SBD/January 18, 2013/NHL Season Preview

Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis Happy With New NHL CBA; Downplays His Role In Negotiations

Leonsis said of the notion he was a hawk in negotiations, "I'm not a hardliner"
Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis on Thursday "denied the idea that he was a 'hardliner' during collective bargaining negotiations and said the NHL lockout was worth it for the changes that came from it," according to Stephen Whyno of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Leonsis said, "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." Leonsis, who was on the negotiating committee representing owners, "downplayed his role" in the lockout. He said, "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’m not a hardliner. …We basically served as proxy, it was really the league and the union that were doing the negotiating." Leonsis reiterated that the franchise "has never made a profit since he bought it" in '99. It is his hope that the new CBA "at least helps the Caps 'break even.'" Meanwhile, Leonsis is "not worried about repairing relationships" with players or fans. He said that he "did not have any negative experiences with fans during the work stoppage" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/18). Leonsis said, "I apologize for being one of the 30 owners that were behind us losing our games. And that’s never fun. I attended over 50 meetings. Spent a lot of time doing it. And I understand why the fans are unhappy. But I think that now we have a fantastic system for the players and the owners." He added, "The most steadfast thing that I stipulated in discussions was the length of the (CBA) deal. I don’t want our fans to have to worry about what’s going to happen, and having a 10-year deal I think will be very very positive for everybody" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

LOOKING FOR A BETTER DEAL: Leonsis said that of the approximate 14,500 Capitals season-ticket holders, the team "lost roughly 70 accounts or 150 seats to cancellations during the lockout." He "thanked Capitals fans for their loyalty and apologized that the process resulted in the loss of games." Leonsis noted that the Capitals "received revenue sharing under the previous agreement and will continue to under the new deal," though he hopes that the team "will some day pay into the revenue sharing system, rather than draw from it." Leonsis: “I would like to be a payer. I don’t consider us a small-market team." He added that the Capitals will "need to sign a more lucrative television rights contract once their current deal expires." Leonsis: “How we’ll make our money is not through continuing to raise ticket prices. It’ll be getting a better TV deal and unfortunately I still have several years, three, four years left on our contract. ... If we can get a dramatic step up in the TV deal, then we would be a payer. That would be fine with me" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

OLYMPIC APPROVAL: Leonsis on Thursday said that the Capitals "will allow Alex Ovechkin to take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, regardless of whether the NHL permits all of its players to participate in the games." Ovechkin multiple times has said that he "intends to play in his home country" and Leonsis "doesn't intend to stand in the star winger's way." He said, “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to have something played in Russia. He’s going to be a torchbearer and it’s very important to him and his family. Who am I to get in the way of him wanting to fulfill that? And I know that’s a slippery slope because if Nick (Backstrom) says then he wants to play for Sweden, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. But I think that I’m going to lean to the side of the players in that one" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).
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