January 20, 2013 7:10 am

Tim Leiweke (Finale)-Business and “Family”!

JF: Now something it’s a little more personal…before you entered the sports world, any mentors you had?

Tim Leiweke: Well my mom, she died of cancer when I was young. We watched her battle it for five years, it was at a time where there wasn’t the wonder drugs, it was just when they were introducing radiation and she was a bit of a guinea pig, but when you sit there for five years and you watch someone battle it and beat it and battle it and beat it and battle it and beat it and finally lose to it, you have two choices in life, you either learn character and you learn to go fight and you learn to defeat the odds or you give up and you have a really good excuse in life and I was damned and determined as was my brother Tod

we were not going to let that be our excuse. Could have been easy, there were a lot of bad things that happened but the character that that installed in us and the drive that that installed in us is–it still exists today. There are a lot of other mentors but there’s nothing in life that is going to either prepare you or destroy you like watching your mom die for five years.

JF: Once you entered the sports world, same type of question, any mentors that you kind of say ‘okay I’m in this industry now, I’m in this business now’–now you look and say ‘o.k. I’d like to do what he or she does’.

Tim Leiweke: It wasn’t as much looking or saying ‘I want to do what he or she did’ but I was very fortunate to have David Stern as a huge mentor, friend and to this day still one of the people that I’m closest with and most grateful for that he took the time he did to–you know–I was a young kid when I became the president of an NBA club (Denver Nuggets) and we took over a club that was in bankruptcy and the owners had been evicted from their apartment the first day I got there. Then the third day I got there we missed payroll–so David believed in me–I was pretty young and I think at the end of the day he stuck with me and believed in me and now we’ve become good friends and we’re very involved and partners in China, having two teams here and owning a piece of a team and so I was very lucky to have him in my life. Ironically it’s where I met Gary Bettman,…

…so I knew Gary Bettman from the NBA days. When I got into hockey there were a couple of people that I immediately developed a bond with and I have it to this day. I remember when we won the Western Conference and beat Phoenix; first guy I called at seven the next morning was Pierre Lacroix

…He/we figured out a way to get Quebec out of Quebec and into Colorado and I remember the quiet meetings we’d have to do in cities in like Chicago and San Francisco because Pierre and the Quebec ownership could not ultimately be seen in Denver or we couldn’t be seen in anywhere on the East Coast. I’ll never forget spending hours talking to Pierre about how to build a hockey team, I’ll never forget him talking to me about character and guys like Joe Sakic at the time who was just a rookie and Forsberg and that Pierre believed how you built a great team…

…I remember he used to always tell me about the missing piece and then in their case it was always the goalie and so I watched when I was with him and they brought the Nordiques

…to Colorado, Pierre taught me an awful lot about hockey and how to build a team and then when I left–Pierre and I became good friends and are to this day and that was a good conversation that day. Lou Lamoriello has been huge, he’s the guy I went to when I finally decided we’re doing something wrong here and as much as I loved Dave Taylor

…we got to find a different kind of guy for where we’re at today and he was the guy that I counted on the most. Ironically Lou and I spent the most amount of time talking about Dean and so to this day Lou and I are on the executive committee, it was ironic that we were sitting there in the Stanley Cup Finals but I worked a lot with him leading up to that series on little things and details but I have a huge amount of respect for him and then finally I feel strongly about Dave Taylor and the commitment that he’s given to this organizationDustin Brown and Kopi and Quickers

…were his picks and he doesn’t get enough credit and I went out of my way, I called him when we won the Stanley Cup and let him know that we wouldn’t have won it without him. We did the same with Terry (Murray)

…and made him understand and he’s going to get a ring because he deserves it. Dave’s never going to be my best friend, I get that, sometimes you got to make difficult decisions, Dave believes it was the wrong decision to this day and he may be right but I think Dave appreciates and cares a lot for this organization and he appreciates the fact that we won it and he knows he was one of the first calls I made to tell him ‘we would have never done this without you’ and ‘I won’t forget it’.

JF: Anyone you had to work against or negotiate against and at the same time came out of that negotiation with a lot of respect for–could be hockey, could be anything, could be business?

Tim Leiweke: Well I’m never going to tell people that I may still have to negotiate with again that I respect the fact that they either got the best of me or they’re really good and I enjoyed the experience. I will say that you know if you look at being a kid –that kind of was what my brother and I were when we got into this business–and we grew up without being able to go to college, we were dogs and we had to immediately do the “dog paddle” because of my mom and the fact that it was what it was and so when you think about–now you’re sitting there in the middle of the sales process that’s going to generate billions of dollars and you’re on the executive committee of the NHL and you were the chairman of Major League Soccer and you’re dealing with the titans of industry, there’s two real good things that come out of that. First and foremost is that I’m no longer intimidated, so no one blows me away. No matter how difficult or tough David Stern can be and he is a “tough nut” and certainly one of the toughest men I ever had to negotiate with, you begin to realize that education is not what installs spirit or knowledge or compassion or drive–that comes from the person from within, not necessarily what they learn or what books teach them. The second piece is just you know I guess the good news is hopefully and I think my brother who I admire the most is probably the same way I am, which is when you kind of come up that way you never take it for granted, you never get too big a head and you were never done, that’s the thing that I think serves this organization well and we see it with the Galaxy

…The night of our second back-to-back championships I was with Bruce Arena trying to figure out how to win three and how to replace David Beckham and who are we going to bring in and how are we going to improve the team. Occasionally he thinks I’m a maniac but that’s that trait that comes out of not only being humble and hard working but never ever believing that you have accomplished anything or you certainly have accomplished enough and so I think the hardest negotiation and the hardest negotiator and the hardest person to please has always been myself and I don’t think that will ever change because I’m never happy, not yet and so same thing with the Kings, the highlight of my career by far is winning that Stanley Cup and the next morning I was like we got to do it again. I’d like one day for this organization and this period of time that we’re in right now to be seen as a legacy and there’s only a few legacy franchises, Montreal clearly, what the Islanders did, what the Oilers did and what I think the most recently legacy, which is the Red Wings. Why can’t we be that next legacy and so what kept me positive through this process I refuse to talk about is I think that our hockey guys including Hex (Ron Hextall) and Dean (Lombardi) and Darryl (Sutter)

…I think they have put us in a position where if our players truly take a step back and understand the moment in time here that we have and understand the passion that this organization has for creating this right environment. I hope what they understand is one’s not good enough. I hope what they understand is they got a chance to be a legacy, that this could be the next legacy team in the National Hockey League and the question is are we going to accept and relish what we’ve accomplished today or like my mom taught me, do you sit back and say I think we could do more and I’m hoping that’s what happens here.

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