The Daily Wild - April 10, 2008
Thursday, 04.10.2008 / 8:04 PM / Features
By James MacDonald - Special to Wild.com
-- While Craig Leipold had served as prospective owner of the Minnesota Wild since Jan. 10, life in the on-deck circle gave way to his walking to the podium Wednesday as the Minnesota Wild's majority owner.
The announcement finally put to rest months of working toward Leipold's taking over official ownership of the team, which became public when the NHL's Board of Governors approved the sale.
Almost sheepishly admitting he wouldn't be able to stay long for a press conference as weather threatened his flight home to Racine, Wis., while also apologizing for any perception of interfering with the playoffs, Leipold embraced the future with a salute to the immediate past.
"First of all, and perhaps most importantly, I really want to thank Bob Naegele," Leipold said. "I want to thank Bob, really, for choosing me as his successor.
"I feel a lot like Aaron Rodgers," he went on to say, referring to the quarterback now standing in Brett Favre's long shadow. "I feel a little like Aaron right now, and Bob is going to be a real hard act to follow."
Packers references aside, most Wild fans should be comfortable in knowing there are no plans to upset the apple cart that is coming off its historic Northwest Division title and is in the early stages of its second consecutive playoff season.
In fact, as we write this only a few hours after the fact, Leipold is likely just now allowing himself to enjoy what he has accomplished.
"I'm just going to kind of enjoy the moment, that would be the first thing," he said after being asked about his short-term priorities. "The second thing, hopefully, [is to] go on a long playoff run. I don't anticipate any changes in the next couple months. I think it's just to understand the organization, and this is a big organization. It's not just a hockey team. There are a lot of aspects to this business that I need to understand and get to meet the people, and not knee-jerk on anything because it's running so well."
Though not nearly the to-do, partly by design, that the Jan. 10 announcement was, Leipold was no less excited about what lies ahead.
"I'm just totally elated," he said. "It's been a long process. A lot of signatures the last couple days. This is a dream to be part of a hockey program like this in a market like this."
The Wild's new owner, who will be joined by General Partner Phillip Falcone and an ownership group that will be announced soon, has enjoyed many Wild games since it was announced that he would succeed Naegele as owner at the beginning of this calendar year. Leipold stressed his ownership touches are more likely to be made with a brush than a hammer.
"This organization is well-prepared and well-positioned for the future," he said. "And I really do believe in the saying -- I've said this before, and I can't say it enough -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This is not a broken franchise. This is a marquee franchise."
Leipold, who, technically, will oversee the day-to-day operations of all MSE properties -- from the Wild and its minor league affiliate in Houston to Wildside Caterers and 317 on Rice Park -- also brings hockey experience as a former owner of the Nashville Predators.
Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough, whom Leipold considered a "high, high, high, high priority" within the organization, is looking forward to Leipold's impact.
"He'd probably use the words differently; he'd probably say passionate and knowledgeable, I'll put knowledgeable and passionate," Risebrough said of Leipold's devotion to hockey. "To have as much knowledge as he does about the players, the CBA, about the business side, the minor league side, you have to enjoy the business.
"He's definitely knowledgeable, and I think that's good. From my standpoint, I'd like to have somebody come in and challenge. I'd like to have somebody come in and confirm. The confirmation is good when you know he has an understanding, and the challenge is good when you know he has an understanding. Clearly his experience is a positive, but his basic passion is probably driving his knowledge."
Leipold concedes he is passionate. And it is his passion that will keep him from driving the hockey operations.
"I recognize what my weaknesses are," he said.
Instead, Leipold's priority will be operating the company in a way that will lead to further success, both on the ice and off. In that regard, he hopes everyone will win.
"The Wild fans will continue to be highest priority," he said. "And I thank them for the unbelievable support that they have provided this franchise in the past, and I thank them for what they will be doing in the future."
Thursday dawned in the Twin Cities the same way Wednesday, Tuesday and Monday had, with a chill in the air and skies thick with clouds. Only on Thursday, it dawned differently for the Minnesota Wild.
Players woke up facing a 1-0 series deficit in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Colorado Avalanche. Those players were also mostly upbeat on Thursday and quite a few stayed well after their skates to answer the questions of reporters.
One of the hardest working gatherer of quotes was Wild Radio's Kevin Falness, who caught up with Brent Burns, Niklas Backstrom, Petteri Nummelin, James Sheppard and Jacques Lemaire.
A bonus PONDcast from Falness: Catching up with ... Nick Schultz.
INJURY UPDATE: For a team that coasted into the season's home stretch relatively healthy, it has been hit hard since.
Mark Parrish, who collided with the boards in front of the Wild bench, landing flush with his upper body taking the brunt of the force on Wednesday, will be listed as day-to-day with a head injury.
Here is the official word ...
Mark Parrish -- head injury, day-to-day
Martin Skoula -- sore left leg, possible for Thursday
Nick Schultz -- out
Kurtis Foster -- out
The Minnesota Wild is disappointed to announce that Mother Nature has pulled even with our Rice Park Pregame Rally. While Wednesday's weather provided a great setting for such an event, the weather expected Friday has caused the cancellation of the rally event. Bottom line: Mother Nature 1, Rice Park Rally 1.