Leonsis: "I want immortality for the players"
This is the kind of roll Ted Leonsis is on: his long-planned book release media blitz happens to have coincided with the longest win streak in Washington Capitals history. Not a lot of frowns or angry questions during a media tour about happiness plans and unprecedented win streaks. So when Leonsis went on DC101 for a 37-minute segment with Elliot in the Morning Wednesday morning--talking about both The Business of Happiness and the Caps--the good feelings were just about splashing out of my radio.
I know that there are still plenty of Leonsis skeptics out there, and it's probably fair to suggest that his much-lauded rebuilding plan might have turned out differently absent the best player in the NHL. But regardless, it's hard to argue that his rhetoric isn't perfect, when discussing both his search for happiness and his thoughts about his hockey team.
"I could say my goal is to make the playoffs and have the team be profitable," he told Elliot. "Boring. I could say I want us to win the Stanley Cup. I mean, that's a great aspiration, that's on my list. But really, my aspiration is to bring the city closer together. Because as we're seeing, nothing brings a city closer together than a winning [sports] team.
"And, I want immortality for the players. Once you get your name on the Cup, you're immortal. They'll never take that away. And I really want to create bonding memories for mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and families, because that's how you define yourself....
"And if you can do that as an owner, if you can create those type of memories, you can bring the city closer together, you can have this group of people that you worked with and killed yourself with and you made them immortal? That's a higher calling. And so you can do that in every pursuit that you have."
They're just words, I know. But they're the right words, and sports owners don't always find words like those. Same with his thoughts on the win streak, which echo what he's written on his blog.
"We realize that if we win 20 games in a row, no one will remember anything, they'll just remember how you did in the playoffs," Leonsis said. "So I want everyone out there to know, we're thrilled with how we're going, we're very happy with the team and the franchise and to be able to play this well, but we know it doesn't matter....I think for the players to be involved in something historic and something that no one's ever done, it's great for them, it gives them a reason to go out and play day-to-day....I just want everyone to realize, I know, we all know that none of it matters unless we do well in the playoffs. That's what we want to be about."
He also discussed the phantom Jeff Schultz slashing call late in regulation against the Penguins, reiterating his view that to overcome stuff like that, you have to be not as good as the Penguins; you have to be significantly better.
"If we're as good or just an increment better, we won't get the breaks, we won't be good enough to beat these guys," he said of Pittsburgh. "So we have to be a lot better. And I think right now, today, as presently constructed, we have a better team. And so we were able to fight through that, kill off that penalty, and then we scored. We made our own luck.
"Now, the trading deadline's coming," he continued. "You know the Penguins, many of these teams are going to try to get better, they'll do what's necessary. So there's still a lot of pieces to be played on this chessboard. For us, we like what we have. We are under the [salary] cap. We can improve. And we realize we have not accomplished anything."
He again talked about how old fans were once new fans, and how there's room for everyone on this bandwagon. And he talked about how his franchise doesn't run from players with strong personalities.
"I want players that aren't afraid to self-express, and we got Alexander Ovechkin, who also, let's be honest, is one of the happiest people you've ever met," Leonsis said. "He inhales life. His goal scoring celebrations are high levels of self-expression. The way he dresses is high levels of self-expression."
That's one way to put it. There was plenty more, and there will continue to be plenty more as this book blitz continues. (See this story at NHL.com, for example.) I'm going to write about the book myself at some point, since there's a long chapter about owning the Caps. But here's one more bit from his radio interview; Leonsis mentioned how he'd been in New York promoting the book, and how he took the train back Tuesday evening.
"And the train was delayed, so I was in business class, and I went to get something to drink," he told Elliot. "The [dining] car's like two or three cars down. So I just walked down the cars. And everyone lived in Washington, D.C, and it was like I was running a gauntlet to go get a cold bottle of water. I bet you--and I'm being sincere--I bet you 50 people stopped me, shook my hand, said thank you, said how happy they are with the team. They went to the game on Friday, they went to the game on Sunday, what this means to their kids, how the schools are talking about us....It's our community's team, too, and I hope that the fan base feels that's how we manage it. It's not just my team."
February 10, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
Categories: Caps , Media
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