The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics came to a close Sunday, but one gold medalist left a lasting impression on the New York Islanders.
United States swimmer Katie Ledecky, niece of Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky, grew up a Washington Capitals fan as a Bethesda, Md., native and adopted the Islanders when her uncle became a majority owner on July 1. And seeing her accomplishments in Rio (four gold medals, one silver and world records in two events) has given the Islanders plenty of inspiration.
"One of the players texted me, 'Katie's got her gold medals, now we have to get us a Stanley Cup,'" Jon Ledecky told NHL.com.
Ledecky is going into his first season as a co-owner of the Islanders after being a minority owner for the past two seasons. He hopes his niece's five Olympic medals sparks a run for a team in search of its fifth Stanley Cup championship.
"She's an example to all of us," he said. "She's certainly an example to me. I think it's extraordinary when a person in my age group can learn from a 19-year-old, and I think that's what sticks out for me; the way she conducted herself before the race and after the race and the uniform feedback from the media, which was, 'Wow what a special person.'"
Jon Ledecky traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the rest of his family to watch Katie compete, as he's done on previous occasions, and even got air time on NBC in a clip that circulated on social media of him and Katie's mother, Mary Gen, watching Katie win the 200-freestyle race.
The family was nervous about that race because her most dominant events were the 400- and 800-meter freestyle, rather than the sprint. Ledecky said Katie's father and brother were so anxious they went to a different area of the arena to watch.
"You can see from my reaction, I'm just like, 'Go go go,' and she wins and I'm jumping up and down, looking for her mother to give me a piggyback ride, it looked like on TV," he said. "We didn't know we were on TV, obviously. We were just in the moment, but that was the big race."
Islanders players were watching too and took notice of Jon's enthusiasm.
"We are lucky to have great owners that are extremely passionate about the team," forward Anders Lee said. "I've seen [co-owner] Charles [Wang] celebrate after we score a goal as if he's sitting in the seats with the diehards. Now, witnessing Jon's passion for Katie during her races, and then his excitement after she won was great to see, and I look forward to seeing him do the same when we score goals this season."
The Islanders also sent their well wishes and congratulations to Jon via text message as Katie dominated races and collected medals.
Video: Islanders' owner Jon Ledecky on niece, Katie Ledecky
"It's inspiring to see any athlete dominate their sport as Katie Ledecky did at the Olympics," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "The fact that she is American and we have a small connection with her because of our owner Jon, made it even more fun to watch."
Katie cemented her Islanders fandom in a moment that didn't make the cameras. During a ceremony after one of her events, she spotted Jon in the stands and did the Islanders' "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant.
Aside from Katie's success and work ethic (Jon said that even after winning gold medals, she was back in the pool practicing and the last one to leave at night), the players admired her humility and quiet confidence, traits they could see in themselves and hope will translate into similar success.
"What was impressive was her poise in the pool and then her reaction after shattering several world records," Lee said. "There were points on TV where you couldn't even see her competition behind her because they were so far back. That just speaks to her training and desire to be the best."