Monday, September 13, 2010

Executive Take: Dick Patrick

The major executive who has been with the organization the longest and is perhaps the furthest from the spotlight is team president and partial owner Dick Patrick.  He is a member of one of hockey’s most legendary families, starting with Lester Patrick, Dick’s grandfather.  Lester Patrick helped develop many of the rules of hockey in its infancy in the early 1900s.  He also has an award named after him, the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is given for dedication to hockey in the United States.

Dick’s cousin, Craig, played for the Capitals from 1977-1979 and won two Stanley Cups as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oh yeah, and he won an Olympic Gold Medal as Herb Brooks’ assistant with the 1980 U.S. Men’s hockey team.  His father Muzz and uncle Lynn both played for the New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup in 1940.

Dick Patrick was born in 1946 in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, but he was raised in the United States.  He received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth University before attending Washington College of Law at American University for his law degree.

Dick Patrick came to the Capitals just before the 1982-1983 season.  He came to a team that had never qualified for the postseason before.  In the 28 years since he has been involved with the organization, the Capitals have made 21 playoff appearances and won six division titles.  He is the former chairman of the NHL Finance Committee and was the leader in the project to build Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  In addition to being the foreperson on the Kettler project, Patrick has also spearheaded increased involvement with the Caps in the youth hockey community.

Majority owner Ted Leonsis credits Patrick for the long-term extension of NHL superstar and franchise player Alex Ovechkin.  The two parties were initially working out a 5 year deal when Patrick brought up the idea of a longer contract. “It was Dick who I give the credit to for extending the Ovechkin contract to 13 years -- he pushed us all to make that aggressive move,” Leonsis wrote in one of his blogs.

Patrick, on how his thought process progressed, “…after first negotiating a five-year deal we revisited and began thinking that if he is going to be the player we all expect him to be and become one the League's top players, do we really want to go through this process in another five years and then deal with free agency,” Patrick told last October.

Dick Patrick has always been viewed as an even-tempered person.  He doesn’t make a lot of headlines and seems to get his significant work done under the radar.  Leonsis doesn’t want fans to confuse this with a lack of passion for the team or the game. “Dick is steady, mature, honest and has very high levels of personal integrity,” Leonsis wrote in his blog, “He may seem low-key but the passions for our team and the game boil at high levels within."

Dick Patrick has had a huge impact on the organization, and has spent the last nearly three decades dedicating himself to the Capitals.  He has perhaps the widest range of responsibilities of any of the team’s top executives, yet he gets the least notoriety and attention.  So much of his work is done behind the scenes, and taking a team from no playoff appearances to 21 is no small feat.  The only goal left: keeping with the Patrick family legacy and getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

1 comment:

  1. I love looking at the business side of sports, so I really enjoyed this look at one of Washington's top executives.

    Last year, there was a bit of chatter about changing some of the names of the NHL trophies to modernize the game, which I am really against... Having a member of the Patrick family still active in the league demonstrates the importance of knowing and respecting hockey history.

    Great article!