The Washington Post

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis

Feb 25, 2010

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis took your questions on the team's current season, the Olympics and the return of NHL play.

Let me begin by saying  I am very appreciative of all of your ongoing support of so many things we all try to do  here in DC

Any comment on the possibility of the caps making a move before the trade deadline? While I agree with the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" mentality, I also can see the angle that the team can still improve, especially on defense.

Hi--sorry about that--had massive browser problems--in on Firefox now-- I hope George can improve the team but I still am not interested in selling off our future for a quick sugar high today. If we can do something  smart--we will--we were smart in managing our cap situation; we have lots of picks and prospects to move but we wont be a dumb buyer

Ted, I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts about how well the NHL is doing in terms of marketing it's players & franchises in the 2010 Olympic games? Do you see any room for improvement or changes from either side, be it the NHL or IOC? Thanks, -Mike (Vienna)

We cant and dont market our players at the Olympics-- THAT is one of the issues-- the IOC polices the rights ; and we dont get much--no or NHL channel rights etc etc for games-- Mr Bettman and NHLPA have their hands full with next negotiations-- we  gave them $ 2 billion in committed contracts--we got two tix per owner back; NOT being selfish- justs tating facts theat the value exchange isnt great for NHL or players--but if players want to play--we will most likely play again...but up to NHLPA and NHL .. on what to do and what to get back in exchange

What has been your favorite thing about the Olympics? Favorite event you saw live?

Snowboarding; speed skating--opening night event and many hockey games; Vancouver is a wonderful city as well--and everyone was super friendly

Hi Ted - While I understand the basic supply and demand principles to the latest ticket price hike, there was still a bit of sticker shock. As this increase was significantly more than prior years, do you consider this more of a one time market correction to reflect the unexpected surge in demand, or are you going to test how high the price ceiling is for the DC hockey market?

Thanks-- I empathize--about 100 people were directly affected by big increases-- but we are way low in ticket prices and way up on payroll spending and we arent even at average ticket pricing and we have to be-- so we will increase prices over the years to get to that plateu at minimum--  I empathize-- but we have been offering a great deal-- and we will continue to do so..

Ted, It seems to me, the Caps are entering (have entered?) that period when expectations are very, very high, and anything less than a Stanley Cup final berth will be a disappointment. Is there a part of you that is a little scared because of that new kind of pressure? Thanks, Mark T.

Well-- that is a good thing right? I know many of you want to criticise if we dont win a Cup-- but believe me we are trying; and mostly for you:-).  I do believe we are ina  zone for the next few years where we can be considered legitimate threats-- but vision without execution  doesnt matter--we get the joke:-)

What are you going to do with all of the talent you have in the minor leagues? Some of these guys could surely play in the NHL on other teams but there is no room for them on the Caps right now. Will you trade some of them?

Some will make our team--some wont--some will be traded--some will stay in AHL and be call ups-- it is a fantastic oppt for us to have this much depth and talent in our organization--  we are thrilled with Hershey relationship

Hi Ted, I'm very excited about the new season ticket policy that will go into effect this year. My wife and I have been on the waitlist for over a year now. Hopefully we get in this upcoming season. We put down a deposit for the upcoming 2010-11 season. Many people have been complaining about the ticket prices for next year, but my wife and I just hope we can get 2 together. You've done a great job with this organization and we will support you in everything that you decide to do. Thank you.

My bet is that we will have more than 95 percent renewals year over year--  I am hopeful we can service you as a season tix holder

Ted: The NBA season largely mirrors that of hockey, yet Olympic basketball is played as part of the summer games. Any chance that they will move Olympic hockey to the summer games.? It would allow the teams to practice together for a couple of weeks in early August before completing the Olympics later that month. That would also allow the players to start training camp still fresh and would avoid the obvious problems associated with interrupting the NHL season.

Hockey was once a part of the Summer games--but no--it will never be now-- the Winter Olympics rely  on hockey for a bulk of programming; about 35 games in total at 3 hours per game--lots of seats that get sold--lots of network tv hours-- so we are a winter sport and will always be in Winter Olympic games

Hey Ted, Season ticket holder (433) here. Have you given any thought to denying Mike Milbury a credential for the remaining regular season Caps games on NBC?

Mike is a mad one that is for sure--welcome him as you see best when he is next in DC--but yes-- NBC is our partner and yes Mike is welcomed to the Verizon Center

Any idea when we can back to the good old days of mediocre hockey and affordable tickets? I used to take my kids to Capitals games with your affordable packages, but can't anymore. Well, we can all hope for a 13 game losing streak.

I know you are kidding....

I know there are sensitive issues involved, but could you give us an idea about how optimistic you are (or not) about concluding the deal to buy the Wizards?

I am an optimist!

Now that you're filling the seats how about restoring the financial support for area youth hockey clubs that you withdrew when you took over the team from Abe Pollin?

I think this question is rude and not correc as to thesis --so why dont you email me at; tell me your  name and number--we can talk on the fone-- and then bring you in so you can see how big of a committment we have made to youth hockey--does that sound fair?

In your opinion, when does a professional sports owner cross the line to becoming a "meddler"? Thanks

I dont know-- I think an owner has a responsibility to be passionate and involved-- there is a thin line though on involvement vs meddling; I know what I dont know now-- and stay out of Bruce and George's hair-- although Bruce doesnt have any hair:-).I do set strategy--outcomes--culture and provide the monies to be successful and I do care alot and people know that--we are a happy team-- and it is reflected on the ice

Based on his comments last night (calling members of the Russian Olympic Hockey Team 'Eurotrash), can you petition to only have that delightful Jeremy Roenick cover future NBC games shown at the Verizon Center? Thanks and keep up the great work!

When you are in pro sports-- you must develop thick skin-- media people--bloggers--fans all want to show how smart and clever  they are-- it is their right-- I once reacted personally to stuff-- I dont any more-- doesnt bother me--as I consider teh source-- and I can get even now  via my blog too:-). chill and try to enjoy the games--turn teh sound off!

Hey Ted! How happy were you when Ovie smacked Jagr?

I was happy that Russia won--was surprised by their performance last night--goal tending and special teams let them down-- no time for anyone to develop systems in the tourney--so teams win--NOT talent show.  Also glad Ovechkin didnt get seriously hurt

Hi Ted, glad your chatting and glad to you own the caps! I married a Greek girl and I wanted to know your choice for Top Greek restaurant in the area.

Kava and  Kelari

I'm guessing the huge numbers in both Canada and the US (especially given the limited coverage by placing it on MSNBC) will have Bettman backing down on his earlier comments about the Olympic break. How do you feel as an owner about the break and will you be urging the Commish to rethink?

It isnt about me at all; all about the players-- Bettman will listen to players and to union and do what is in best interest of the sport-- but the answer is not an esay one-- I went to Olympics--did lots of research-- we dont have a good deal; we take risks-- and Olympic Committe makes a ton of money and our players dont get a cent-- but I am cool if players are cool on this one--but I dont have a vote

Hi Ted! Thanks for everything you do. My question is regarding season tickets. It's my understanding that, after the renewal period closes, current season ticket holders will get the first opportunity to purchase additional seats (if available), then if any are left they will be opened up to those on the wait list. Many people, myself included, have been sharing tickets in groups or other arrangements, with one official "account holder," but now would be interested in having seats of our own. It would make sense to me for the Caps to allow a current account holder to add additional seats, then transfer them to someone else in his or her group, so that sharers like me wouldn't have to wait to see if it makes it as far as the waiting list, but I've been told this isn't an option. Any thoughts on this? It'd be great to be able to reward people like myself who have been loyally going to half or more of the home games for years, even though our names aren't necessarily in the computer.

I would call tix rep-- I am not as up on exact details of offer--but I know we want to offer our customers--season tix holders lots of great benefits

Hello Ted, When OV skated off the ice last holding his hand and grabbing the bag of ice, did that make you sit up in your chair and take a DEEEEEEEEEP breath?

Yes it did-- and all of a sudden the reality of the risk was palpable and the Olympics was not as much fun as I thought!

Sir, have you been taking skating lessons so that you can skate with the Cup WHEN the Caps win?

I can skate--and I can still shoot baskets too!

We've seen and marvelled at your 10 rules for rebuilding the Caps. I think everyone sees the benefit of hitting bottom and rising like a phoenix. Do you envision the same type of rebuilding plan for the Wizards, and do you think your 10 rules could apply just as well for the NBA as it has for the NHL?

I  dont know-- havent studied it closely yet-- I do have a belief system though now and a strong Point of View-- but I also listen well to execs who know more than me

I have to say, I think I now am rooting for Canada to win the hockey gold. Motivation is a huuuuge thing, and I think for Ovie and Semin to get embarassed by Canada and then have to hear about the "Gold"en boy Sidney Crosby constantly ... well, that'll help pull an Emeril and kick it up a notch. BAM, the Stanley Cup comes to DC! Thoughts? How much a factor do you think motivation, spite, rivalry, etc., play in sports?

Peter Bondra is GM of Slovakia team--I wouldnt count them out-- they look impressive too

Mr. Leonsis - Really enjoying how interactive the Caps organization is with its fan base through social media. Have you used any other organizations (sports or other industries) as a model? What was your initial reaction when Ovie abruptly skated off the ice last night with the hand injury? And what got into Semin last night - he played a physical style I have not seen here. Thanks for all you have done - proud to be a Caps fan.

I do as I think best-- no role models really to follow in all this new media stuff--am proud though to be seen as an innovator--although all of our fans are way smarter about this tech than me  nowadays.I am getting old and dumb-- you are all young and smart!

How do you view Washington in terms of how it compares to other cities as being a "sports town"?

We have greatest fans in world-- Verizon Center for hockey is one of best venues now for any team throughout sports--loud--proud--all in red--we take a back seat to no one now-- dont let anyone say differently -- everyone is jealous of what we have built together! Thank you all!

Ted, is the financial structure of the team such that you anticipate being able to keep Ovie, Semin, Backstrom, and Green together for at least several more years? Is this realistic? Thanks.

Yes-- we can and will I believe. Part of smart team construction and cap management.It also informs our  decisions on free agent signings and trades at deadline--we can do something that makes US NOT BE able to keep our team together-so chill about with teh sign this guy and that guy--we probably cant--without NOT being able to sign all of the above..

How does the average Caps fan benefit from the OptionIt agreement?

Call a Caps tix rep to get the fullc scoop -- this option is a very very very small peice of benefits we offer and also generates negligible revenue for us-- I like doing new innovative things--if it works--fantastic-- if not--we would reconsider-- but like most new things--people sometimes get scared--I understand-- but why not try it and let us see if it works before we decide what a disaster something is:-). I can point to alot of things that got criticized early on ala jersey and logo redesign as good examples of why pateince sometimes is a virtue

If the Caps continue to do well, should we as STH's be prepared for 20% and up increases on the upper level in the future? Is there a plan in place for the next few years with a pricing structure?

All season tix holders didnt get a 20 percent increase.


But  we do need to be at at least average tix price. It really is a shame that there are 15 teams ahead of us in terms of revenues in NHL right now-- a few teams charge on average literally almost double of what we do-- and they arent certainly as good as us; we are trying to be fair--I hope you will embrace the  change--but I do understand your issues;  and I hope you will renew--

Color me a little worried. Last night's Russia-Canada game was eerily similar to game 7 last Spring against the Pens. Two teams playing for all the marbles and the one with our guys on it comes out flat and get blow out of the rink. Obviously it's different players/coaches/circumstances, and hockey is a team game, but how do you refute the argument that when the game is on the line, Ovi has a tendency to turtle?

Must be a Pens fan:-).

I think Ovie is clutch;  if you dont--  check out his stats in OT --gamne winners and third peiod goals throughout his career.


With the Capitals huge surge in popularity, what is the club doing to promote youth involvement in hockey, to ensure that D.C. is a hockeytown whether the Caps win or lose?

I will do a blog update for you all; hockey is booming locally--alot has to do with Caps--with Kettler Iceplex --and with infrastructure in community-- too big of a subject to deal with here -- but we are deeply involved with youth hockey in area

Here's a link to Ted's blog Ted's Take.

Hi Mr. Leonsis, I'm a season ticket holder in section 409 in the upper reaches of the VC. Love the product beyond belief and my friends are lined up for spare tickets. My question - the people that sit directly in front of my seats are chronic "leaners" - they lean so far forward in their seats (for extended periods of time) that they block about 1/4 of the ice from our view. Once one person leans, it creates a chain reaction as successive rows have to lean forward to see the action. Any suggestions on how to deal with these fellow fans?

We will ask ushers to help-- Ron Weber told me same thing last month-- will do our best

I think NBC's coverage of hockey at the Olympics has been abysmal (and that's leaving Mike Milbury aside). They are doing a disservice to the sport and in exposing the NHL to a new audience. When does the NHL's contract with NBC expire and has there been any talk among the owners about finding a new broadcast partner?

Right now--NBC is our only broadcast partner  -- and we will work with them to do better-- ESPn has the NBA and NFL and MLB--so it is Comcast who has been a greta partner and NBC-- who struggles on all fronts these days--  anyone seen Jay Leno vs Conan issues last  month:-). We need to do better together that is for sure!

Whose jersey should I get: Flash or Fehr?

White one Flash-- Red one Fehr!

The Boston Globe has reported the Winter Classic will be played in DC next year, care to comment?

Would be news to me-- I am skeptical it will ever be played in DC although I am biggest cheerleader--issue is purley risk of weather and rain!  We are more of a winter wonderland than Vancouver though --to that I can personally attest

It appears that the Caps are blessed with two very talented young (21-year old) goalies in Varly and Neuvirth. Theodore's big contract expires next year. What is your thinking on the goalie situation down the road?

George and Bruce will decide- but again-- a great issue to have--too many great young goaltenders--kudos to scouts-- we have three great  young kids who will all play in NHL;  we are envied for this depth at this important position

Ted, I know Ovechkin has been vocal that he will play for Russia in 2014 regardless of what the NHL decides about its players in the Olympics. If he does so, what does that mean for his contract with the Capitals? Does doing so void it? Would he be allowed to return to the team? I worry that if the NHL decides the players can't go we'll lose Ovie forever.

Lol-- angst-- why? 4 years from now-- NOT an issue til then-- try to be happy-- you can do it!

Ted- why does The Palm name a "Player of the Game" and give them $100 gift certificate to their restaurant during every game. My understanding is that these guys can afford their own dinners. It also seems that the only guys who get these certificates are the bigger names. It seems a bit of a slap in the face to fans who couldn't afford such a restaurant and especially when they can't even afford tickets to the game.

I am sorry if promotion  this offends you

Ted, do you ever think or fantasize about bringing a major league baseball team back to Brooklyn? What a legacy that would be. You'd be anointed the King of Kings County.

No  I  dont -- baseball is too slow of a game for my tastes--I am a Nats season tix holder--go to about a dozen games per summer-- that is perfect for me and my familiy

Hiya Ted--I just wanted to pass along praise for Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, and David Steckel. A while back, they appeared at a youth hockey event that I took my son to, and they couldn't have been friendlier, more down-to-earth, and gracious in fielding questions from the kids and promoting hockey and the Caps. Everyone likes to hear good things about their employees, so I wanted to pass this on. They are truly young men of character. Congrats for putting such a talented team together.

Great to hear--we try to create a culture that rewards this type of wonderful  actions by our players

Ted, I know this is just one guy, but I have to say watching these Olympics has made me want to watch more hockey, even when the NHL starts back up again. I get that there is some risk, but it puts your product in a world showcase and has gotten at least this casual fan excited about watching the NHL again (after several years of ignoring it). I think anything that can build up interest has to be seen as a good thing.

I agree-- but we will have to see some data to understand if what you say is true-- I want to believe--I do! Show me data though!

Ted, question from one GU alum to another: What the hell is a Hoya?

Hoya Saxa--Latin for " What rocks of men".

With such a core of young talented players how are you going to deal with the salary cap the next two years as all these kids hit free agency?

The kids dont hit free agency-- Alex is signed--Green is signed--Nick will be a RFA not a UFA--only Semin will be a UFA after next season.

What is the person from Rockville talking about? How about creating a place for kids to play hockey, how about creating an environment where kids say to their dads...I think I want to play hockey dad. Wow - talk about shortsighted!

Is this the right way to ask for help or more help? I am confused...

Just to respond to the poster from Rockville, the Caps are strong supporters of hockey programs for kids with disabilities and donate ice time at Kettler and other resources. My son benefits from the Caps generosity. This is one of the things Ted does that doesn't get any publicity for and thank you on behalf of all the kids!

Thank you--

I didn't really think it was possible, but it seems Ovie has taken his game to an even higher level since being named captain. Do you think we have seen the best Ovie can be right now?

 Great players dont come into their prime til they are 27 to 28 years old--our team and our best players all have upside--that is what makes me excited  about  our future

Wondering if you caught the article in the Post yesterday about the imminent closure of the Ft Dupont Ice Rink. I know the Caps used to or still do partner with them in some of the work they do - any thoughts on this? I consider it a privilege to know some of the people that work there and it is truly a sad day - not just for them but for the thousands of kids they help. Especially considering the relatively small amount of money they are talking about.

I am hoping that DC as a city helps them like they helped the Nats and other big groups--   we wante dto build a rink in DC but the city wasnt interested so we went to Ballston who has been fantastic as a partner to us--we donate 1200 of ffree ice time to local youth hockey groups too at Kettler--all thanks to Ballston governments agencies

Hey Ted, I know you've had a lot of questions about tickets so far but mine is specifically about the Student promotion you had going the last few seasons - any chance that returns? For the games against division opponents, where ticket sales may not be nearly as good as against more competitive opponents, might we see a return of this? Also - my mom gave me your book for my birthday; I haven't gotten far yet but I am really enjoying it and starting to apply your ideas to my life! Thanks - Ben, Silver Spring

I wish we could--but we honestly dont have any tix to discount like that--we have no inventory to sell-- I am saddenned and happy at the same time

Hi Ted, Thanks for everything you do for Georgetown. One question...a group of alums have a halftime tradition during Hoya home games of doing Irish car bombs (Jagermeister and Guinness). It is this tradition that has helped us take down #1 Duke and make it to the Final Four and Sweet 16. So, to the question, when is the Verizon center going to start serving this delectable beverage so that I don't have to leave the stadium, go across the street, and miss time in the second half? Anything you can do would be much appreciated. Again, thanks for all your work. MD

NOW that is smartest demand I have heard in a long time! But take Metro!

Are you the Capstronaut?

Ground control to Mr Tom! ! am  really Goat!

So if the Caps win the Cup will the parade be in Arlington or DC?

Dont ever talk about  stuff  like this--it offends hockey gods

Hi there! Do you think that the NHL should begin to gradually pull out of markets such as Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tampa and Miami? Or should even more time, energy and money be spent on trying to build sustained attendance in those markets? (Frankly, I would rather see four fewer Southern teams and have home-and-home series between every Eastern and Western Conference team.....)

N0-- I remember bozos saying DC should be contracted as well; remember that ?It is up to teams to do smart things to ignite passion in fan base--it can be done.

Any chance that in addition to owning the Caps, Wizards and Mystics that you can bring a professional curling franchise to Verizon Center? Obviously, NBC devotes more time to covering curling at the Olympics than hockey so there must be a lot of money to be made.

My wife is from Chicago--she curled as a kid--loves the sport!

Do you have a ten point plan to solve your homeland's problems?

Yes-- as Bluto said--' Drink heavily"!

Please bring back the hockey song! I know you're trying to appeal to a broader, probably younger demographic with the in-game experience, but I'm only 30 and my friends and I loved it! Surely you can spare one commercial break during the game for it. It was such a great, shared fan experience! Sincerely, CAPs fan in Guatemala (go UPenn!)

We do play it just not enough for some folks--and too much for other folks--so we try to strike a balance-- will do our best I promise

Ted, you've mentioned the Hershey relationship alot. Can you give us some insight into how that relationship works? Do the Caps own part/all of the Bears? Do the Caps pay the Bears players salaries? Does the Bears management have any say into player movement (trades, call-ups, etc)? Always wondered how the big club/minor league relationship works. Also, any chance of a Bears game at Verizon Center? Not to mention the Stingrays who are in first in their league too!!!

We send them players and cash--and we talk all of the time-- we embrace them and their fans and their city-- we love all things related to the Bears! Hershey company owns the team; we are an affiliate with them from NHL; but we have struck up a special relationship of which I am proud

Come on, Ted - the Caps are popular as ever, and Verizon is SOLD OUT for the games. So how can you still be losing money on the team?

Below average tix prices-- at cap max salary spending; pretty easy.


If we spent less--we would be profitable-- remember mid point of cap is $ 49 million-- that is what all teams are to averagely spend-we spend at $ 57 million level--and spend the most on tix benefits--web ops-- Hershey-- Kettler--game day etc etc--it adds up--but I am glad to do it to keep fans like you happy.

I've had Caps season tickets on and off since 1981. In that time I've seen support for the team ebb and flow with the performance of the team. Do you think this team's success has put us over the hump and that we are a real hockey town now?

I believe we were always a hockey town but we didnt  deserve the love and attention we get today-- we have earned your trust and support now--  so that is why we are sold out-- first right now in NHL in points and one fo teh to 6 teams in NHL in paid tix sold; with a waiting list for season tix holders; all we have to do now is win the Cup-- that is what is missing on our resume-- that is our one deliverable--til we do-- you are right to criticize us.Ok-- that is it for me-- thanks for coming-- Go Caps; try to be nice--try  to be happy-- you can do it:-!)

In This Chat
Ted Leonsis
Ted Leonsis is the owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals. A former AOL executive, Leonsis is also a film producer, a private-angel investor, an active Board member and a committed philanthropist. Leonsis also owns the WNBA's Washington Mystics and is partial owner of the NBA's Washington Wizards, DC's Verizon Center and the Baltimore-Washington Ticketmaster franchise.
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