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Mothers' deaths shape new Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke

TAMPA — Those who know new Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke call him a people person. Even older brother Tim said, "I really don't know anyone who doesn't like him."

But that laudable trait, which has taken Leiweke so far in the sports and entertainment business, had a sorrowful start: the deaths from cancer of his mother, Helen, when Leiweke was 8, and his stepmother, Pat, when he was 17.

"It makes my eyes water thinking about that, but it did have a pronounced effect on me, and it did on (Tim) as well," Leiweke said. "It really affected my orientation to life and to fans. I'm somebody who has a lot of empathy toward things in the world. Community is a big thing to me."

How did one affect the other?

"Watching your mother die when you're 8 is hard," Leiweke said. "I think it was even harder to watch your stepmother, who became your mother, die when I was 17. Her piece of advice to me was, 'I'm not going to make it. You are, and make the most of every day.' I never, ever forgot it, and the compassion I feel for people and my ability to connect … through adversity, those things came to me."

Tim, a Kings governor and president and CEO of AEG, a Los Angeles sports and entertainment company, said the lessons went further.

"When you have to fend for yourself at an early age, you better, one, develop very good work ethic, and two, you better develop very good people skills, because without that, you're probably not going to make it.

"We were both thrown into a situation where we had to develop relationships and go out on our own early, and that has helped create the kind of personality (Tod) has today."

Tod and Tim were not alone. There were two more brothers in their St. Louis home and two sisters. Their father, Jack, just turned 88.

"We get along famously," Tod said of the siblings.

With memories from two mothers who affected a lifetime.

"I once said to my wife, my life in some ways was blessed by this adversity because it put in me something that will never go away," Tod said.

ESPO WAITING: Owner Jeff Vinik wasn't specific and said the decision is up to Leiweke, but it sounded as if Lightning founder Phil Esposito is in line for a bigger role with the team.

"We want him out in the community," Vinik said. "We want him involved with us. He's a great ideas person."

Esposito, Tampa Bay's longtime radio analyst for home games, said he is eager for the opportunity.

"I'm excited about it," the 68-year-old Hall of Famer said. "I'm looking forward to get going because, quite frankly, I'm bored to death. I want to get working again. I never thought semi­retirement could be so boring. You can only play so much golf."

"We'll see how it evolves," Vinik said. "But Phil is a great asset to this organization."

RANGER ON HOLD: GM Steve Yzerman said he recently spoke to Paul Ranger but does not know if the defenseman, who missed most of last season because of personal issues, wants to play.

Ranger "is not prepared to make a decision one way or another," Yzerman said.

He better hurry. The Lightning has seven defensemen on its NHL roster. Yzerman is debating whether to go with eight because he believes Matt Smaby and Matt Lashoff are not proven commodities.

Yzerman wants Ranger, 25, whose puck-moving skills would fit with coach Guy Boucher's offensive system. But that window eventually will close.

ODDS AND ENDS: D Brock Beuke­boom, drafted 63rd overall in June, was invited to Canada's world junior camp. … Radio play-by-play voice Dave Mishkin has a new one-year deal, with a club option to extend it.

Mothers' deaths shape new Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke 07/31/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 1, 2010 1:43pm]
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