Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has been the target of criticism since he was named a “hardliner” during the NHL lockout. We’ve observed the decline in his prestige, documented some fan protests, and even proffered a scheme to repair relations with the fans. Addressing the media at Thursday’s Caps Fan Appreciation Night at Verizon Center, Leonsis finally had the chance to discuss his role in the lockout, and he amiably rejected the hardliner label ascribed to him.
I guess it’s appropriate to start by saying that we’re all unimaginably happy about the return of hockey. That said, we’ve learned a lot over the four-month lockout, and this seems like the appropriate time to take stock.
Lesson 1: Mario Lemieux was right
The NHL is a garage league. I’m not talking about riff-raff players spoiling up the staid finesse hockey of a bygone era; I’m talking about business competence. Since my adolescence, the NHL has lost part or all of three seasons. Fans who have been following hockey for a decade have seen 20% of that time obscured or obliterated by lockouts.
Imagine running a business where you do work 80% of the time. The rest of the time you’re struggling to master a skill most functionally social humans learn in kindergarten: sharing. Your business plan is flawed.
Reader Stephen C. forwarded us this email. On Monday, Ticketmaster sent him a campaign promoting the December 4th Capitals/Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Except there’s this lockout thing going on, so that ain’t happening. We figured it was just a screw-up in the system, some email marketing intern noob flying off the handle. Stephen thinks it is a sign that “our long (inter)national nightmare is nearing an end.”
On Wednesday night, I got this apology in my inbox from Ticketmaster.
Photo credit: atlant-mo.ru
Let’s start with a disclosure: we aren’t actively covering the lockout. Financial negotiations (and their public face) are all about posturing, tedium, and equivocation, whereas our principal interest in hockey has always been scoar, moar, and goals. That said, our Alex Ovechkin has spoken out about the ongoing melee between NHL ownership and players, and it’s definitely newsworthy.
Talking with SovSport’s Dmitry Ponomarenko after Saturday’s game, Ovechkin gave his spin on the NHL’s offer to the players earlier this week, dismissing the proposal as “nothing new” and “good only after a quick look.” Ovechkin continued:
If we speak in Russian, the NHL provided a beautiful dream to the media and fans, but in reality it’s a lie. It’s showboating. The league is trying to show that they are kind of working, trying to save the season, but they offer nothing new. It’s all the same, just in different words.
In the interview, Ovechkin carries some water for the players’ association, but he ends with a bombshell: he is willing to walk away from the NHL if the new CBA is no good.
Leonsis and Bettman attend a screening of ‘Nanking’ back in 2007. (Photo credit: Brad Barket)
On Wednesday, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr exchanged new proposals to once again try and avoid a lockout. The NHL sweetened its offer to players, proposing a new six-year deal that would initially give the NHLPA 49% of all hockey revenue (down from 57%) and not force a rollback of salaries. The NHLPA countered with a deal that would start them off at 54.3%, and which over time would drop their slice of the pie to 52.7%. Bettman is also threatening to take the NHL’s current proposal completely off the table if it’s not signed by Saturday.
There have been no new developments since then, however, and the actual signing of a new CBA before midnight on Saturday still seems unlikely. So in that vein, Washington Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis sent out an email to the Caps season ticket holder base early Thursday evening explaining protocol on what would happen if there is a work stoppage and declaring “that the NHL’s priority is to reach an agreement with the players.”
The full text of the email is below.