said Wednesday at a luncheon with local media.
Ledecky and Malkin, childhood friends and college roommates at Harvard, took over the majority stake in the Islanders on July 1 under a deal agreed to in 2014. Charles Wang, who bought the team in 2000, retains a minority stake.
“The way we bought the team, Commissioner (Gary) Bettman said that should be a model for other team sales,” Ledecky said. “We’re now in our third year, and in our third year we shouldn’t be making rookie mistakes.”
Ledecky, who intends to be more involved than Malkin in the business operations of the team, said he was able to subtly interact with fans at the arena and while traveling to games on the subway and Long Island Rail Road.
“I felt great to be able to be anonymous and be able to talk to them openly,” he said. “The fans want a winner. They want to know that you’re going to spend to the cap if you have to, to build a winner, which we are willing to do.”
The Islanders are coming off a successful first season in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after spending the franchise’s first 43 years at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum. They overcame injuries down the stretch to earn a playoff berth for the second straight year, and third in the past four, while reaching the 100-point mark in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1982. New York then beat Florida to win a postseason series for the first time since 1993 before losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the second round.
The Islanders will be a different team next season, having signed forwards Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and Pierre-Alexander Parenteau to replace departed longtime stars Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin. Ledecky said the franchise’s goal is to keep improving and win a Stanley Cup, but he won’t get involved in player personnel decisions. Those are left to general manager Garth Snow.
“You have to have full faith and confidence in your people,” Ledecky said. “You set the tone, you provide a budget — and in this case the budget is the cap at the NHL — and you hope that your GM and his team do the right thing.”
Ledecky acknowledged the growing pains in the transition to the new arena and pointed to the improvements made along the way, including the hiring of an outside company for game-day presentations — something Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark had disclosed in March.
“In the second half of the season we started seeing tweaks,” Ledecky said. “We started doing a little bit more with the scoreboard and tried to personalize the arena a little bit. Tried to understand how you made better ice, tried to reach out to experts in the NHL to help us with that.”
Ledecky also said he hopes Barclays hosts an NHL All-Star game someday.
“That means the ice has got to be great,” he said. “That means the fan experience has got to be great. That means the arena has to look like a hockey arena. We have to personalize it when we’re playing in it, we have to make it Islanders-centric.”
Asked whether there was a possibility the Islanders could play a handful of regular season games back at Nassau Coliseum once the arena’s renovations are complete — and at a reduced capacity than before — Ledecky said that would be a decision made by the NHL.
“No team owner has the right unilaterally or otherwise to go to the National Hockey League and say I’m playing games over here, I’m playing games over there,” he said. “That’s not an issue we’re involved in. That’s an issue the folks would have to take up with the Commissioner.”
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