SEATTLE -- While the city of Seattle has yet to be officially awarded an expansion franchise by the National Hockey League, the team already has a familiar face in place to serve as its president.
Tod Leiweke was named as the Chief Executive Officer of the future NHL franchise at an announcement at the Glass House at Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center on Wednesday morning. Leiweke previously served as CEO of the Seattle Seahawks and most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of the National Football League, the No. 2 position in the league behind Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Leiweke left his position with the NFL in mid-March just weeks after Seattle received over 25,000 season ticket commitments in an hour's time during their season ticket drive.
"I think this is a perfect setup for being able to recruit the best," Leiweke said. "Whether it be the general manager, the head coach, the trainer, or ultimately players, I think this is going to be a very, very special place to play hockey."
Leiweke's brother, Tim, has been the figurehead of the NHL to Seattle effort as the CEO of the Oak View Group, which reached an agreement with the city to renovate KeyArena into a current sports and concert venue. David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer - the two lead owners-to-be of the hockey team were also on hand for the announcement on Wednesday.
"This is the first step of what we're going to do for hockey in Seattle," Bruckheimer said.
Leiweke spent seven years with the Seahawks before leaving to become the CEO and a part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke joined the Seahawks in 2003 and oversaw operations with the Portland Trail Blazers as well during his stay in the Northwest. He spearheaded the effort to bring Pete Carroll to Seattle as head coach of the Seahawks after a disappointing 2009 season saw the ousting of Jim Mora after just one season as head coach.
Leiweke joined the NFL as COO in 2015 before resigning on March 13 to eventually return to Seattle to head the NHL efforts.
"I'm not here to make it kind of work. I'm here to make to work," Leiweke said.
The group is expecting to get conditional approval for a team following the league's board of governors meeting in June with final approval to come at their meeting in September.
"Well we hope there's not any doubt about it," Bonderman said. "It's certainly not just a formality, however. There is a process with the NHL. We expect to play through that process. We've put in our application, which we were invited to do by the NHL which suggests they've made a preliminary understanding of what they'd like to have accomplished."
Leiweke's addition brings another key part of team structure into place. The Oak View Group will run the building, Bonderman and Bruckheimer will own the team, and Leiweke will run the business efforts. Once a team is actually awarded to the city, getting a General Manager and Head Coach in place will be among the next steps to be accomplished. The group is targeting 2020 as the year the NHL will begin play in a renovated KeyArena.
“I can’t wait until we play the (Vancouver) Canucks. I’m throwing it down right now. We’re going to bring it that night," Leiweke said.
The announcement of Leiweke as CEO of the effort was attended by many notable Seattle sports figures. Mariner owner John Stanton and CEO Kevin Mather, Seahawks CEO Peter McLoughlin, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer and NBA Hall of Fame player/coach Lenny Wilkins.
Photo Credit: Jerry Bruckheimer (left) and David Bonderman (middle) introduce Tod Leiweke (right) as CEO of the Seattle Hockey Partners effort to bring an NHL team to Seattle. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR