The two businessmen who will own the controlling interest in the Islanders in two years said Wednesday they view their transition as an apprenticeship of sorts.
It's an opportunity, they said, to learn firsthand from Charles Wang how to run a professional hockey team.
Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who officially became Islanders minority owners two weeks ago, sat alongside Wang and general manager Garth Snow at a Nassau Coliseum news conference Wednesday afternoon and spoke excitedly about their on-the-job training as owners.
Ledecky said they're "on a mission to learn and absorb" from Wang, an Islanders owner since 2000. Malkin added: "It's Charles' vision, and it's Charles' team. And what I've realized in the few short weeks we've officially been owners is how much we still need to learn."
Wang said Wednesday he's pleased to teach the duo everything he knows about running the Islanders while continuing to be the team's controlling owner during their last season in Nassau County and first in Brooklyn.
"They wanted me to stay on," Wang said. "I liked them and I wanted to stay on and help. This is still the Islanders. It's my baby in many ways."
The terms of the sale were agreed to in August. Wang said the Forbes report of a $485 million price tag is "not far from what it is." The league's board of governors approved the transaction last month, the deal closed two weeks ago and Ledecky and Malkin said they've been watching Wang closely ever since.
Wang described the arrangement between him, Ledecky and Malkin like this: "For two years I run the team, OK? And they'll work with me. They're good guys to work with. So far we're doing really well with it. And then after that it's their team to run. I will be a minority owner."
For Malkin, who owns upscale shopping centers across Europe, this is his first foray into professional sports.
Ledecky, a Manhattan investor, is a former co-owner of the Washington Capitals, but he said the league has changed so much since he sold his share of the Capitals 14 years ago that Wang's guidance is invaluable.
Their willingness to wait two years before taking over the Islanders gives Wang an exit strategy he was comfortable with, considering he felt he still had unfinished business running this team.
"I wanted to end the lease in Nassau County because that was my commitment to people here and I wanted to start the first year in Brooklyn," he said. "I wanted to do that."
What Wang really wanted was a new Nassau Coliseum, something he was talking about almost from his first day as Islanders owner. But after going rounds with politicians for years without any real progress toward breaking ground, he decided that a new arena wasn't in the plans.
So two years ago it was time to commit to Brooklyn so there was no more uncertainty hovering over the Islanders' future. But the frustrating process that led to that day still haunts him.
Describing the process of trying to get a new arena as "a little bit of hell," Wang said he still harbors some negative feelings about what could have been here in Nassau.
"I'm angry because they could have done something for Nassau County," he said. "That's unbelievable. We all know it. But it wasn't done. And you can't keep looking in the back-view mirror. Life is such [that you] look in the front-view mirror and move on."
That's what Wednesday was designed to do. At the start of the news conference Wang handed Malkin and Ledecky Islanders jerseys with their names on them, and they later posed for pictures together.
The two new minority owners also repeatedly praised Wang for his "vision" to create such an extended transition period that allows them to observe before taking the reins. Only time will tell whether it's successful, but the three of them say they are confident.
Said Malkin, "You're seeing a partnership here that we look forward to celebrate with victories in the years ahead."
And when Ledecky was asked to give a message to Islanders fans, he said, "Fifth ring."