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With lockout over, Capitals' Ted Leonsis hopes to break even

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Owner has not made 'a penny'

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said Thursday the new collective bargaining agreement signed by the NHL and the NHL Players' Association earlier this month has stabilized the league's finances and set the stage for future growth.

Speaking during an open-to-the-public practice for his team at Verizon Center, Leonsis addressed a range of topics related to the recent four-month NHL lockout, including his team's finances, making amends with fans and his own reputation as a hardliner during the CBA negotiations.

"I think we got a system that puts us in direct partnership with the players," Leonsis said. "We come out of it, I believe, with a system where all 30 teams and all 30 fan bases feel that their team can qualify for the playoffs and win a Cup."

Leonsis was part of the negotiating committee that represented owners in talks with the NHLPA. He said his biggest goal was the 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue with the players, who by the end of the previous CBA were earning 57 percent of revenue. Also, he wanted a 10-year labor deal and got that, too -- though it does have a mutual opt-out after eight years. But Leonsis disputed media reports that he was a hardliner during the talks.

"I'd like to tell you that we had a really big role, but it's mostly sitting at a table and listening," Leonsis said. "If I said 500 words in the 50 sessions in total that I attended, I think that would be an exaggeration."

Leonsis maintains that he has not made "a penny" of profit with the Caps since buying the team before the 1999-2000 season. The new CBA system at least should help the organization break even for the first time. Leonsis also believes the team can grow revenue but not necessarily through higher ticket prices. He is looking ahead to a new television deal instead.

"Our fans will come back. But we know that we didn't do right by them," Leonsis said. "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."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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