In a phone-in interview with NHL Network’s NHL Tonight, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky answered a question that’s been on the minds of many for at least the last couple of weeks: is his niece, four time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, an Islanders fan?
The answer is yes (er, mostly).
Ledecky: Well, she is an Islanders fan and she’s a huge hockey fan because she actually grew up with hockey as an infant. I was fortunate enough to be Ted Leonsis’ first partner with the Washington Capitals for a few years in the late 90’s through 2002. And so Katie grew up in the owner’s box and became a huge fan, and was a Caps fan and continues to be a Caps fan. But her allegiance, her primary allegiance, is now the Islanders. And so when the Islanders square off against the Caps, she is wearing her Islanders gear.
Good to hear. The bad news is that, as of now, scheduling an appearance at Barclays Center for Katie might be difficult. She’s starting at Stanford this semester and getting from California to Brooklyn is gonna be tricky. But proud Uncle Jon says the interest is there from fans, so we’ll keep an eye out and hope Katie can bring some of that hardware out for a night.
In more pressing matters, NHL Network’s Dan Rosen asked Ledecky about his team’s relationship with Barclays Center, given the recent reports that Ledecky and partner Scott Malkin had talked to people about the possibilities of building a new arena in Queens or Belmont Park back in Nassau.
If you were hoping Ledecky would announce some grand construction project somewhere, you might as well stop reading here. But he did say that arena management has been listening this summer to calls for changes, and that adjustments for next season will be made public soon.
Rosen: From your perspective right now, do you look at Barclays Center as the longterm future home of the New York Islanders or is that still sort of in doubt at this point?
Ledecky: Barclays Center is a first class facility, it’s our home and Barclays Center management has been very receptive in helping us to improve the fan experience. It’s interesting to read press accounts but Barclays Center is our home, and even if one was to surmise that a new arena was being planned, that would take a long time in the New York market.
So I think what we’re focused on is improving the fan experience, improving transportation to and from the games for the fans who remain loyal from the Long Island market, making fans in the New York City metropolitan area understand that we have a great team and making sure the experience inside Barclays is an A-plus experience both for the fans and for the players.
To their credit, [CEO] Brett Yormark and his group at Barclays Center have been working very actively in the offseason to improve the experience on many different levels, and I’m sure at the appropriate time, we’ll roll out an announcement about what we’ve done in the offseason to welcome the fans even more to Barclays.
Ledecky then finished up with a story about going undercover on a subway ride back from a game and clandestinely converting some hardcore Capitals fans to the Islanders. All it took was a night in the owner’s box for a guy and 30 of his closest friends. Ledecky also spoke about the Islanders’ role in the growth of hockey in China, which will host the Winter Olympic games in 2022.
As you can tell by the amount of times he used the word “experience” in the above answer (five), the focus seems to have been on policy changes rather than physical ones (although lets hope they didn’t forget to look into ways of improving the ice conditions).
Changes to the “experience” seem like the kind of simple, easy fixes that can be made when a business better knows what its customers want. After a full year of games, a bunch of focus groups, feedback from the players and town hall meetings featuring the new owners asking questions personally, Yormark and co. should have plenty of data with which to make life a lot easier and more fun during a game. Maybe they’ll even take a few steps up on next year’s JD Power and Associates Fan Experience ratings after they implement the new ideas.
So, like we said last season, Barclays is listening and doing what they can to make Islanders fans happy (short of driving a bulldozer into the Southwest side of the building) while also trying to reach out to new ones. Getting asses in the seats is the prime directive now and forever.
We look forward to seeing what changes are in store for our experience in Season Two. And to seeing even more converts coming through the doors.
The full Ledecky interview is here: