Thank you Ted Leonsis for Rebuilding the Washington Capitals

The vision and dream that Ted Leonsis had for Washington DC finally came true on a Thursday night in Las Vegas. It didn’t matter that the Caps won the Stanley Cup away from home because the Hockey Town that Ted built celebrated just the way he envisioned. He has always wanted the DC community to be a town that was proud of its teams and one that the fans loved – be it the Wizards or the Capitals.

And when he took the STANLEY CUP from Alex Ovechkin, you could see what a proud papa he was. That look of overwhelming emotion over a goal finally achieved exemplified the feels we all felt watching.

Ted Leonsis – is allll Washington Caps and a BIG silly fan like alllll of us!

Mr. Leonsis bought the Washington Capitals (along with the Wizards and the stadium now known as Capital One Arena) from DC legend Abe Pollin in May 1999 for about $200 million – a year after their failed final round of the Stanley Cup. Ted was 42 at the time and had a vision for both teams and a plan to engage fans in one of his favorite sports.

His dream morphed into today’s Monumental Sports and Entertainment, LLC, an organization that broadly includes the AFL’s Washington Valor, NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals, and  the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. And he launched the subscription –based Monumental Sports Network in 2017, which pretty much rules the airwaves around the DMV.

It’s Ted’s love of hockey and his dedication to building a Hockey Town on the east coast; one that would become a place equal to many cities in Canada and the original six hockey teams. In 1997 he brought in George McPhee (GMGM) as his general manager and began to set the tone for the future we are living today. Leonsis had a lot of faith in McPhee who would go on to acquire some of the shining stars of the Capitals, especially Alexander Ovechkin.

ovi capscon2010There is no doubt that Ted Leonsis is a savvy businessman. That isn’t why we fell in love with him. Many of us are “latecomers” to the hockey and Capitals scene. We didn’t really engage until the Ovechkin Era began that faithful day Ovi was given the keys to the city. And Ted knew how to make the most of that silly infectious grin. He knew that with the talent and charisma of Ovechkin and the management genius of McPhee, the future would be bright.

In April 2009 Leonsis shared his list of 10-point plan for rebuilding the Capitals. Among those things the plan included transparency with the fan base, investing in the draft and taking time to develop younger players, add veterans for the short-term to infuse the team with experience, and most importantly, NEVER SETTLE.

In 2012 he answered questions from fans via Japers Rink, and then said: “The Caps have made the playoffs five years in a row. We haven’t progressed past the second round in any of those years; it has been a huge hurdle despite some Game 7 opportunities. So we keep tweaking and making changes to get to the next step. It is tedious, sometimes frustrating, but it is necessary.” 

Ted made some hard changes in the summer of 2014 after the Capitals failed to make it to the NHL Playoffs. The biggest change was letting go of the man with whom he built the hockey team that included Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, as well as many other notable players, but failed to help win the cup. McPhee and Leonsis seemed to know what was needed and they went out and got the best players that they thought would help reach the pinnacle of success. GMGM gave us Bruce Boudreau and unfortunately, also Dale Hunter and Adam Oates who nearly destroyed everything they had worked so hard to have in place to win.

trotz watchLeonsis moved up Brian MacLellan as general manager and hired former Nashville Predators coach, Barry Trotz in 2014. The excitement began to build again. Trotz had a good reputation as a community man and as a coach. He seemed the perfect fit for the image of the Capitals we all had by that time. However, in July 2015, after another year of disappointment, Ted told reporters about Ovechkin: “I feel I haven’t met my commitment that we would build a team that would be able to win Stanley Cups.” Many of us felt that too.

Together MacLellan and Leonsis brought in reinforcements, like Justin Williams whose name was already on the cup three times and American favorite, TJ Oshie. Everything looked right at the start of the 2015/16 season. The team came together as friends in a way that we have never seen. Sadly, we know how that ended again.

Ted was one of us. He was seen walking around the Verizon Center and outside. He was known to meet and speak with people from all walks of life. We learned about the gentle heart of this big man when in 2009 he heard about a homeless man who was a huge Caps fan and spent his nights outside Verizon Center trying to catch glimpses of the game. Ted would later respond to a letter from a season ticket holder about Scott Lovell, find him a job in a local restaurant, and help him rebuild his life.  Not only did the encounter change Lovell’s life, it changed Ted, who had never even had a discussion with a homeless person before. A man of the people, he recently sent 200 employees to Vegas to watch games one and two of the Stanley Cup finals.

Time and again, we have heard the stories about Ted reaching out to fans. Maybe they were from Brazil and arrived to watch a game only to be snowed out. Ted later brought our friends Pedro Rocha and his family back for a game in his box.

Or how about Connolly Fan sensation Keelan Moxley? Somehow he always seems to want to make a bad situation better. And his actions inspire us as a result.

Never one to just relax or sit back quietly, rumors began in 2016 that he might consider moving the Caps and Wizards out of Chinatown at some point. He corrected himself later, saying: “We love Washington D.C., and we have a great, mutual respect for our city, and we have a 99-year lease on the land, and it’s been the greatest experience, so we’re very, very committed to Washington, D.C., and I’m grateful for the love that the fan base has shown us, and I hope to return that certainly for the rest of my lifetime.”  For now, he continues to focus on making Capital One Arena a better place for the fan experience. He announced in February 2018 that over the summer he would be investing $40 million in improvements to the arena to “…ensure that the fan experience at Capital One Arena remains second to none.” We can expect to return to a more modern concourse, improved concession stands, two new lounges, on the 100 level, and even new padded seats!! Always making it better for us.

So while the Capitals are a business for Ted Leonsis, it is also his passion. He is one of those rare breed of owners who actually involves himself in team and the community. We are in large part the kind of community that showed up by the thousands at Capital One Arena and in the streets of DC on a night when the team played in a place far away, because of him. And when it was all over, and the Cup came back to DC, what did he do?? He took it to the people!!

So when you line the streets on Tuesday to celebrate the Stanley Cup – make sure you wave to Ted Leonsis and scream a huge CAPS THANK YOU!!!  And if you see him walking around town or the Arena – stop and shake his hand. Let him see the tears in your eyes as you thank him for investing in a sport that we all love and a team that has proven to be incredible ambassadors for Washington DC!

Well done TED, well done!!

The LONG Wait for the Washington Capitals is OVER

We like winning!

WE LOVE THIS KIND OF WINNING!!!

cap-centre-landover WTOPMany of you have followed the Washington Capitals since they first set up home in the DMV as an expansion team in 1974 — way out in Landover, Maryland.

THIS IS YOUR DAY!!!

George McPhee came to manage in 1997 and seemed to have a strategy for the boys.

You followed the Caps to Chinatown and the MCI Center in 1998.

You suffered the heartbreaking loss of its first NHL Stanley Cup playoff series in 1998.

There was Craig Laughlin, Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, and Dino Ciccarelli, just to name a few

Stanley Cup Practice762You were there when Ted Leonsis bought the team in 1999.

You watched as other teams went all the way and you waited…

We had Jaomir Jagr and Peter Bondra but still no CUP.

And then came the Alexander Ovechkin Era and the lights came up again. There was a sense that something big changed with the addition of  Young Guns of Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alex Semin. That was the 2004 draft, and still you waited.

We relished players like Olaf Kolzig, Matt Cooke, and Sergei Fedorov.

April 2014 the Caps and McPhee parted ways, starting a chain of events that would later challenge the Capitals. Enter Brian MacLellan.

watermarked62(2018-06-04-1347)There were a sea of coaches, some talented and well loved like Bruce Broudreau and the newest coach of the era- Barry Trotz. Players came and went – including Green and Semin. John Carlson and Karl Alzner had a special magic. Swedish player Marcus Johansson heated up the ice.

Then came the Summer of Trades, 2017. Alzner, Johansson, Nate Schmidt, and Justin Williams. And a new name for the Caps to play in: Capital One Arena.

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Investment was made in a new look for the team with new contracts for TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Philipp Grubauer, Brett Connolly, and Andre Burakovsky. New players joined the lines in the 2017/18 season: Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey, and Christian Djoss. The team had some major growing pains to endure and the expectations were low that they would even make it to the NHL Playoffs, let alone to the Stanley Cup Finals.

And then something happened. It all clicked. All the years of investment. All the tears fans had shed. All the dollars invested as season ticket holders. All the shirts and jerseys and red cowbells. It all just clicked!!

In the first round the Caps defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Still we waited in anticipation because the next round was where we were used to seeing them fail.

And then the magic really kicked into high gear as the Caps defeated their primary rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2!! Still we heard, don’t get your hopes up.

The thunder struck on our side in late May 2018 at the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a seven game series, 4-3.

The clouds parted and the DMV became awash in a sea of RED.

They REALLY were in the FINAL ROUND for the STANLEY CUP against the new team that old friend George McPhee built. We like the Vegas Golden Knights up until this point.

The Knights took game one 6-4

and the Caps returned with a determination we have never seen led by the man on whose shoulders this era rests – Alex Ovechkin.

Game Two they won 3-2, in the desert.

watermarked15(2018-06-05-0950)They returned home to win Game Three and Four.

And they returned to the desert to slay the Knight. And slay they did in one of the best finals ever. The Knights gave it their all but victory was not to be theirs.

Caps WIN the STANLEY CUP in a 4-3 Win over the Knights.

Hats off to all of you have been there all these long years. You have gone on the road with the Caps. You have given many hours watching practice and cheering them onto the ice. You have UNLEASHED THE FURY and today is YOUR DAY!

CELEBRATE BIG FANS!!! ROCK THE RED! RAISE THE CUP!

Caps on Social Media, Monday 16 June

Welcome to our new series: Caps and Caps fans on social media. We’ll capture some of the best moments for you, all in one place.

Let’s start with draft posts:

Caps draft guide:

TJ Oshie is raising money for Alzheimer’s research and awareness:

Joe B. still has spots open for Friday:

Riley Barber getting pumped for development camp next week: 

A/GM had some thoughts today on the prospects:

Samsanov is still tied up with KHL for another year, but:

Mrs. Ovechkin being silly:


Former Cap Brooks Laich showing  off his Alaska fishing uniform:


ICYMI TJ and Lauren Oshie christened their daughter Leni Rose on Sunday.


New 2017/18 schedule is out Thursday- Caps will find out if we have to play the Pens for their opening game again…

Finally, random fan thoughts on the draft, trades, holding onto key players, and just general stuff:

Check back with us each evening around 6 pm for your daily social media review. 

Best NHL Expansion Draft Tweets

 

Sunday the NHL blogosphere was loaded with all kinds of tweets about the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team draft.  In the morning the NHL released all of the teams’ available and protected players. Twitter was alive with rumors and guesses about what GM George McPhee (GMGM) would do.

For his part, GMGM said there were no real surprises and that he had already begun to work with the teams. He is after all, the best negotiator in the business.

All day long the Golden Knights trolled the other teams about their lists. Follow them on twitter @GoldenKnights to keep up. One of our favorites was in response to Roberto Luango’s tweet in which he crossed through his own name on the Panthers’ list.

We would be remiss if we didn’t include our own tweet with the link to our post about former and current Caps players and where they ended up on each list.

There are all kinds of mock lists out there for your consideration. Almost all of them have Marc-Andre Fleury as starting goalie and either Philipp Grubauer or Nate Schmidt as the pick from the Capitals’ list.

At least Bailey is safe from the draft…

All teams have their favorite players they want to keep:

There is nothing easy about this process:

Musings about the Caps and who might be leaving:

At the end of the day, the Vegas Golden Knights explained what their day was like and what lies ahead:

Now they get down to the real work–ordering jersey’s with names! This is getting real folks!!

So now we wait for Wednesday night. In the meantime, we are sure there will be some leaks, ’cause we are all about the leaks now!

The NHL Awards and Expansion Draft show begins at 8 pm on NBCSN. It is a fast moving process with GMGM and his team having only 72 hours to complete their selection. Per the NHL rules: “The Golden Knights must submit their selections to the NHL by 10 a.m. Wednesday, roughly 72 hours after the protected lists went public.” There is a trade freeze in place now through 8 am on 22 June.

This morning he said that today is the last day that he will be talking to teams. He will finalize the list by Tuesday night and then sleep on it. He will submit the final list on Wednesday morning. He offered no hints…

A Note to GMGM About Capitals Schmidt

Dear George,

We know you have a lot to do the next few days. You have so many talented players available for you to select to join you in Las Vegas. Some of them are players you know very well and probably are thinking it would be nice to work with again.

One of those players is Nate Schmidt.

We here in the Washington DC area have come to adore, yes adore, Schmidty. He has that boyish grin that he flashes no matter what is going on. Some how he makes an loss easier just by speaking positively about the Caps.

Beyond being the kind of player with a wonderfully delightful personality,, he is really coming into his own. When given the chance during the playoffs, he showed his drive to succeed. He ended up with five points in 11 games which is pretty respectable.

The fans and bloggers all want him to stay with the Caps. We hope you will consider leaving him to continue to grow with this team while you build and develop your own new team.

Sincerely,

Caps Fans Everywhere