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Incoming Islanders owners to continue Wang's vision

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky will spend the next two years getting a hands-on course on how to run the New York Islanders. Their teacher: current owner Charles Wang.

Malkin and Ledecky were introduced Wednesday as the incoming owners of the Islanders. They will hold a minority interest in the team for two seasons before taking over as majority owners, with Wang retaining a minority interest.

"Life has its moments of opportunity, and you have to decide whether you're going to step forward," Malkin said when asked why he and Ledecky wanted to buy a franchise that has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once since 2007 and hasn't won a series since 1993. "Charles gave us that opportunity. For us, we saw this as a moment that we could embrace things that we believed in and embrace the Islanders and what they stand for.

"The vision that Charles has created of the team, the new arena, the strength on which to build, those were very important to us."

Under terms of the agreement, Wang will still be majority owner during the franchise's final season at Nassau Coliseum and the first season at Barclays Center, where the Islanders will play beginning in 2015-16.

"It’s Charles' vision. It's Charles' team," Malkin said when asked about the extended transition. "What I've realized even in the few short weeks that we've been owners is how much we still need to learn. What I admire greatly about Charles' approach is that he's focused on what's best for the team, the future of the team; a smooth transition and a partnership lend themselves to that.

"I'm learning every day from Charles, and I see how valuable this kind of transition is."

Ledecky, a Manhattan investor, was a part-owner of the Washington Capitals before selling his interest to majority owner Ted Leonsis in 2001. He and Malkin, who owns upscale shopping centers in Europe, have been friends for more than 30 years.

"I had a great experience with Ted Leonsis," Ledecky said. "Ted taught me an incredible amount in two years. I think Scott and I feel the same way about Charles; he's got 14 years of knowledge, of being part of the NHL, and during that 14 years [when] I've been out of the League, the League has changed enormously. Conditioning, players, stats, the use of analytics; there's so much to learn, so much to absorb. I think Scott and I feel really good about having this two-year transition to learn it.

"I think the fact that we're going to be on a listening tour, listening to the fans, listening to what we can do to enhance the experience for hockey fans as we move to Brooklyn and making sure that our loyal and devoted fan base that's been built over 40 years has a smooth transition."

Wang and Sanjay Kumar bought the Islanders in 2000; Wang became the sole owner four years later. He has negotiated with several potential buyers before this sale, and explained why he felt this was a good time to sell.

"The quality of the people to be a partner," he said. "You know how I feel about the Islanders, what we've tried to do, how we've worked at it. To have the opportunity in life to pass the baton on to people you believe and trust; we've had lots of interest in the Islanders for a long time, but I believe and I heartily support [that] these are the right people to be partners and take this to the next step."

Ledecky said owning a franchise whose history includes four Stanley Cups from 1980-83 but which has struggled for most of the past two decades (though it's off to a 4-2-0 start this season) is about more than money.

"For me, it's all about community service," he said. "I think that a team is the fabric of a community, and you can do things through a sports team that are difficult to do otherwise. There's so much that a team can do to forward a community's agenda. It's a place where fans of all different economic strata can get together and come together in a community.

"For me, it's an opportunity to do good, do well and put a winning team on the ice."

The move to Brooklyn will present the challenge of attracting fans from Nassau and Suffolk counties, most of whom are accustomed to driving to the Coliseum, to make the train trip to their new home, a facility that Wang called "above first-class."

"We're looking to do what's best for the team," Malkin said. "The move to Barclays [Center], the expanded fan base, that's fundamental to the opportunity for the team."

Ledecky knows it's a formidable task, but one he thinks a winning team and off-ice efforts by the franchise can accomplish.

"I think the fans will follow us if we follow them," Ledecky said. "We have to make sure that behind the scenes we're working with all the different authorities to make it a breeze to come from this part of Long Island to Brooklyn. If we do that, then the fans follow with us.

"I don't want to lose one single fan. I want them to come and migrate with us, if at all possible, and I think we need to be doing things that are effective to make that a reality."

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