It was Leiweke who ran the Sounders as they transitioned into MLS, who came up with the pregame raising of the 12th Man flag, and who led the Seahawks when they hired Pete Carroll. He’s got a golden touch.
What did the Great One say again? “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Well, Tod Leiweke has taken plenty of shots throughout his career as a sports executive — but it’s hard to find many examples of him missing.
Wednesday, the Seattle Hockey Partners introduced Leiweke as the CEO of the NHL team they hope to bring to Seattle in the next two years. And though it may seem odd to introduce the CEO of a nonexistent franchise, if Leiweke is involved, you can bet there will be professional wings and defensemen skating around KeyArena soon.
The man has had too much success and wields too much influence to take this gig without assurance of a team. From the Seahawks to the Sounders to the Lightning to the NFL’s front office, Leiweke’s resume is as extensive as it is exemplary.
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Could it all have been a string of luck set to run out once he comes back home? Maybe. But so far, the silver-haired CEO has had the golden touch.
Seattleites first grew familiar with Leiweke when he became CEO of the Seahawks back in 2003. Two years later, the team reached the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Giving Leiweke credit for that run would probably be naive — he wasn’t the one who hired Mike Holmgren or acquired Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander or Walter Jones. But his contributions to the Emerald City’s sports landscape afterward deserve legitimate acclaim.
It was Leiweke who ran the Sounders as they transitioned into MLS and drew unprecedented crowd sizes for the league. It was Leiweke who came up with the pregame raising of the 12th Man flag, which has become one of the NFL’s most iconic ceremonies. And it was Leiweke who canned Jim Mora Jr. after one season so as to lure Pete Carroll, thus launching the most enthralling stretch of seasons in Seattle sports history.
Perhaps that’s why, despite being a St. Louis native, Leiweke felt he was coming “home” by returning to Seattle. Yes, he was the CEO of the Lightning when they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, and yes, he has spent the past two and a half years as the NFL’s chief operating officer — but the Pacific Northwest never seemed to stop whispering in his ear.
Tod’s older brother, Tim Leiweke, is the one spearheading the KeyArena renovation project as head of the Oak View Group. But it was Tod who first alerted Tim as to the potential of KeyArena.
Tod couldn’t believe the Sonics had left and that an arena solution eluded all parties addressing the problem. Years later, it seems a world-class facility is just a couple years away.
“We’re going to take something, and we’re going to make it great again,” Leiweke said. “In the recycling capital of the world, one of the greenest cities, that only feels like the right thing to do.”
Answering questions alongside Leiweke Wednesday was billionaire investment banker David Bonderman — the team’s future majority owner — and Bonderman’s business partner, Hollywood film producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Joining them in the room were Tim Leiweke, Seahawks CEO Peter McLoughlin, Mariners majority owner John Stanton, Mariners president Kevin Mather, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer and NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, among others.
Certainly there are more recognizable figures in the Seattle sports scene, but short of Seahawks owner Paul Allen, the group was composed of the most influential.
The prospect of an NHL team is feeling more real every day, and based on the 10,000 tickets sold within 12 minutes of them becoming available, the excitement is booming, too. Especially when you consider that it took the Las Vegas Golden Knights — the NHL’s newest expansion team — six months to sell the same amount.
As Bonderman said when asked about the ticket sales: “I think (the league) was really surprised. It shows that Seattle is a hockey town, it’s a great sports town.”
Ever cautious in his language, Bonderman dismissed the idea that securing a team was a mere formality. But he added that there would be a significant announcement in June followed by another one in September. Those aren’t disclosures by a man lacking confidence.
Nor are statements like this:
“Our commitment will be to win in everything we do, but ultimately bring a Stanley Cup, yes, back to Seattle,” Leiweke said. “It happened once, it can happen again.”
As for Leiweke, he’s won big more than once. No reason to think it can’t happen again.