New York Islanders brand new continuing owner Jon Ledecky spent a Wednesday with the media, and a Thursday with the fans. Let’s look for some meaning in all of that.
Having watched the Thursday evening Town Hall with season ticket holders through Periscope, my first reaction was, “What a goofball”. Ledecky seemed to be trying way too hard to relate to the fans. His introduction of Sparky was painfully awkward, and even his declaration of Ranger hatred was silly. Welcomed, and fun. But
His introduction of the Islanders mascot Sparky was painfully awkward, and even his declaration of Ranger hatred was silly. Welcomed, and fun. But so Milbury that I rolled my eyes.But that critique is unfair. Or at the very least it’s incomplete. That’s my instant reaction to his style.
In fact, it’s probably my reaction to thinking, “That’s exactly the exuberant nerdy outburst I would display if my college roommate bought me the New York Islanders”. But what about substance?Let’s discuss the more meaningful things Ledecky said.
The twitter-verse is all aflutter with two of Ledecky’s most emotional declarations. First, he said he didn’t want to compete with Rangers, he wants to beat them. Another attempt at buying into the fans sense of authenticity. It’s good pep rally fodder. Nothing more.
Ledecky followed that up with his second emotional declaration: that Tavares will not reach free agency. To me, as much as I liked hearing it, I cringed. These are the kind of statements that come back to haunt you in sports. The Islanders didn’t get the better Lindros and the Mets didn’t play meaningful games in September as Mr. Wilpon promised. Some things are out of your control.
Speaking of control, Ledecky said the right things about leaving the hockey decisions to the hockey people. That sounds great, but Charles Wang mostly did that. In fact, John Spano did as well. So staying out of the GM’s way isn’t any guarantee of success.
We are also left to wonder about how Scott Malkin figures into the equation. On the one hand, Ledecky presented himself as the day-to-day CEO, who will delegate hockey ops to Garth Snow. But he also described Scott Malkin in the role of Board Chairman, who flies into town periodically to play hockey with the coaching staff.
I imagine there is a distinct probability that Mr. Malkin, after stealing a puck from Doug Weight and beating goalie Garth Snow glove side, might indulge in a post skate beer, and say something like, “You know who should be taking defensive zone faceoffs?” Which, I grant you, is better than, “Have you guys considered using a sumo wrestler in goal?”
However, between the two days, Ledecky did manage to throw out a few specifics that give me great hope. He told a story about how in Montreal they replace the glass every time there’s a blemish.
My family had season seats at the Coliseum for many years and I must have looked through a million scratches, divots, and discolorations from Section 104, row B, seat 2. So I get what he’s saying. That is the kind of customer service that engenders loyalty among a fan base.
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But as Ledecky said, it does more. It creates an atmosphere that excellence is the expectation, and that “good enough” isn’t good enough. And I like that Ledecky said he was on Yormark’s case about everything from the video presentation to further branding. Isn’t there some delicious irony that Yormark was getting lectured about branding?
Islanders a Premier Destination
Every new owner talks about “making our team the premier destination for free agents”, as through they were reading from Charles Wang’s legendary copy of “Hockey For Dummies”. But I heard real specifics from Ledecky about making day care available at the practice facility and about enhancing the family room at Barclays.
The bar isn’t high to be a great New York Islander owner. Win a few games while avoiding a felony conviction, and you’re in the top three. Spend money on the team without having the check bounce, and you’re in the top two.
For the first time in their history, the Islanders seem to have stable ownership, a profitable comfortable home arena, and a world-class practice facility. Add in a 25-year-old perennial MVP candidate and maybe this is the start of a golden age for the franchise.
Then again, as well all know as fans of the New York Islanders. Things do not always turn out the way we expect. We remember Alexei Yashin right? Some thought it might be the savior of Mike Millbury’s career. And they were wrong. Dead wrong.