Brunch with Tim Leiweke and Gary Bettman: Kings will be players
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Tim Leiweke, governor of the Kings and chief executive officer of their parent company, AEG, told an audience at a draft day brunch Friday that while he’s proud of the five titles the Lakers have won since they became part of AEG’s empire, a Stanley Cup championship for the Kings would be a pinnacle.
“The foundation of AEG is the Kings and until we win the Stanley Cup our job is not done,” he said during a panel discussion in which he shared the stage with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Hall of Fame forward and Kings business executive Luc Robitaille, and Hockey Canada executive Bob Nicholson.
Toward that end, he said the Kings have a lot of salary cap room and that when the NHL’s free agency period begins Thursday, “if the right guy is there next week we’re going to fill a hole. ... The balance here is not to win once in a while.”
And, he said, he’d like to have “back-to-back parades” with the Lakers to celebrate their respective league titles. He also said the Lakers built their current team around two trades -- for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol -- and that the Kings have similar franchise cornerstones in place now. “We could have added major free agents two years ago and it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “Now you look at our team and the job Dean [Lombardi, the general manager] has done and there’s a lot to get excited about.”
Leiweke can’t identify players the Kings might pursue until July 1, but with Patrick Marleau off the market the biggest name will be high-scoring winger Ilya Kovalchuk. If he’s reasonable and doesn’t try to break the bank, he could be their quarry — and he’d fit well on a team that’s weak on the wings.
With Kings broadcaster Bob Miller moderating the discussion, the chat was fairly lively and covered many subjects, including the NHL entry draft Friday and Saturday at Staples Center. Bettman said the league should have brought the draft here “many years ago,” to which Leiweke responded that Bettman would have the next five years “to make up for lost time.”
Both Leiweke and Robitaille hinted they’d like to have the annual outdoor Winter Classic here — which isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds -- but Bettman was a killjoy there, saying he’d like to see how it’s possible to have ice when the temperature is 80 degrees.
Bettman answered some questions from an audience that included local business leaders and some of the Kings’ business partners, but he offered no news on any front.
The league doesn’t favor relocation and isn’t considering expansion, but if that were to change there are “at least a couple of places in Canada that could support a team.” The decision on whether to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics is still being studied and can’t be decided until it’s collectively bargained with the players’ association.
When asked for an update on the league’s TV rights deals with NBC, Versus and ESPN, he said, “Who?” pretending not to know what ESPN was. “It’s good to be on ESPN if you get the proper treatment you deserve,” he said.
He praised NBC’s storytelling capacity and said the NHL doesn’t have to “apologize” for Versus. But he added that broadcast negotiations will come up next year and he’s looking forward to those.
More later from the NHL draft…