NHL Kings Prepare Banner Ceremony; Leiweke Says Team Willing To Spend To Win Again
Although AEG has "put its sports holdings up for sale and a new buyer might want a lean payroll," company President & CEO Tim Leiweke has given NHL Kings GM Dean Lombardi the "budget and the mandate to become the first team to repeat as Cup champion since" the '97-98 Red Wings, according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. Leiweke on Thursday said, "We're committed to spending whatever it takes to win again. We're committed to spending whatever it takes to keep this nucleus together." Leiweke said that he "intends to remain in charge of the Kings under the next owner." The Kings plan to "appease fans with merchandise and perks, including replica Cup banners to those who attend the opener, replica rings to those who attend a game on a date to be announced, and autograph sessions for season-ticket holders." Other "make-nice gestures are still in the works." They started with "an impressive gesture Thursday, announcing they had teamed with McDonald's to donate $1 million to four local charities with the hope of increasing that donation during the season" (L.A. TIMES, 1/11). In California, Rich Hammond notes while the Kings did announce a "series of attempts at outreach," they "apparently don't plan to make any grand gestures in the short term, such as lowering prices for tickets, parking or concessions." But perhaps most important to fans "is an assurance" from Lombardi that the Kings will "increase payroll during the season if there is an opportunity to improve the team via trade" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/11).
ROOM IN THE RAFTERS: Leiweke: "When you wait 45 years to win a Cup, the last thing you want to do is wait to raise that banner. I think for our fans, in particular, asking them to wait another three months was not a great process. They were as equally as frustrated as we were." He added, "To me, the most important thing is winning again. ... This was never about winning a Cup. This was about creating a legacy." ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi noted Leiweke is "so confident the Kings will be adding more than one banner to Staples Center in the coming years that he and the team decided to raise the Kings' Stanley Cup championship banner and hang it from the rafters, as opposed to placing it on the wall with the other championship banners and retired jerseys from the Kings, Lakers and Sparks." He said, "We’re going to do something different, so we have room to hang the others" (ESPNLA.com, 1/10). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted the Kings also will "receive their championship rings on opening day." An image of the rings "showed up on Instagram on Thursday night" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/10).