Kukla's Korner Hockey
Entries with the tag: craig leipold
from Dan Myers of Wild.com,
DM: You became the majority owner of the Wild in 2008. After a few years outside the playoffs, the club has now reached the postseason five straight years. Would you say the bar has been raised for this franchise, in terms of your expectations for it on a yearly basis?
CL: The bar is higher. I mean, five in a row, comes within what we consider to be "elite status." There aren't many teams that have done that. Even though our history has been really good, and our present is great, the next five years look to be phenomenal as well. We've got a great, young core of players and we've got young guys, prospects coming up that look like they're going to be outstanding NHL players. So we're all excited. The bar is higher for us, not only for our fans, but for our team, the players, the bar is higher and for management, the bar is higher.
DM: After a historic regular season and with a bunch of guys coming off career-best years, is this as excited as you've been heading into the playoffs?
CL: Yeah. Playoffs are crazy. All teams step up and there's a great formula for being successful in the playoffs: staying healthy, having great goaltending and scoring goals. If we can do that, and I think this is certainly the best team I've ever had here, we have that kind of organization and teamwork that I feel really confident in. We can have a lot of fun this year and make a lot of noise.
from Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press,
So does Leipold think the pieces are in place for a legitimate Stanley Cup run?
“Who knows?” said Leipold. “They could be. I’ve seen things from this team that I’ve never seen from this team before. …. We have to continue to build on that. This could be the year.”...
Leipold, who bought the team in January 2008, is as happy as he’s ever been, and rightfully so as his team has as good a chance as any to hoist the Stanley Cup.
“It’s been crazy fun,” Leipold said. “Things have gone so well. … It’s been a fun ride so far.”
And should the Wild come up short this season, Leipold is confident in the foundation that’s in place for prolonged success.
“I feel like the window is open,” he said. “I feel like it’s open for a number of years going forward. I like the direction our team is going. We are going to be in this for a long time.”
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
With his team suddenly on a hot streak and his longtime dream of bringing an outdoor NHL game to the State of Hockey about to become reality, Craig Leipold was one giddy owner Saturday.
As the Wild’s head honcho sat in his suite watching the alumni game, Leipold looked left, looked right and suddenly blurted out: “I’m like a little kid. We came out for the 1 o’clock practice, and I’ve got to tell you, I could not have been happier to see all the activity going on. … It was just so cool. They’re having fun, I’m having fun. Just a great time.”
Saturday was the first time Leipold spoke publicly since the firing of coach Mike Yeo a week earlier. The Wild returned home on Thursday night following a 3-0 road trip under interim coach John Torchetti.
“Even to this day, we’re going to make the playoffs. I’ve felt it all along,” Leipold said. “The decision that was made had to be made. Winning those three games has given us new life. It has reenergized our team, our organization, our fans. This is just a good time now culminating into this event as Torch’s first game.
“I mean, wow.”
Given that 1. One Craig Leipold's pals in the media penned a set of "feeler" articles stating that he would not be out-bid for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise's services, given that 2. Leipold signed the players to lockout-proof contracts and then complained about player costs hampering his business, while he played one of the pivotal owners' roles during the third owners' lockout, and given that 3. the Pioneer Press's Charley Walters posited what is sure to be the first of several, "Leipold won't be out-bid on Vanek, either" not-quite-collusion "feelers"...
I'm not exactly a fan of the warm fuzzies written about a man who spent $196 million on two players and then decided to lament the spending practices of the other guys...
But the "warm fuzzies" continue to flow, and the Star-Tribune's Patrick Reusse spoke with Leipold about the concept that signing Suter and Parise was a community as well as a business decision:
“When we talk in our organization about what is our strategic plan, our plan is to win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “We made a step last year. Now we need to make another step this year. We can’t trade any of our young players that we think are going to be a huge part of winning that Stanley Cup. We were able to accomplish that and still get a great player [Moulson] and a player who we think can take us to another step. That’s why we did the trade. It’s not so we make the playoffs, it’s so we get to go further.”
-Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild. More from Leipold by Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
from Bob Sensevere of the Pioneer Press,
BS: In every sport, there have been teams that struggle at the end of a regular season and then have renewed life. Is that what you're expecting to happen?
CL: There is no better example than what happened last year with the Los Angeles Kings. The L.A. Kings only won four of their last 11 games and they lost their last two games. Still got into the playoffs and end up winning the Stanley Cup. We don't have to go very far to find a model. We think our team is very much like the Kings. We go hot. We go cold. We did it all season. Now we've got to go hot, and we think we can.
BS: Is that what you're telling your friends?
CL: That's what we're telling everybody. This is a whole new season. Everybody does talk about it, but it's the hot team with the hot goalie and hot players that will now start to rise. We think we've got a chance to do that.
BS: Just getting into the postseason lifts an enormous weight off a team, doesn't it?
CL: The pressure is not on us right now. We're going to go out there and have fun. We're going to play probably looser than we have been in a long time. We think this is now our time.
from Chip Scoggins of the StarTribune,
Whatever the proper description, Leipold’s insatiable thirst for winning has compelled the Wild owner to execute some bold transactions, regardless of cost. His latest shrewd move happened last week when the Wild agreed to give up two prospects, a first-round draft pick and a second-round pick to acquire Buffalo captain Jason Pominville at the trade deadline.
That hefty pricetag might have caused other owners to stand pat. Leipold pushed his chips to the center of the table.
This guy is all-in in his quest to make a deep postseason run this spring.
“In order to get a really great asset,” he said, “you have to trade great assets.”
Leipold represents precisely what sports fans should covet in an owner: a big thinker who is willing to commit money and resources to give his team the best chance to succeed; someone who is passionate about his product and not paralyzed by the unknown or an overarching fear that a deal might backfire.
from Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press,
"I see a Stanley Cup championship. My hope is that it happens soon," Leipold told the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, March 13. "It may not be this year. It may not be next year. But the beautiful thing is we have a window now that's not going to close in two or three years. We've got a window that's going to be opened up for five, six or seven years."
Leipold boasted during his speech about 102-percent-capacity sellouts at Xcel Energy Center for the Wild coming out of a damaging lockout, plus merchandise sales among the league's top five teams, thanks to interest piqued by last summer's signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
But in an interview afterwards, the team's majority stakeholder checked any hubris from that $196 million free-agency investment at the doors of the St. Paul Hotel, acknowledging he was pleased with how the Wild have played in recent weeks but cautioning against planning any ticker-tape parades.
"You don't want to say this year's the year we're going to win the Stanley Cup since we haven't been to the playoffs in four years," Leipold said. "Let's take it a step at a time. I'm trying to just be realistic. Do we want to win it this year? I guess we do. Of course we do. But it's not something that's going to necessarily happen overnight. We've got these young guys coming up, and we think they're going to be a big part of winning the Stanley Cup."
“AHHHHHHHHH!!! I am a madman. Oy, oy, oy. It’s hard to come to grips with. It was such a fun, great process. I can’t tell you, Chuck, Brent Flahr, both those guys, had a very aggressive plan, thought that it was possible, thought that we could do it. This wasn’t a kneejerk kind of thing. It was discussed as a possibility months and months ago and going back to last season, some of the moves we made last season were in preparation for this. We were hoping they’d become free agents. That’s how they think. They think long-term. This is a result of a very smart hockey ops department thinking long-term. A lot of people made this thing work. A lot of luck had to happen. Good things fell in our favor. And before we knew it, Monday night, My God, maybe we could get both. And it just started moving in that direction.”
-Minnesota owner Craig Leipold when asked “How does this feel?” by Michael Russo. More on the signings at Russo’s Rants.
Let’s take a look back at an interview Michael Russo of the Star Tribune did with Wild owner Craig Leipold…
I know you can’t name names, but how essential is it for you guys to finally land a big fish or two?
“Yes. Where a star player wants to come here, wants to play here. It’s important to our franchise that we become one of those markets where players want to come to, they want to play for the fans here, they want to play because the culture’s the way it is, because the coaches are the way they are, because management treats their players a certain way. We want to get to that point. I mean, this is such a great market. I have to believe that players would want to play in this city. It’s our job to create that kind of atmosphere and culture, and winning is important. It’s a big part of that. They’ll come here if they think they can win the Cup.”
How would you sell a free agent on this franchise and market?
“Now if I’m an unrestricted free agent and I’m looking at this team and I’m looking at the future of this team and the committment that we have to winning and the coaches, this is a good market. We think we have a lot to sell. We don’t plan to be shy. We don’t know who’s going to be a UFA come July 1, but we’re going to be looking. We need to make our team better. We need to get more goals. And we need to get better defense.”
Are you making money?
“We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we’re spending right now. [The Wild’s] revenues are fine. We’re down a little bit in attendance, but we’re up in sponsorships, we’re up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we’re generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild’s] biggest expense by far is player salaries.”
from Bruce Brothers of the Pioneer Press,
The swagger is back, Wild owner Craig Leipold says.
Six months ago, Leipold was hurting. There was little spark surrounding the NHL franchise he had purchased 2-1/2 years earlier, a team that finished outside the playoffs for the third consecutive season while Xcel Energy Center attendance slipped.
Typically more comfortable in the background, Leipold nearly disappeared in March. Numerous requests for interviews were rejected.
“At end of the year, I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” he explained recently. “There was nothing I could add to anything.”
As Wild training camp opened at the X this weekend, however, Leipold’s optimism and enthusiasm have returned.
“I feel good,” he said in a free-flowing preseason interview with no off-limit topics. “We have new players. We feel like we’ve got a little swagger here. There’s just a different kind of excitement, and everybody in the office feels it.”
“I am disappointed with the year. I’m disappointed with the way it ended up, I’m disappointed with our performance on the ice, I am disappointed with some of our players, I’m disappointed with our record in the last six weeks.
“People who know me know that I am really upset and did not expect to be sitting here today talking about our team with the 10th pick in the draft.
“That is just not an acceptable position.”
-Craig Leipold, Owner of the Minnesota Wild. More from Bruce Brothers of the Pioneer Press.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Q With a team-record payroll of more than $57 million (a few million from the salary-cap ceiling), you could not have been happy with a 13th-place finish. What are your expectations this year?
A: I’m not happy. It’s been a very long offseason. We are committed to winning, and winning means playoffs—and a run in the playoffs. Last year was a bad year. We got off to a surprisingly bad start. We had a decent run in the middle. And then we had a bad ending. We need to have a little bit of luck this year in terms of injuries. If we have a normal injury kind of year, I would expect our team to be a strong playoff team, one that will have a run in the playoffs—whatever that means, however you define that. I know how I define it. All of us were not happy with how we ended last year and where we were in the standings last year. That’s just not acceptable. I’m not proud at all that we didn’t make the playoffs the last two years.
“So, I like the changes that we made, and I think that it really puts us in a good position for next year. Absolutely, no question, and we talk about that internally.
“Mikko Koivu, we think he is the core of our franchise. We’ve got a great defense, we’ve got a great goaltender, good defensemen, good forwards, and now we’ve got to build around that. We think with Mikko and Brent Burns and [Niklas] Backstrom as kind of being the [leaders of the] offense, the defense and the goaltending. We think that we’re in a really good position to build around those three players.”
-Wild Owner Craig Leipold. More from Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune.
Let’s Play Hockey does a Q & A with Minnesota Wild Owner Craig Leipold…
LPH: There have been media reports of a possible lockout/strike when the current CBA expires which stems from the unrest within the NHLPA ranks, what are your thoughts?
CL: We have a great relationship with their union. There may be some unrest within the NHLPA. The NHLPA cannot do anything for two years when the existing CBA expires. The current issues with the Players Association have nothing to do with the current CBA or ownership.
LPH: The Phoenix Coyotes’ situation seems to be ever changing, do you believe they will play in Glendale, AZ all season?
CL: Yes. I believe they will be playing NHL hockey in Glendale, Arizona, this year.
LPH: Any news on the National TV front?
CL: The NHL and VERSUS made a commitment to each other. The NHL likes VERSUS. Other opportunities may come up in the future and we will take a look at those broadcast opportunities at that time.
from Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune,
It’s hard to understand how Craig Leipold sang the praises of Doug Risebrough when Leipold bought the Wild, only to fire Risebrough, one of the best hockey executives in the game, as team president and general manager a year later….
The johnny-come-lately owner of the Wild must not be informed of all the great things that Risebrough did, taking over an expansion club and making it pretty competitive from the start….
To top it off, Leipold didn’t have the courage to face the media and call a news conference to announce his decision to fire one of the most popular sports executives in my long media career, instead staging a conference call to let the media learn what I consider to be sad news.
added 10:59pm, via Darren Dreger of TSN,
The Minnesota Wild are building a list of candidates to replace fired general manager Doug Risebrough.
Sources tell TSN the Wild have contacted the Toronto Maple Leafs seeking permission to speak with Dave Nonis, the Leafs senior vice president of hockey operations.
Toronto has flatly declined.
Craig Custance of Sporting News Today recently conducted an interview with Wild owner Craig Leipold.
Leipold says Gaborik is making great strides with his rehab and is confident Marian will be part of the playoff run for the Wild.
Read the interview here which include numerous hockey topics…
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Off the ice, the Wild’s top priority is working on a contract extension for Backstrom, 30, an All-Star goalie who can become a free agent this summer.
“Negotiations are going on,” Leipold said. “We like Nick Backstrom. He’s a great goalie in this league. We want to have him here. He wants to be here. Hopefully we’re going to work it out. That’s really all I know. I would hope that we could get Backstrom signed, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t.”
Backstrom said Friday, “Nothing’s going on. Time will tell.”...
And yes, Leipold still maintains he has high hopes that the Wild can re-sign Gaborik rather than trading him by the March 4 deadline.
“Our only intention was re-signing Gaborik. It is still our only intention,” Leipold said. “Unfortunately the injury caused everything to shut down. It’s our hope that we’ll still re-sign him. I think he’d like to play here. We’re not done yet.”
from Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press,
Why was there such tepid interest in Nashville?
It’s a cultural thing.
Is that anything you didn’t know going in or were you too optimistic?
Both. Nashville is a market where people who were raised in Nashville go to college in Nashville, they go back to work in Nashville. It was a little harder to break into that culture, and I should have known that. The fans in Nashville are great. They’re rabid. They’re vocal. They’re passionate. There just aren’t enough of them.
Do you consider your investment there a failure or a learning experience?
I don’t consider it a failure. I look at it as I was the caretaker there the first 10 years and I’ve now passed it off to some local guys, and hopefully they can take it to a level I wasn’t able to take it to. If the team ends up cratering and moves out, then I would say I was not successful.
more from Leipold, mostly on the team he currently owns, the Minnesota Wild…
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
... And if you ever run into the man with a hockey mullet and infectious laugh, he’s as approachable as a miniature bichon.
“This is a big business guy who runs in big political circles, but he walks with kings with the touch of a common man,” said close friend Joe Sweeney, an investment banker who used to be marketing agent for Brett Favre, LeRoy Butler, Barry Alvarez and Robin Yount, among others. “Craig is as down to earth as anybody I’ve ever met.
“The greatest thing I can say about Craig Leipold is he’s got 100 best friends. He’s so busy. He’s got five kids, a wonderful, successful wife, tons of business ventures, yet he’s there for so many people, a hundred people call Craig Leipold their best friend.”
from Brad Schrade of the Tennessean,
A copy of the confidential Aug. 31, 2007, purchase agreement between Leipold and head of the local majority ownership group, David Freeman, obtained by The Tennessean, shows exactly what Leipold had to do. The document was so confidential that Metro’s attorney, Larry Thrailkill, who negotiated the city’s lease changes with the new owners, never saw it.
The document shows how far Leipold may have had to go to get out of town. It suggests that the deal to sell the team could have fallen apart if Leipold failed to keep $30 million of his own money in the team for one year or failed to find an outside investor to put the money up. If those conditions weren’t met, Freeman and his group could have gotten their $10 million deposit back, according to the document.
from Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune,
Here last week to announce the eight-year concessionaire contract with the Twins, (Jeremy) Jacobs sang the praises of new Wild owner Craig Leipold and talked about how happy he was to have Leipold back in the NHL after Leipold sold the Nashville Predators last year. The sale of the team from Bob Naegele to Leipold was completed Thursday.
“I am on a number of committees with Craig, and you won’t find a more dedicated owner than him,” Jacobs said.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, here for the Wild-Avalanche playoff game Friday, echoed Jacobs’ words.
“I think Craig Leipold is the right owner for this franchise. Bob Naegele and his partners couldn’t be handing this franchise to better owners than Craig Leipold and Phil Falcone,” Bettman said. “Craig is passionate about the game, he’s a terrific owner. He’s great when it comes to league issues, and he is absolutely committed to this franchise.”
from Michael Russo of the StarTribune,
“I can’t sit in the stands,” Leipold said. “I can’t because I’m a pathetic fan. There is a standard as an owner that I should be abiding by that I have a hard time doing. I’m not mad at our players or coaches. I just get mad at the other team, I get mad at the referees. So I sit up in my suite because I’ve got to have space because I am going all over the place.
“I can’t sit down in the chairs. There are too many people out there, and I’m going to hurt somebody.”
Leipold said that after games he loves going down to the locker room, shaking hands with the players and pow-wowing with the coaches.
“They can be screaming at players and I’m just in the corner drinking a beer,” Leipold said. “I’m not going to react to it. I never have. I’ve never called a coach or GM up and said, ‘You need to do this.’ I’m a fan, but I know my boundaries.”
added 7:03am, from Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail,
Now, after fruitlessly trying to sell the game to people who don’t want it, Leipold takes control of a contending team in one of those rare American locales where hockey has deep cultural roots. He might even make an operating profit.
Happy, happy, happy.
And it smells to high heaven.
It is impossible to have followed the travails of Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, as he attempted first to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Predators in the hopes of moving a franchise to Southern Ontario, and not to connect the dots to what happened this week.
from Al Strachan at Fox Sports,
As it happens, Minnesota can make a fairly respectable claim to being the state of hockey, even though there would be some dispute from Michigan and Massachusetts.
Still, there’s no disputing that Minnesota is definitely a hockey hotbed and that people in that area are passionate fans.
But they lost their original NHL team when Norm Green found a way to make a mess of that great market.
They got Bob Naegele, who talked a good game but never got around to backing up his words with on-ice achievements.
And now they’ve got Craig Leipold.
They deserve better.
The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors have approved the sale of the Nashville Predators to a local group headed by David Freeman.
The Freeman group is expected to close on the sale within the next few days.
The group came together to make an offer to owner Craig Leipold after he originally announced a deal to sell his team in May to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie for $220 million. Balsillie’s deal fell through in June when he started taking season-ticket deposits in Hamilton.
Marketing plan by the new ownership group noted earlier today on KK.
from the Tennessean,
Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold has extended today’s deadline for a sale of the hockey team.
A mostly-local investors group had been trying to close the deal by today. Leipold met with Mayor Karl Dean today and later announced he would extend the deadline.
“Based on the progress being made, I am convinced all parties will benefit from extra time to complete this transaction so we will extend the purchase agreement,” Leipold said in a statement, “with a goal of completing the sale as soon as possible.”
From Sheila Wissner at The Tennessean,
While Nashville officials and the would-be owners of the Nashville Predators struggle to reach new terms for an arena lease, one man stands to walk away from it all with more than $30 million.
Team owner Craig Leipold, who says he’s unloading the hockey team because it’s a money-loser, would gain a windfall of more than three times his initial investment, according to an analysis by The Tennessean. That’s even after covering $70 million in operating losses Leipold has claimed.
*Very good overview of the ownership structure and financial origins of the team.