January 28th, 2004

Leonsis Fallout

Despite the fact that Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has apologized to the fan he tried to throttle after Sunday night’s home game with the Flyers, it looks like the league office isn’t satisfied. The Washington Post is reporting that the league is investigating the incident, holding out the possibility that Leonsis may be fined or suspended because of the incident.

On ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, both Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon called on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to do just that, with Wilbon saying Leonsis should be suspended from attending any Caps home games for an entire month (of course, with the way Abe Pollin schedules events at MCI Center, that could mean missing 15 Caps games, or none at all). Elsewhere in the Post, Caps beat writer Jason La Canfora has teamed with his Wizards counterpart Steve Wyche to take a look at how the two teams are handling their disastrous seasons.

The paper’s Tom Boswell thinks we all need to kiss and make up:

Jason Hammer and his family are the kind of fans any sports owner should fight to keep. Not lay hands upon.

For the last three seasons, the Hammers have paid $85 per ticket for four seats to all 41 Washington Capitals home games. That’s $13,940 a year in tickets before you add concessions, souvenirs and parking.

Sorry, Tom, but even paying nearly $14,000 per year for Caps tickets doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk, something Knight-Riddder’s Drew Sharp picked up on. And here’s a detail that Boswell omits from his column, one that should mitigate any sort of punishment the NHL metes out to Leonsis:

But team sources said Leonsis is likely to give a differing version of what occurred when questioned by the league. They said that [Jason] Hammer approached Leonsis as the owner was having his picture taken with other fans in the corridor outside his box and thrust his sign in Leonsis’s face before Leonsis pushed him aside.

Yes, you have the right to boo and jeer — even at close range. But the type of behavior described above was designed deliberately to provoke. Sounds to me like young Mr. Hammer could have used a couple more shots to the head from Ted.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere, Black, Red and Gold says Leonsis should sell the Caps, and go back to just being a fan. Unfortunately, Leonsis never wanted to buy the Caps in the first place. Initially, Leonsis approached then Caps and Wizards owner Pollin about buying the Wizards.

It was only after Pollin proposed selling him the Caps with the future option of buying the Wizards (a deal where it should be clear now Pollin has absolutely screwed Leonsis), that Leonsis decided on the Caps. If he were to sell now, he’d lose the right of first refusal to purchase the Wizards when Pollin decides to sell.

Canucks Corner thinks Leonsis needs to lower his profile, arguing that it would give him some welcome additional flexibility when it comes to decision making. Across town at Vancouver Canucks Op Ed just wonders how in the world this all happened with nobody getting sued.

UPDATE: Some interesting notes from the Washington Times coverage: apparently two years ago, Leonsis received a veiled threat by email from a disgruntled fan that his children would be kidnapped.

Somehow, former Sabres head coach Ted Nolan managed to get himself quoted in Thom Loverro’s column on the Leonsis incident — almost as if the ex-coach who’s been blackballed by most of the NHL figured it was a good time to send up a signal flare and try to get hired again.

In the past week, coverage in the Times has quoted McPhee as saying the Caps should use either Nashville or San Jose as models on how to re-build the team and bounce back from adversity. The irony here: Nashville was constructed by David Poile, the man McPhee replaced as Caps General Manager. In turn, San Jose is coached by Ron Wilson, who McPhee fired after the 2001-02 season. Both teams are on pace to make the playoffs this year.

One last thing: the Caps face Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden. What a way to wrap up a three-day news cycle.

One Response to “Leonsis Fallout”

  1. Beau Dure says:

    Nice job, Eric. If only the folks on Around the Horn and PTI could have been as responsible. (I’ll give Kevin Blackistone credit for understanding the situation.)

    I wouldn’t blame Leonsis if he walked away from the Caps. And that would be the saddest comment on the NHL I could imagine. If he can’t make it work, who can?

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