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Volume 24 No. 117
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Wild's Leipold Optimistic Despite Continued Playoff Absence, Plans To Own For Long Haul

Wild Owner Craig Leipold is "disappointed but very optimistic" about his team, which has not made the playoffs in the four full seasons since he purchased the club in '08, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. In a recent Q&A, Leipold discussed "his disappointment, the future," and the need for the Wild "to land a big fish." Below is an excerpt of that Q&A.

Q: It’s clear [Sharks RW Martin] Havlat did not fit in well here. Do you regret signing him and do you think you guys succumbed to the pressure of replacing [Rangers RW] Marian Gaborik immediately when he left in 2009?
Leipold: Yeah, there was definitely not just a hockey need, but there was a PR need. We had to make a splash. We just lost Gaborik, and we had the money. We needed to go out and do something. Havlat can make a difference, and probably didn’t fit in here. I think he’ll fit in well in San Jose, but yeah, there was pressure on us.

Q: I know you can’t name names, but how essential is it for you guys to finally land a big fish or two?
Leipold: 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.

Q: The white elephant in the room is the fact that the collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. In '04-05, we lost an entire season. Will this season start on time?
Leipold: What I can say is that we are preparing to start next year on time. I have no reason to believe that we’re not going to start on time. The relationship is good with the players union.

Q: Are you making money?
Leipold: 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.

Q: Are you still committed to being owner of this franchise for the long haul?
Leipold: Absolutely. No question, no question. I’m not going anywhere (, 4/11).

LIGHTNING STRIKES: Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke, on how to build a likeable sports brand, said, "It's a thousand bricks, it isn't any one thing. First, you have to love your fans and you have to do that unconditionally. We knew there was a fan base here and I'm surprised at the depth of it. You build a fan base by committing to serve. There are fans here and they're passionate, so therefore it is easy to serve them." He also said it is important for the Lightning to give back to the community because "that's how I've done my business and that's one of the things that really attracted me to owner Jeff Vinik." Leiweke: "That wasn't a philosophy I had to articulate to him, it was one that already lived within him and within his heart" (BRADENTON HERALD, 4/12).