Leonsis of Capitals owns up to good, bad

The headline on Ted Leonsis’ blog about the Washington Capitals’ loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday was short and sweet:


The first paragraph was just as blunt. “That game looked like a game played between grown-ups and some spoiled teenagers,” he wrote on his website,

Leonsis pulls no punches. And since he owns the Capitals, who have become a powerhouse after years of wandering in the NHL wilderness, his honesty and openness carry great weight.


He publishes his e-mail address and responds to fans’ requests. He also walks around the Verizon Center during games and uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate his thoughts, and urges players and staff to do the same.

“I grew up on the Internet and I don’t think you can use the medium at your convenience,” Leonsis, a longtime AOL executive, philanthropist and Emmy-winning movie producer said Monday in a phone interview.

“I try to pride myself on being transparent and honest, both good and bad. At least you’ll know that what you’re hearing and seeing from me you can believe. And sometimes people don’t like what I say.”

One of those times was when he told fans he would jettison everything that was familiar and safe about the team.

He spent millions of dollars to acquire Jaromir Jagr and sign Robert Lang but the Capitals went nowhere. He researched the most efficient path to success in leagues that operate under a salary cap and concluded that drafting and development were the way to go, painful though that would be in the short term.

In came a new practice facility, a new minor league affiliate, new uniforms and new players. It helped that the Capitals’ failures gave them the No. 1 draft pick in 2004 and that Alex Ovechkin turned into a two-time goal-scoring champion and two-time most valuable player who likes Washington enough to have signed a 13-year contract extension. They also drafted well in selecting Mike Green with the 29th pick in 2004 and Nicklas Backstrom and Semyon Varlamov in 2006.

The Capitals were transformed into one of the NHL’s best draws and most dynamic teams because Leonsis did what was necessary rather than what was quickest.

“If we don’t, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? We won’t win the Stanley Cup. We won’t be selling out,” he said. “Well, we weren’t selling out and we weren’t competing for a Stanley Cup. So when I looked at what’s the worst that could happen it had already happened.

“So I didn’t view it as high risk as everybody else. I didn’t think I had a choice.”

Having endured criticism and -- even worse, indifference -- he’s not worried about his team’s slump, which reached 0-3-1 on Monday night.

“It’s part of growing and learning,” he said. “Also, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. It’s still early in the season so there’s no panic. I’ve been through a hundred times worse than this.”


Slap shots

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume and former Nordiques president Marcel Aubut met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last week to discuss the NHL’s possible return to that historic city. Plans for a new arena to replace the Colisee are expected to be announced this week, but a key problem that contributed to the Nordiques’ departure for Denver remains: the lack of major corporations based there to buy luxury boxes and suites. . . . With James Wisniewski on a week-to-week basis because of a sprained right shoulder, Ducks General Manager Bob Murray might have to trade for a physical defenseman. Brendan Mikkelson and Sheldon Brookbank aren’t brawny enough to clear the slot or keep opponents honest.