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Leonsis: "I want immortality for the players"

(By John McDonnell - TWP)

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, 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."

By Dan Steinberg  |  February 10, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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Next: Ovechkin checks puck into net


Greatest owner ever.

Posted by: CletusVanDamme | February 10, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RickyBobby | February 10, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Can Ted have a mind-meld or something with Dan Snyder? I just don't get how our hockey owner who has been losing money for a decade is such a happy guy while our football owner who has doubled the value of his franchise is so withdrawn.

I would never have believed I would be such a big hockey fan. I just started tuning into the games regularly shortly after Bruce came here. Now I'm sitting in a ski lodge calling all the mountaintop bars trying to find the Caps game.

Get number 15, guys. This thing is too fun to stop at 14.

Posted by: jjhare | February 10, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Snyder should call up Leonsis and ask if he can just hang out and observe how an owner is supposed to operate.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 10, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

maybe Ted can send Danny a copy of his Book

Posted by: heathdog1119 | February 10, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I think Leonsis is showing a bit of Snyder as his team becomes more successful. At least as far as treating his fans goes. I think he's forgetting that he once had to scramble to sell tickets. Can't argue with the results on the ice though EXCEPT that this season is about the playoffs. Nothing else really matters, and that includes this streak.

Posted by: poguesmahone | February 10, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

@poopy and @heath: you can bring a millionaire idiot a self-help book, but you can't make him understand it.

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | February 10, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

SHUT UP TED! The only way to make any of your players immortal is to duplicate the win streak when it counts (In April)!
If your GM doesn't do something about your defense, you aren't going get the guys names on the cup. You aren't going to win playoff games 6-5.

Posted by: caphcky | February 10, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Although I have interest in the Caps, I ceased being a "fan" after Leonsis and the other owners locked the players out, thus depriving the fans of an entire hockey season.

Posted by: les7 | February 11, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

"Frankly, I think Leonsis is showing a bit of Snyder as his team becomes more successful."
Huh? When was the last time Snyder had back to back to back playoff seasons and was under the salary cap each year? Leonsis was in debt for many of those years while Snyder continue to profit despite his team's lack of success and overpaid staffing. I do not ever remember any Snyder owned team being on top of the NFL in records, points and winning streaks, or even having a GM to draft players for a long term success plan. As for the locked out issue, I believe that all fans of hockey suffered due to an incompetent NHL Union Rep and Commissioner. Besides, the Caps were terrible then (2003-2004) so the lockout was actually a hidden blessing as Ovechkin got more seasoned with the Russian league. Enough "Seasoning" to beat out Crosby for Rookie of the Year despite Ovechkin being drafted the year before! Ha!

Posted by: JohnWWW | February 11, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

JohnWWW: please read slowly and comprehend. My comment about Leonsis becoming more Snyder-like clearly went to treatment of the fans and not the on-ice product.

Posted by: poguesmahone | February 11, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Aw man, I thought Steady Teddy meant he was heavily invested in Genome Therapy so that Ovie would never die or get old. Dammit man.

Posted by: kahlua87 | February 11, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

A model owner. He was brutually honest about the rebuild. He rolled the dice and came up big. The Caps advance past the 2nd round to the Eastren finals, that's moving forward. I think they need that. But, alot of new people are getting turned on to,not just hockey,but the game experience at Verizon as well. Which is the best in town. I have a better time at the Nats games than Fed Ex. That's a zoo. Go Caps Go.

Posted by: ridgely1 | February 11, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

@ RickyBobby

Thank you, I haven't laughed that loud in a while.

And I agree with what everyone else says, Ted Leonsis and his fine team brings warm fuzzy feelings to us all. He is a fine whiskey, while Dan Snyder and Peter Angelos are like regurgitated Natty Light.

Posted by: trousers | February 11, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"My comment about Leonsis becoming more Snyder-like clearly went to treatment of the fans and not the on-ice product."

IN what way is he treating the fans poorly?

Posted by: VTDuffman | February 12, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

@ caphcky: Shut it. I think Ted has done well with what he has. Your comments aren't appreciated by anyone but the little voices in your head.

Thanks, Ted, for all that you've done for the Capitals and the DC community.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | February 12, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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