Capitals owner Ted Leonsis spoke to reporters for 22 minutes on Thursday prior to his team’s open-to-the-public practice at Verizon Center. I’ve used plenty of his quotes for multiple blog posts and stories, but there were some extras that I’ve saved from the cutting room floor. He discussed what he wanted out of the new collective bargaining agreement, his role in the process, the financial state of his team, how to grow revenue in the future – hint: new TV deal – and even the dangers of Twitter. All interesting stuff. The questions asked aren’t necessarily in order.
What did the owners get out of the lockout:
…I served on the negotiating committee, which was really being a proxy for the ownership group. The big deliverables for me, were 50/50 [revenue] deal and a long-term deal. I was very, very adamant that if we could get a decade of peace that would be terrific and we have that. So I’m thrilled with the deal. There was a lot of give and take on both sides. I’m sure that there’s things in the deal that the union, the players don’t like, the owners don’t like but that’s usually the sign of a good deal that was negotiated the right way. I’m very apologetic that we lost the 34 games, but I’m not apologetic that we had to get a new system that was good for everyone and I think we achieved that.
Mending fences with players:
We hashed it out [Ed. Note – there was some serious sarcasm here]. I showed up, Alex [Ovechkin] came in, he ran over to me and gave me a big hug. We talked about our families and I told him I would have an engagement party for him in my house. There’s no overhang at all. The players want to play, the players love playing for our fans. They, frankly, like being in Washington. We built a world class franchise and the only thing that’s missing from the resume for all of these players is getting to the finals and winning a Cup.
In the room for negotiations, were you satisfied with your contribution: I’d like to tell you that we had a really big role but it’s mostly sitting at a table and listening. If I said 500 words in the 50 sessions in total that I attended, I think that would be an exaggeration. I think one reporter said I was a hardliner, which I had to laugh at… I’m not a hardliner. The two things I wanted was a 50/50 deal and a 10-year deal. But we basically served as proxy, it was really the league and the union that were doing the negotiating.
Did you like the end result for your franchise after consistently losing money with this team: I’ve never made a penny of profit with the Washington Capitals. Not recent years. Since I’ve owned the team, we’ve never been profitable.
Is that possible with this system: This system will help us to get to break even.
Fan response this week: It’s truly amazing. We open Kettler. More people were at Kettler every day for this week than I was expecting. And a lot of people are going to be out there tonight. And so our fans will come back. But we know that we didn’t do right by them. Missing 34 games is not what you want to do as an owner of a team or the commissioner. He’s been apologetic. We’ve all been apologetic. But now it’s time for us to move forward.
No people coming up in person and saying to you “Why are you doing this?”: No. I was just upstairs and I was getting hugs and people asking for autographs and taking my picture with their kids. Don’t mistake Twitter for the real world, would be my advice to you.
What have you learned about yourself as an owner and a person after two lockouts, including the NBA: Say no when they ask you to be on the negotiating committee. [polite laughter]. That the business side of owning a team is really of no interest and should be hidden from the fans. And that fans don’t care about it and they shouldn’t care about it. Fans only care about the team, the experience, the players and can you win a championship. And that’s how it should be. And so I’m hoping that there is a decade from both teams, both leagues, of peace and I think we can do that. That would be a good thing.
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