In early August, Maryland-native Katie Ledecky won a gold meal at the London Summer Olympics. The 15-year-old had the second-fastest swim of all-time in the 800-meter freestyle. For RMNB readers, the best part about the victory however was the revelation that she’s one of us.
A before and after shot of Wes with his health coach Elaine.
On December 6, 2012, while the NHL lockout was in its 82nd day, employees of the Washington Capitals game entertainment crew reunited for hockey for the first time in seven months. The Caps AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, played the Norfolk Admirals in front of a sold out crowd. Hours before the game, arena employees met near the Caps locker room area for a briefing.
As PA Announcer Wes Johnson entered the room, Michael Wurman, Director of Game Entertainment and TV Products, pointed over to the man that many referred to as “Big Guy.” “There have been quite a few changes over the offseason,” Wurman said with a big smile. “And one of them just so happens to be sitting over here: Wes.”
The room gave Johnson a round of applause. “It was very gratifying,” Johnson told me in a phone interview. “And a little embarrassing too.”
“You’re probably in the last five to ten years of your life”
During a winter day a few years ago, Johnson walked out the front door of his Virginia home to run a few errands. As he made his way to his car, the 51-year-old actor, voice-over artist, and comedian, slipped on a patch of ice in his driveway. Despite his five-foot, nine-inch height, Johnson took a big tumble to the ground, ripping ligaments in his ankle.
James and Shannon show off their jerseys at Front Page Arlington. (Photo credit: Ian iPad)
On Sunday, the Washington Capitals officially opened training camp at Kettler Capitals IcePlex in front of about 1,000 raucous Caps fans. There wasn’t an empty seat in the bleachers, and rows of red-clad fans, four to five people deep, surrounded the rink. It was as if the lockout never happened.
But there were some fans not in red. They stood out from the pack, and that was intentional.
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.
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.
Leonsis and Bettman attend a screening of ‘Nanking’ back in 2007. (Photo credit: Brad Barket)
On Wednesday, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehrexchanged 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.”
As a Pittsburgh Penguin, Jaromir Jagr finished eight seasons with more than 90 points, ran flak for Mario Lemieux, and beat the hell out of the Caps in five of six playoff series. Then something even worse happened: he became a Washington Capital.
Fans can have honest disagreement about what the dark days of the Washington Capitals actually were. No wait; they can’t. That first season going a pathetic 8-67-5 doesn’t come close to unbridled misery of the Jaromir Jagr era (October 6, 2001 – January 21, 2004). It began like this: Acquired from a broke Pittsburgh team, Jagr would earn eleven million dollarsa year as a Capital.