New York Islanders fans got a brief and generally positive impression of Jon Ledecky when he was announced as new co-owner two years ago. But outside of the initial introductions and some goodwill with fans at Nassau Coliseum, Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin kept a low public profile during the intervening two seasons as Charles Wang completed his tenure as majority owner.
Now that, as Ledecky said earlier this week, "it's our team now," the guy who will clearly become the public face of the new ownership is putting himself out there and showing his enthusiasm for this new passion of his.
He followed up this week's initial meet-and-greet with media -- see highlight quotes here and fuller coverage links there -- with a season ticket holder Q&A Thursday evening accompanied by current players Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas and dynasty legend Bobby Nystrom.
(Watch: IslesBlog periscoped Ledecky's speech here, if you're able to view before the link expires.)
As you might imagine, the man has come out swinging big, and showing he has a good handle on the Islanders fan experience as he's conversed with fans (often without disclosing who he was) over the past two seasons. Just like he did two years ago, he reiterated his focus is on getting the "fifth ring" for the franchise that earned its first four during the 1980-83 dynasty.
Even if he's talking optimistically, it beats talking about a rebuild:
'We Will Open the Checkbook'
"What we are going to do is open the checkbook," he said in his opening. "You're going to have a team that, if it needs to be a cap max team to compete for the Cup, it will be a cap max team. You guys have been through thick and thin, and thick is really good and it's going to get thicker. Our goal next year is to keep advancing in the playoffs."
At that point he was interrupted by a fan who shouted "Drive for Five!" -- a common fan refrain, but one that notes it should be next year and every year's goal. Ledecky agreed and pledged when a fifth Cup is won, all stakeholders will get a ring.
'The Place was Shaking' in the Playoffs
One of the initial questions was about spending to the cap, and Ledecky noted that they need to leave room and flexibility so that they can spend to the cap during the season.
"In the playoffs, the place was shaking so hard, it inspired [these players]. I need you guys to help me fill this place night after night, and create that environment throughout the season."
"In a cap world, a world where every team can spend to the cap, what makes the difference in attracting players here? The environment, the passion of the fans."
As he thanked fans for traveling from all over to Barclays Center last year, he re-iterated the need to reach fans all over the area, recruit from all over the area, and fill the building. We're not looking to compete for Rangers fans, he said, we're looking to "kick the Rangers' ass."
And later: "I hope I'm still an owner tomorrow. ... might get a call from Gary Bettman."
Impressions and Moments
Sounds like #Isles fans at Barclays tonight are getting a better understanding of Jon Ledecky's passion.— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) July 14, 2016
"We want to personalize the Islanders experience at Barclays Center & it starts with a commitment to excellence." -Jon Ledecky #Isles— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) July 14, 2016
On "the franchise": 'Tavares isn't becoming a free agent'
When Shannon Hogan made reference to John Tavares hitting free agency two summers from now, Ledecky interrupted: "What?" "What was one of the best moments in Islanders history last year? When Tavares scored in double-overtime and blew the roof off this place, the scoreboard almost became centered.
"He's not going to be a free agent."
I asked John Ledeky outright if he will forever retain Tavares. He said they'll manage the cap well and he will always be an islander...— Michael (@InterviewKing1) July 15, 2016
"The scoreboard almost became centered." -Ledecky on Tavares' 2OT goal #isles— Islanders Insight (@IslesInsight) July 14, 2016
Oh, by the way, Casey Cizikas was asked about The Commute, because that is somehow a question asked of every current and recently former Islander who experienced the move to Brooklyn:
Casey loves taking the train into the game. Became a part of his routine, allowed him to focus on the game and enjoyed seeing fans #isles— Islanders Insight (@IslesInsight) July 14, 2016
Another Nod to the Fans
"The great thing about our fanbase is they let us know loud and clear where they stand."
That quote came in an answer he gave about making Barclays Center a better and better experience for hockey, about the work he's done to get better service and access from Long Island Railroad, and the commitment the team has made on Long Island with its new practice facility.