This is a Garage League and Other Lockout Lessons

Ted Leonsis

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.

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Ted Leonsis Addresses Lockout In Season-Ticket Holder Email

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.

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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.

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Warm Tidings to the Honourable Gentleman, Jaromir Jagr

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.

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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.

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On Bruce Boudreau’s Future

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.

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Welcome Home, Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr

Doesn’t this picture just make you sick? (Photo credit: Jonathan Newton)

A long, long time ago, in a frightening world before iPads and Windows Vista, there was this belief that the Capitals needed only one guy to get over the hump to become a stone-cold Stanley Cup contender. It was 2001-02. They already had fifty-goal scorer Peter Bondra, Vezina winner Olie Kolzig, and what many thought to be among the most solid defenses in the NHL.

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Winter is Coming in One Day

Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Toni L. Sandys of the Washington Post

Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.

Seeing a Steve Konowalchuk hat trick live with my dad and brother made me fall in love with hockey. Joe Juneau’s jamshot past Dominik Hasek made me wildly jump up and down as a teenager. But Alex Ovechkin’s first career playoff tally is my all-time favorite NHL goal.

Here’s why.

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals hosted their third annual Capitals Convention. A sold-out crowd of over 6,000 fans descended on the spacious confines of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to get autographs, pose for photos, and have questions answered by their favorite players.

Ted Leonsis, a mastermind behind the yearly event, was ecstatic for the turn-out. “That we’re able to sell out everything we touch really shows how wonderful the fan support is and my goal is to build a team as good as our fan base,” he said.

And really. What’s not to love? There were so many great moments. A few of our favorites: the Knuble’s Knights got knighted by GM George McPhee, Brooks Laich’s mom Jane participated in “The Support it Takes to Make it to the NHL” panel, and Braden Holtby and Jay Beagle played floor hockey with some kids. And oh yeah, this too.

“Hockey players are so approachable,” Bruce Boudreau said. “They could be walking amongst [the crowd] and they’ll sit down and talk to you. I think it means a lot to [the fans] that they are so human.”

Below are my pictures of from the day including Alex Ovechkin giving out some free hugs, Mike Green signing a baby, and a lot of smiling players — and when I mean a lot, I’m talking some sort of world record.

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Alex Ovechkin Signs Six-Year Deal with Bauer

Ovi sports his new gear. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Bauer)

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

The world’s most famous hockey player has got some new gear. After dropping CCM over the summer, Alex Ovechkin unveiled a new six-year sponsorship with rival manufacturer Bauer, whose equipment Ovi used for the first three years of his career. This is Ovechkin’s second new sponsorship of the week after news of his long-term deal with superpower Nike for “lifestyle” and “performance” products surfaced on Thursday night.

“I think that CCM treat me well,” Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “They help me a lot and without that project I can’t score 65 goals. But in that kind of moment and that kind of situation right now, I feel that Bauer is company who I’m looking forward to work with. I played with this stick a couple years ago and I like it.”

The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. With Ovi’s ditching CCM — and therefore their parent company Reebok — that left Bauer as the only company with the cash to pickup a superstar endorsement.

The move was also teased on Bauer’s Web site over the holiday weekend, with their home page sporting a picture of skates with the Great Eight’s trademark yellow laces and the banner “This year will be different.”

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