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Leiweke brothers join Bettman on NHL Hour

Thursday, 11.04.2010 / 7:43 PM / NHL Insider

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Leiweke brothers join Bettman on NHL Hour
If Thursday night's matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings wasn't intriguing enough for the fact it features the team with the most points in the Eastern Conference against the team with the most points in the Western Conference, or the individual battle between the top two picks in the 2008 Entry Draft, Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, an additional storyline was front and center on Thursday's NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Kings governor Tim Leiweke and his brother, Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, were guests on the program, doing a three-way conference call with Bettman, who made sure to pose the type of questions that would bring out their good-natured sibling rivalry -- such as how competitive they were with one another.

"Well, up until now, not very competitive," Tim said. "But now it's personal."

Both brothers have had long careers as sports executives not only in the NHL, but other major sports as well. Tod had a stint working in the front office of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and used it as a welcome respite from having to go head to head with Tim.

"When I was in the NFL it was kind of a nice break because prior to that I had been with the Minnesota Wild and for whatever reason we seemed to have the L.A. Kings' number," Tod said. "And so there was a little tension in my relationship with my brother. It went away for about eight seasons and now it's back."

Tim promptly retorted: "For the record, Commissioner, everyone had our number back then … so he's acting like that's a great feat. Now he comes in and he's in the League for a matter of months and he finds himself in first place, and after we've had to rebuild the organization and spend all this time getting to the point we're at, I'm looking at him going, well it shows who has the intelligence in the family."

On a more serious note, the Leiwekes spoke about how the work ethic was instilled in them as youths and the difficult life lessons they learned watching both their mother and stepmother die of cancer.

"I think what it did is it ingrained a tremendous work ethic," Tim said. "We were a combination of the dog in the pond, swimming hard and doing the dogpaddle to stay alive, and the little baby seal who doesn't know any better but to keep on sticking its nose out of the water.

"And so I think the one trait we were both very fortunate to have learned at an early age through real-life experience is that work ethic is first and foremost. You can be the most intelligent human being in the world and not have work ethic, and you're not necessarily going to succeed. You can be the dumbest person in the world and work very hard and you've still got a really good shot."

Work ethic has certainly played a role in the rapid development of both Stamkos and Doughty from rookies to elite players in the NHL -- Stamkos was a co-winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy last season after tying Sidney Crosby for the goal-scoring lead in his second season, while Doughty found himself a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman, the second-youngest ever to be nominated behind the great Bobby Orr.

"If you look at Stamkos," Tim said, "what I think is a great tribute to the Lightning is they hung in there with him. He didn't have the world's greatest first year, and a lot of people were down on him and then he started ripping it up last year -- and I have to say, in my opinion, he right now is probably the MVP if you look at what he's meant to that team.

"And on our side, we've been very fortunate that we ended up with the second pick and we end up with a kid like Drew Doughty. And now we get a chance to take a young, 20-, 21-year-old kid and build a franchise around him."

Bettman also welcomed in as a guest U.S. hockey great Cammi Granato, who on Monday will join Canadian standout Angela James as the first two women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Granato called it an honor she couldn't have even conceived of growing up.

"I just never really thought about it. It was a very, obviously, prestigious club and a place reserved for the legends of the game," she said. "I never really thought about it until the media started talking about it. I'm just really thankful that we're included to be in the Hall. It's really great for the game of hockey and I'm very honored that I'm in the first class."

The two battled plenty of times for their respective countries on the world stage, but Granato said she didn't really get to know James personally until more recently, when they were inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall of Fame together and bonded over being moms.

"As a player, it was at the time when (the U.S. and Canada) were bitter rivals and she was at the forefront of that for her team," Granato said. "She was such a leader on the ice. She played with this extreme intensity … she was one of the players where you knew when she was out there. She just had this presence about her.

"She's kind of like a Mark Messier -- just so physical, so intense, really intimidating. I remember facing off against her a lot and one time I beat her, I was really excited I beat her on a faceoff, and she turned around and whacked me right across the back of the legs. And I was like, 'Oh my God, she does not like getting beat.' She's just so competitive."

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