Ted Leonsis

Photo credit: Len Redkoles

Over the past eight years, there have been too many games lost to lockout, especially for a “fringe” sport that once had lower TV ratings than poker. In 2004-05, the NHL scrapped a whole season to cram a salary cap down the players’ throats. If that weren’t enough, in 2012-13, fans lost 34 games because the owners and players played chicken with record-high revenues, finding compromise only when the drop-dead date drew near. It’s friggin’ stupid.

We’ve lost 116 games in which Alex Ovechkin would have played at or near his prime.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins handled things right. Ron Burkle, Mario Lemieux, and CEO David Morehouse just straight up said sorry.

“We offer our apology,” the note said. “There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months.”

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis sent out his own message on Sunday. There was no apology. Instead, it was an empty PR-y message that sweeps nasty feelings under the rug, assumes support, and looks forward.

“Thanks to all of you for your patience, support and understanding during this process,” Leonsis writes in his closing paragraph. This message was sent out during the middle of the Redskins’ first playoff game in five years.

I was not patient, supportive, or understanding of this lockout. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. Two fan comments near the top of the page articulate how a lot of people in this area feel right now.

“100-plus days of locked out hockey and you expect two paragraphs is going to do… what, exactly?” writes ZacharyB. “Show us you care? Forget it, Ted. You’ve lost this fan for a very long while.”

Mr Ka-Boom! goes a step further: “I have asked for my money back. I am done with [hockey.]”

The fact is Leonsis, reported to be one of the hardline owners during negotiations, has some fences to mend. I’ve got an idea on how he could begin to mend those fences.


Ted, on Opening Night, you should donate your suite to the loyal season-ticket holders who had been left out in the cold until now. Instead, sit with fans in the upper bowl of Verizon Center. Let your most ardent supporters eat exotic cheeses and drink fancy wine. Come upstairs. Shake hands and sit with the people who have given hundreds and thousands of dollars (a big deal in this economy) to support your team and make it among the best in the NHL. Painting “Thank you, fans” on the ice will not suffice. You know that.

Thank You Fans

This is your opportunity, Ted. Take the challenge. It’s not a publicity stunt, it’s an opportunity to genuinely interact with fans. And if you want, I can tag along. I’ll help absorb any popcorn thrown your way.

Our readers have suggested this idea and ones like it in our comments and emails to thecrew@russianmachineneverbreaks.com.

Think it over, and let us know what you think. You have been one of the most ardent supporters of RMNB; let us help you extend the first olive branch to fans this year. We promise, like everything we do, it’ll be a big deal, and hopefully, everyone will be left smiling in the end.

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  • Brouwer Rangers

    Ted is welcome to sit with us in the very top row!

  • http://twitter.com/HockeyDivah Lynn Regert

    for those of us who are fans, but not season ticket holders, I think the league should make Center Ice free this year and at a 50% discount next year…

  • http://twitter.com/SlavaKM Slava

    How about replace GM with someone who knows hockey and then remove himself from operations.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I don’t think that’ll fly. Center Ice is for pretty serious fans. The NHL needs to make an effort to marginals fans who might not come back otherwise or at least need a morale boost. How? NO FREAKING IDEA.

  • BlueCottonCandy

    This is a business for Ted, nothing more or less. He is not some devoted fan with money, who wants a cup as bad as you or I. If we have learned anything in his tenure its “spin” and marketing rules the day – oh and THANKS !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.weeks1 Ed Weeks

    Ted has earned the right both as an owner and a business man, to not have to answer to a “public call-out”. I feel sad for you. You are the one that is going to miss out. This man has spent loads of money in and around DC. He has given his best efforts to make “US FANS” proud of this organization. If you don’t like it, don’t watch/go. Sports are a business. A big business. And he has to protect his investments. Go up and realize whats going on. Stop this cry baby, I, I, I attitude.

    Are you going to boycott schools because teachers strike? No.

    Hockey is coming back. Be happy that this deal was done. We may lose some games, but the season is to long anyway. Maybe now, we can see the league’s best players with fewer dings and injuries going into the post season.

    Let’s Go Caps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/VeggieTart Danielle

    How about lowering ticket prices? Show you’re serious about wanting us back. And make it up to the arena staff who suffered under this lockout. In case you haven’t noticed, Ted, the Wizards don’t put butts in seats the way the Caps do, which means less staffing, so arena employees work fewer hours. And if you take a hit, you deserve it. Maybe you’ll think twice about going hardline on another lockout. Maybe you’ll actively search for solutions to *prevent* another lockout.

    Oh, yeah, and a sincere apology for what you’ve put fans through would be nice. Say what you will about Pittsburgh, they apologized for the frustration the fans endured as the owners and players’ association hashed this out. You would be well-served to do the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.weeks1 Ed Weeks

    Great idea. But they will never just give that away.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Ed, Thanks for feeling sorry for me. I wrote this the other night instead of spending time with my girlfriend and ferrets. So someone should.

  • ernest_poontang

    No, no, no! They should pay us to attend; with free popcorn and drinks!!! And dogs, yeah we want dogs,trained siberian huskies that if we want drinks will fetch our free drinks and free popcorn!!! Yeah!!! Wholst being paid!!! Yeah Ted we hear ya mon..!

  • Manda

    Maybe he can put together a “Fan Thank You Fest” type of thing at the VC, where he can get on the mic and say what’s in his heart. VC employees would get another night of work. Fans can go down on the ice or something. Autograph sessions with the newbies? I don’t know. It is cool that Slapshot is going around town giving away “swag”, but then again I have nothing but live for the Bird. Ted on the other hand…

  • tkwetzel

    I would volunteer one of my seats for Ted to come sit in the upper level. I think it would serve him well to come join the fans up there and participate in some dialogue with them. It would be good for him and would be good for the fans. There may be things he can’t talk about to avoid being fined, but listening to fans and talking to them would go a long way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.weeks1 Ed Weeks

    It’s a wasted article. If you don’t like it, stop trying to profit from it. I own 2 sports collectibles stores. I blew everything NHL out. And dumped the rest through December. I am proud to say, there is zero NHL merch in my stores. That’s how I chose to handle it. But it’s business. That’s all it is. That’s all Ted is in for. Does he want to win, he yes. Because it’s DC. People will flock to see a winner in DC. Look at the last 5-6 years of sles for the Caps. Now the Nats sell. And Redskins, forget it. They always sell, but this year, Friggin’ Boomin’.

    But I will not put Caps stuff back in my stores this year(2013). That’s about 50k in wholesale dollars they lose from me! Small ripple in the large ocean. But that’s my stance.

  • tkwetzel

    Ted is a very smart man and has done a lot for his business (the Caps organization). Though at some point he does have to listen to fans as we are his customers that bring him the money. If he never listened to us, there would be a lot fewer fans to make his business successful. You know the saying, “the customer is always right.” Fortunately, I do believe Ted knows this and tries to do what is right and best for us so that his team and his business are successful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Thomas.S.Elliott Thomas Stetson Elliott

    If he was unhappy w/ how much money he was making, he should have sold the Caps to a businessman who can more competently make a profit. Reneging on existing contracts with players is unethical, immoral, and probably illegal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.weeks1 Ed Weeks

    Yes. But sometimes what we perceive as right, may not be whats right for the business. I learned in school, “the customer is always right”, unless they are wrong. But it’s your job to fix it. Don’t you think he(Ted) has always opened up to the fans? Because i know I have exchanged messages with him a few times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515045371 Dave Fry

    The thing is during all of this nothing was about “the fans”. Tickets will go up, beer will go up, food etc. And in a place like DC it doesnt matter when so many people have so much money in the area. Thats why people in big hockey markets dont really care, because they will still sell out, and everyone will come back. Ive been a caps fan for 30 years (all of my life), but honestly, i dont know how many games i will watch.

  • Bryant Thomas

    I won the Stanley Cup 7 times in 10 years on NHL 13 Be a GM, HIRE ME.

  • tkwetzel

    I am not saying that he isn’t a good owner or that he doesn’t open up to the fans. He is very personable and accessible. I just don’t agree with your first message basically saying that he has earned his right as an owner and business man to ignore the fans. He does have that right, but his reputation would drop faster then Crosby’s head to the ice.

  • http://twitter.com/letzgoterps James

    You know what? F*&^ Ted. I had high hopes for him and hoped he’d actually care about hockey. But just like the owner before him, he only looks at the Capitals as a cash cow for his own pockets and in the hopes of bringing him a championship … in basketball.

  • http://twitter.com/letzgoterps James

    He won’t lower ticket prices. According to him, the Capitals are still not making a profit … b/c he rigs the papers so that the Verizon Center makes him money, not the Caps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15703745 Brian Zupruk

    I think Center Ice is a pretty powerful tool to make new fans too. Comcast and TIme Warner have a vested interest in the NHL and are probably preeeeettty angry about losing so many viewers already this year.

  • stephent6

    Having met Ted & sat in his box, had the chef cook food for me. He is the first up to tell everyone to drop everything because the game is starting back up. Game time he talks about the game, a bad call you name it. He is very much a fan of ‘his’ product. What makes people think he was the hard liner boggles me. He was selected by the governing body to negotiate. He has a thriving team, why would he want not want the ball rolling….

  • http://twitter.com/VeggieTart Danielle

    Yeah, the movie industry plays the same game. Films that make millions of dollars–the producers claim it makes no net profit.

  • Katherine

    I think they did lower the season and partial seats… Unless I’m very much mistaken, my 5 game plan was originally $65 per seat and I got an email Tues saying they are now $53 per seat (for 3 games). With my (possibly incorrect) math, that’s a reduction of 18%. Whether or not they stay at that level for next season is another question of course. I also don’t know if the single game prices dropped.

    Since I wasn’t expecting anything like this, it was a nice surprise.

    And yes, an actual apology from Ted would be nice.

  • PatrickOtt

    The season is to long? Really? Cause I’d LOVE to watch my favorite sport only 16 times a year like football. The season is a perfect length. You tell me if you are satisfied at the end of this 48 game season, and I’ll tell you to go cheer for the Redskins.

  • Howie

    Ted does not seem like the type of man who will say sorry. He is only about business and does not concern himself of fan feelings. If he were, he would stop presenting the team like a showcase white-collar trophy and more like a real hockey team. All of the capabilities are there to be a champion, but corporate management only considers this a business.

  • Peter

    Google “the business of happiness”

  • http://twitter.com/SlavaKM Slava

    How many times did Caps make the PO with GM in charge? How many of those times are 1st round exits? 98 doesn’t count as it was not his team. His scrooge trades only look good on paper, they don’t make a bit of difference for this team. “Young guns” never had leadership in the room, now they’re old “orphans “. GM/Ted screwed this team during the best draft in history. But go ahead and preach to Ted’s sheep who’re just happy to mindlessly “Rock the red” .

  • Feds

    And what about GameCenter Live for foreign fans?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.wallenfelt Jeff Wallenfelt

    Ted can have a seat next to me on my couch….where I’ll be watching something else other than hockey this year

  • ringtail

    What they really should paint on the ice is, “Welcome Back, Suckers.”

  • Stephi

    I’m not a season ticket holder…I just scrounge up money a few times a season to go to as many games I can afford. I guess that I don’t count.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25505113 Adam Putnam

    How about welcome the fans back with lower beer prices, better dank beer selection. And first and foremost EDIBLE food! Its a shame that Nationals Stadium has such better concessions! Why not staff the Verizon center with employees who actually give a shit about their jobs and sell edible food!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    This site shows fan cost indexes http://www.fancostexperience.com/

    The Caps are just a bit above average, but have been increasing prices faster than most of the league. I’d like to see that prince increase slow or stop, especially considering the on-ice product has declined significantly in the last 2 years.

    On quality and selection, I have to disagree. The vendor right outside the press elevator (carvers?) usually has fantastic sandwiches. And there’s a great beer place near the Greene Turtle.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    The Caps used to throw terrific home opener festivals on “Abe Pollin Way.” I guess it’s too cold for that right now, but I’d love something like that again.

  • Heidi

    I don’t like the prices or quality either, but Ted explained at a fan forum last year that the food concession was a long-term deal that Abe Pollin made to get financing to build Verizon Center in the first place. He has little control over the product. I wish he could exert whatever control he does have to bring prices down and quality up, but I have no insight if that’s possible.

  • Andrew Merewitz

    Andddd Ted posted his apology. Nice work RMNB!!

    http://www.tedstake.com/2013/01/10/a-note-of-apology-and-empathy/

  • Emily Casto

    I live and breathe Caps hockey, and over the last several months I’ve shared my fellow hockey fans’ anger, frustration, depression and hopelessness. I, like many others had given up all hope of salvaging any type of season. Then one glorious January morning, we suddenly had NHL hockey back! It was SO MUCH better than Christmas!

    This great news doesn’t heal all of the wounds caused by the “Punch in the Face” to the sport (to paraphrase BL21), and there’s still so much understandable anger among fans who say they plan to boycott the remainder of the season. I know everyone’s pissed at both the NHL and the NHLPA, they should be – I am. But even though I’m angry, now the lockout had ended I’ve decided that I’m not going to let anyone, including myself, take one more day of hockey away from me.

    Most of you reading RMNB are hockey lovers, or at least fans- so dig down deep and remember why. Watch “Miracle”, go on YouTube and watch fan-recorded “Unleashing of the Fury” videos, flip through some pictures of yourself and your friends at Caps games, remember how good it felt to force Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs last year against Boston and then how elated you were when we BEAT TIM THOMAS IN BOSTON IN HIS HOME!

    Right now, the future of pro hockey in the U.S. is in a dangerously vulnerable place. If we, the fans, don’t come back for this short season,the future of the sport is seriously at risk. I know it’s not fair (as life rarely is), but the reality is that if we want our sport to survive the terrible blow it’s been dealt, we as fans have to migrate to the Chinatown Phone Booth, Rock our Red, buy our Boardwalk fries and overpriced beer, and stand and scream to “Unleash the Fury”. I love hockey and the Caps enough to set aside the rage I feel towards those who held my sport hostage and to SHOW UP for the sake of the game.

    I’m not trying to let anyone off the hook; just taking a step back to see the full picture- both past and future. If the near future doesn’t include a consistently growing U.S. pro-hockey fan-base and/or Caps hockey in my city because my fellow fans and I didn’t come back in the Spring of 2013, it would be a much greater a crime than what’s been done to us over these last few months, and far more damaging to the sport.

    Remember how much you wanted hockey back on those boring November nights? It’s back. And we’re the only ones who can keep it here.

  • Rhino40

    Which is why savvy actors, directors, etc. have their agents negotiate for a percentage of the gross