My Open Letter to Ted Leonsis

An open letter to Ted Leonsis, Founder, Chairman, Majority Owner, Chief Executive Officer of Monumental Sports and Entertainment:

Dear Ted,

Like you, I've been a fan of the Caps for a long time. In fact, I've been a season ticket holder for most of my life, buying my first partial plan in 1985 (10 game pick'em plan, 2 seats for $160... really!) I became a full season ticket holder prior to the 1986-87 season (and got my seats for the playoffs). I sat in the original Capital Centre in Section 207, Row K, then moved down to Row J when the same seats (7&8) became available. One of your partners in Monumental, Richard Fairbank, had four tickets right behind me in section 207 for a few years, while he was still at Sovran Bank, gradually building up the idea and business that became Capital One (note the name...)

Well, I've been a season ticket holder ever since, and been there for the highs (Joe Juneau sending the Caps to the Finals in 1998, Sergei Fedorov scoring a laser shot to complete the 2008 run up to the playoffs, Dale Hunter's breakaway, Alex Ovechkin breaking every record in sight in the Caps record book, being the first Cap to be MVP, etc.) and the lows (how many 2 game series leads can you blow and still have fans). It's a part of my life, has been for all those years.

In 2004-05, it hurt a lot, but I kind of understood why the season was lost. The NHL was teetering on the bring of financial ruin. Hell, Mitt Romney's buddies wanted to come in and buy the entire NHL, every team, arena, etc. for a flat rate and run the league like a consortium. Thankfully, a system came up that in the end allowed both the league and the players to prosper. Sure there was blood in the boardroom, but the NHL emerged stronger for it, and it worked.

And now we're here again, but the situation is very different. The NHL has had record revenues for the past few years despite the fact that unemployment is up and the economy has been pretty bad. Amazing, but it is true. Why? Because the people who make the NHL work made it work, the owners and the players. Now, when there's more money than ever before, it's the wrong time for a lockout. It makes both sides look like a bunch of contemptible greedy misers.

I've been through NHL strikes and lockouts before: 1992, 1994-95, 2004-05, but this time, this time it's different because it's not like the money pot is too small, it's because both sides are acting like they're hurting financially when both sides are, in fact, making money. Yeah, the league paid out 57% of their hockey related revenue to the players. Who's fault is that? It's not the players fault, they signed contracts they were offered. It's the owners fault for allowing this to happen.

Hockey is a great game, it's the best team sport ever invented, because of the passion, the speed, the beauty, the toughness. It's a sport where a guy as rugged and physical as Matt Hendricks becomes a scoring threat in a shoot-out. It's a sport where a guy with unlimited talent like Alex Ovechkin can bull rush an opposing defenseman, take the puck and put it past the goalie all in the space of a second. It's a sport where a 20 year old goalie with just 21 games of NHL experience can out-duel the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player ever, once said that no player is bigger than the game. He is right of course, but it also stands to remember that no league is bigger than the game. If this goes on long enough, I bet there are enough ambitious AHL owners who might decide to try to launch a new major league. Hell, the AHL is already in the following major league cities: Chicago, Milwaukee, Houston, Charlotte, Cleveland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Move another seven AHL teams to some major hockey markets where the team doesn't own the arena, and presto, a new major league appears. Not saying it will happen, but it could. And then the NHL will be in serious trouble.

I'm almost 50. I've had enough of this. Let's get the games going already!

Mike Livingston
Capitals Season Ticket Holder

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