Owner Ted Leonsis visited the Capitals practice facility earlier this week, welcoming players back at the conclusion of the NHL lockout.
He served a member of the owners’ negotiating committee during the lockout, consistently attending bargaining sessions as the owners and players squabbled over shares of hockey-related revenues, contract term limits and so on. Despite his part in the lockout, Leonsis insisted that his relationship with Capitals players is unharmed.
“We hashed it out. I showed up, Alex [Ovechkin] came in, he ran over to me and gave me a big hug,” Leonsis said. “We talked about our families and I told him I would have an engagement party for him in my house. There’s no overhang at all.”
Given how tempers flared during the lockout, though, not every player can forgive and forget so quickly.
“There’s probably going to be some ill feelings. It’s hard not to when all you want to do is play hockey and you’re being locked out but at the same time it’s a business,” forward Troy Brouwer said recently. “They’re trying to better their business, we’re trying to help because we are a big part of the whole industry and just making it so that it’s a profitable industry going forward here, so everyone can make money and the fans can enjoy what we put on the ice. You’ve kind of got to shrug it off a little bit but it’s still going to linger there.”
In his first comments about the lockout to local reporters Thursday night, Leonsis denied reports that he was a “hardliner” and diminished his personal role in the process adding that his true goals were a long-term collective bargaining term for the new deal and a 50-50 split of hockey related revenues.
Players understand that the NHL is a business and individual owners’ chief interest will always be the financial health of their franchise. It can be tough for some to distance themselves from the heated labor dispute, though, especially those who followed the negotiations closely or took part directly in the process.
In the two weeks since the two sides initially reached a tentative agreement, Jason Chimera, the Capitals representative to the NHLPA, has put some perspective on the situation.
“It’s business. It all comes down to money,” Chimera said. “A lot of these teams are losing money and they don’t want to lose money anymore, I think that’s a big part of it. You can’t blame them. You can’t blame our side for wanting to keep our money and their side for wanting to keep their money. Everyone was [upset] during the thing, emotions we rerunning pretty high but it is what it is. You put the past in the past and forget about it.”
The lockout may have delayed the NHL season, but with the year finally set to kick off Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning some Capitals have already moved on from the entire four-month saga.
“Everyone’s so happy to be playing I don’t think it really matters,” Karl Alzner said. “Probably deep down, some guys will be – especially the guys that were directly involved in all the meeting will have some sort of animosity but personally I’m just happy to play hockey. I understand it’s a business, and they try to work a deal we try to work a deal. I wouldn’t get mad at anyone for it just because that’s the way it is.”