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Islanders' new co-owner focused on lifting Cup

by Brian Compton / New York Islanders

NEW YORK -- The passion was oozing from Jon Ledecky during his first meeting with reporters since becoming a co-majority owner of the New York Islanders on July 1.

Ledecky, 58, met with members of the New York media Wednesday to discuss his intentions for a franchise coming off its first series win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 23 years. Along with his best friend for four decades (co-owner Scott Malkin, who did not attend), Ledecky is driven to make the Islanders a team every player will want to be a part of.

"We should be the world-class destination for free agents," Ledecky said. "You think about a [salary-cap] world, everybody can spend to the cap, and we certainly have no constraints on our GM and our staff to spend. We want to create and continue to progress towards John Tavares lifting that Stanley Cup, so we should be world-class in everything we do."

In a unique situation, Ledecky and Malkin bought into the Islanders as minority owners two years ago, with Charles Wang remaining as majority owner. The power shifted to Ledecky and Malkin on July 1, and Wang will stay on as a minority owner.

Ledecky will be at Barclays Center on Thursday to meet with Islanders season-ticket holders. Now that the power has shifted, he knows he will peppered with questions from fans on a daily basis after spending the past two seasons picking their brains, somewhat incognito.

"I want to be out there and I want to hear what the fans have to say," Ledecky said. "Being invisible for two years, your picture's not in the newspaper or online. I've talked to hundreds of fans anonymously and not posing as the owner, just posing as a fan. Sometimes wearing a coat and tie, so a couple of times they thought that I was the usher and asked where the seats were."

On the same day Ledecky and Malkin became majority owners, they publically put their faith in Islanders general manager Garth Snow, who has held the position for 10 years. With Tavares leading the way, New York finally won a playoff series, defeating the Florida Panthers in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round. Ledecky said he admires how Snow has built the Islanders through the NHL Draft, led by Tavares, the No. 1 pick in 2009.

"I think Garth has put together an organization over time, first with some constraints and now with the ability to spend that has over the last two years has been eighth in the League in terms of total points," Ledecky said. "He has put together a group that continues to mix and match the players you need to win a Stanley Cup. I think what you saw in Pittsburgh this year is instructive, right? Who scored some of the winning goals? Rookies. Who was the goaltender? A rookie. You look at our farm system, I think developing players has been excellent and I think they're doing a great job.

"To get in the middle of that, to start expressing opinions about this player or that player, it's a recipe for disaster. You have to support the organization. What's the standard? We won the first round, we went to the second round (losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games). The standard this year has to be we've got to win the second round and go to the third round. Eventually, you've got to hoist the Stanley Cup, because that's what the fans demand. They demand that excellence on the ice and off the ice."

The Islanders spent their first 43 years in the NHL at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., before moving to Barclays Center last season. Some fans have been hopeful that they will move back, but Ledecky said it has turned the page. He sympathizes with those who are disappointed with the move but is driven to find more ways to help them get to Brooklyn.

"Barclays Center is our home," Ledecky said. "There's all sorts of things out there about playing games [at the Coliseum]. The NHL has pretty a strict rule that they set the schedule, not us. We have to make Barclays the new home of the Islanders and make it the best experience. That does mean making sure the fans don't have an excuse not to come. So if the excuse is the Long Island Rail Road is not providing optimal service, I've got to fix that. If the suggestion is run buses from the parking lot of the old Nassau Coliseum, I've got to look into that.

"What I love is the fans come to me with all these ideas and I try to run them down. But we are meeting consistently with Barclays and Long Island Rail Road. They ran extra trains for the playoffs. I said to the head of Long Island Rail Road, 'How come you can't do that during the regular season?' They said, 'Maybe we can.' Brick at a time, try to build things to transition the fans and transition the notion that Nassau is wonderful in history, but we're building new history in Brooklyn and making sure that fans in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, the metropolitan area, they know that they can come and they're going to have a welcoming, safe, enjoyable family experience."

Ledecky hopes last season was the start of something memorable in Brooklyn.

"John Tavares scoring that overtime goal [in Game 6 against Florida], I mean, you could have blown the roof off the top of that place," he said. "Winning fixes a lot of things, but you still in a world where there's a sports dollar that's being competed for, you have to supply your stockholders, who are the fans, you've got to supply them with a world-class experience."

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