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.
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.
Photo credit: Michael Loccisano
Just posted on his website, via the man himself:
I know Capitals fans – and hockey fans around the world – agonized the past few months; I apologize for my role in not being able to help us reach a more timely agreement. I’m sorry it took this long.
Read the whole thing on Ted’s Take. What do you think? Is it an empty PR gesture or a genuine first step towards reconciliation? What comes next? If you care, I give it a lot more weight considering it came from the same guy who wrote The Business of Happiness (good book, give it a read).
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.
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 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.
Monday night, Brendan Shanahan suspended Alex Ovechkin three games for his hit on Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Tuesday morning, George McPhee announced that Ovi would be pulling out of the All-Star Game and its festivities in Ottawa. “Because he’s a suspended player, he doesn’t feel like he deserves to be there, so he’s not going to go,” McPhee told the gathered media. “He doesn’t want to be a distraction to the event.”
Fair enough. Yet Ovi’s decision to skip All-Star weekend has been met with criticism from some and anger by others. St. Louis Blues winger Andy McDonald tweeted a “a classless move by Ovi ‘opting’ out of the NHL Allstar Game.” What they don’t seem to realize is that Ovechkin has lots of other important things to be doing with his time. First things first, shaving-cream pie Mathieu Perreault.
It’ll be twelve days between when Ovechkin was suspended and when we next see him on the ice, so in the meantime, here are a few things we think he might be up to.
Tuesday night is a big deal. For the first time since February 10, 2008, Jaromir Jagr will play hockey at Verizon Center. Since he is perhaps the most reviled person in Washington Capitals history, there’s no way this doesn’t get ugly.
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 dollars a year as a Capital.
Former teammates congratulate Hunter as his number is retired. (Photo credit: Linda Spillers)
Back at Piney Orchard, only a handful of fans would come out to watch the Capitals practice– usually just the locals.
One day– a million years ago, my brother and I were sitting in the stands watching Mike Eagles and Steve Konowalchuk take an optional skate before leaving the ice. A few moments later, we heard someone cursing nearby. “F%$#ing thing!” the voice boomed.
Photo credit: Marianne Helm
Bruce Boudreau became head coach of the Washington Capitals around Thanksgiving 2007. He turned around a losing season, made the playoffs, and sported a winning record ever since. From then on, the Capitals have consistently won the Southeast Division– if not the Eastern Conference or Presidents’ Trophy.
But the Capitals have not lasted long in the playoffs, and their last two seasons have been plagued by dramatic losing streaks. After last night’s rout at the petioles of the Maple Leafs, General Manager George McPhee declined to comment when asked for a vote of confidence for his head coach. And now, on Sunday afternoon– when we’re all surely glued to the Redskins game– the Internet is atwitter with talk of Bruce Boudreau’s future.