washingtonpost.com
The Washington Capitals

Ted Leonsis
Team Owner
Friday, December 8, 2006 2:00 PM

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was online Friday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. to take questions about the team's performance on the ice, its new practice facility and his goals for the future.

A transcript follows.

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Ted Leonsis: Hi, thank you so much for your ongoing support and attendance at games, and for your ongoing passion and business. I have lots of questions here to answer -- and will do my best to respond to them all. I am inputting for myself, so forgive the misspellings and speed, etc. I very much enjoy this so let's have at it.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hey! Just found out about this chat! Please squeeze my question in, please!

Dear Ted, I love the decision to bring Donald Brashear to D.C. Even though he is past his prime and doesn't really fit into the new NHL, its obvious to myself and many other fans that he has a true impact on this team. He makes everyone on this team play a little "bigger." If you don't bring him back next season, is this a trend we can look forward to from now on -- carry a smart heavyweight on our roster every season? Thanks have a great weekend!

Ted Leonsis: I like that we have enough of a mix that we are considered one of the fastest teams in the NHL and one of the toughest teams in the NHL. I have been very happy with Donald; he likes the area as well. It has been a good fit.

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Walled Lake, Mich.: From a Caps fan in Hockeytown, thanks Ted for doing things the right way. I think the Caps have a very bright future thanks to the organization's patience in rebuilding.

Are you concerned with the lack of attendance this season? I would have hoped that with the team improving like they are, the fans would come out more. I certainly would if I lived in the area.

Thanks and keep up the great work.

Ted Leonsis: You shouldn't be concerned NOW! You should have been concerned when we were losing $35 million and NOT making the playoffs! Attendance is fine -- revenues are up -- and we are very happy with the business right now -- we just need 1000 more season ticket holders that buy three seats each; that will do it.

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Bowie, Md.: The Post performed an invaluable service to you and your Caps when Ovechkin was profiled in The Washington Post magazine two weeks ago. It allowed us into his life and to understand what kind of person he was. I'm cheering for him now.

Thinking back, I'm surprised little is known about most of your players because other players/coaches on other teams in this area (ie. 'Skins, Wizards, Terps, Hoyas, etc.) get so much more press. I know you're trying hard to market the team, but what about marketing some of the players?

Ted Leonsis: Write to The Post and other outlets. I agree -- that was a great article by a talented writer. The editors listen to their subscribers and will want to give us more coverage if the fans ask for it.

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OnFrozenBlog.com: Ted, you have repeatedly stated that you are not going to sell the team, yet rumors of just that happening crop up every few months or so - any reason why? Thanks.

Ted Leonsis: I honestly don't know and frankly don't really care. I love the team -- I live in the area -- my partners love the team -- they live in the area -- we are one of the most stable groups in sports. I don't know why the rumor is out there. Why not call out the media and the bloggers when they say something dumb or unsubstantiated, like this information is? So -- one final time -- the Caps are here to stay with us and me as owners. Anything else said is BS!!!?

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Alexandria, Va.: I am a die-hard Caps fan of over 20 years. I do not mean to be a "negative nancy" here, because I have much respect for our team and think the Stanley Cup will arrive sooner rather than later.

However, that said, the attendance scares me -- a lot. Too many 10,000 seat nights where the Verizon Center looks dead. Too many nights where attendance is boosted by the road fans. Sure, 17,000 showed up vs. Buffalo, but how many were Sabres fans? What about when we play the Flyers, Maple Leafs, or Red Wings?

Do you think that the Verizon Center can ever be a place where road fans and road teams are scared of, because, quite frankly it is the exact opposite right now.

Ted Leonsis: Well, I went to a Nats game against the Yankees and the ratio was far far worse -- O's games too against N.Y. or the Red Sox for example. Go to a Redskins game against the Giants -- you will hear N.Y. fans. It is what it is -- my goal is to sell it out to our fans -- we have work to do -- but I like a lively atmosphere and when we play old time rivals, the fans of both teams seem to come out.

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Fairfax, Va.: Ted -- thanks for all the outreach. The Caps are lucky to have you as the owner. How long will you continue as owner of the Caps if they continue to lose money -- would you stick it out for five more years? It looks like you've got yourself a great nucleus, and a great coaching staff, but what if wins don't translate to season ticket holders? And, more importantly, who is the goalie of the future when all-time great Olie finally retires in 2010?

Ted Leonsis: I am in this for the really long haul!

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Potomac, Md.: Is the new practice facility open.....Can fans come and watch practice?

Ted Leonsis: Yes and yes -- go check it out -- it is world class. Best in the business.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Who do you think will represent the Washington Capitals at the All-Star Game in Dallas?

Ted Leonsis: I believe both Olie and Alex should play in Dallas; they are that good.

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Richmond, Va.: After a fantastic win over Ottawa it is crazy to ask: How much, if it all, will you deviate from the long-term plan to make the playoffs this season?

Ted Leonsis: We wont be seduced into changing the plan -- to thine own self be true. We have a plan, we are on or ahead of schedule, we are building from within. We signed some free agents, we are young, we are coachable, we have lots of young prospects awaiting to play. I am happy with the plan.

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Wiesbaden, Germany: As always thanks for taking the time to interact with the fans!

The current plan of building within and with a core group of Capitals is great. I know that winning it all with high-priced free agents (i.e. Jagr, Lang etc.) did not work out as planned, but I hope that the team does not go completely the other way. I think teams that mix in a high level free agent with a strong core tend to be the most successful. Can I get your thoughts on this approach?

Great season so far!

Ted Leonsis: Actually Jagr wasn't a free agent -- he was part of a trade. We went after Chara -- he was a high priced free agent this offseason -- Boston signed him. (We have same amount of points as Boston I think). So -- my point is -- no easy one-player solution to help you win a cup; I look around and teams that have the best chance to win long-term drafted well, have a team concept and are younger..and that is our plan.

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Richmond, Va.: Three years ago I had a million questions -- but the team is as fun to watch now as ever. Lots of teams talk about rebuilding, but I get the sense this team really is on the move forward. Hopefully Olie can keep his play up for several more years...So my question -- with the Hershey Bears playing so well -- who should we be on the look out as a future Cap star!

Ted Leonsis: Backstrom and Fehr and Schulz are all exciting players to watch -- as is Tomas Fleishman.

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Frederick, Md.: If this team turns into a contender for the Cup over the next few years, how close to the cap are you prepared to spend?

Ted Leonsis: Why is this an issue for you?

Have we not shown we can and will spend?

There are teams at the cap that are a mess; the new collective bargaining agreement is designed to not even have you be worried about the cap range -- so tell me -- why are you so hyper about it?

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DC Sports Chick: Hi Ted! Just wanted to say hi and thanks for everything this season.

Are you still changing your seat to find the lucky one when the Caps need to score a goal (which, thankfully, hasn't been too often lately)?

Go CAPS!

Ted Leonsis: Yes -- when you see me moving all over the suite -- the superstition is kicking in and we are losing :-).

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Alexandria, Va.: Ted,

I'm a longtime fan since the '80s when I was growing up -- have kind of drifted away from the team but have come back in the last couple of years. I really like how you are rebuilding with young guys rather than quick fixes.

I have been to hundreds of hockey games and seen pretty much everything -- one thing that would be totally unique would be to spend part of a game with you -- I'd love to know what goes through an owner's mind as the game develops, in addition to other aspects of the game day experience. Is this possible? Thanks!

Ted Leonsis: Send me an e-mail at washingtoncaps@aol.com; we can talk.

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Washington, D.C.: Ted: I appreciate your taking the time to speak with some real Capitals fans.

What are you doing to keep Ovechkin happy and here in D.C.?

Ted Leonsis: Doesn't he seem happy to you? He does to me.

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Germantown, Md.: Ted,

Great job. I must ask, you MUST be clamoring for the NHL to go back to the old scheduling (NBA style). Sometimes the apparently low attendance may in fact be due to the fact that we are forced to watch Tampa, Atlanta, and Carolina over and over and over. I understand they want to build rivalries but I think a lot of people want to see other teams, especially each Western Conference team once a year. What do you think?

Ted Leonsis: Yes -- when we play NYR, Detroit, Buffalo, Pens, Philly, etc., attendance is good. Day of week is important too; we play the Pens on a Monday, we aren't sold out yet. We play them on a weekend -- we are sold out fast.

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Metro Center: Have you ever driven the Zamboni?

Ted Leonsis: Nope -- that would be undignified to Zamboni drivers everywhere. I have tried to clean one though.

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Fairfax, Va.: Did you cross anything on your 101 List this year?

Are you adding to that list?

Ted Leonsis: Yes -- won an Emmy -- and went to China

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Chicago: Ted,

What is the offseason plan to address the defense? We can't continue to give up 35 shots a game. It's too big a drain on the entire team.

Ted Leonsis: We have to let the young kids play and get experienced -- we need to add another vet or two -- and let them play together.

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Vienna, Va.: What are the chances that first-round pick Nicklas Backstrom will be playing for the Caps next year? He's been getting rave reviews for his play so far this year in Sweden and I'm excited to see what he'd add to this already young, fast, talented team!

Ted Leonsis: We all hope so; he is a great kid and a very, very good prospect. I believe he will.

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Bowie, Md.: I know this question is a bit of paranoia, but it serves its purpose.

Every other financial report shows that the Caps are at the bottom rung of revenue in the NHL. Every other "league commentator" insists that D.C. is not a viable hockey market (even though I beg to differ), and the Caps would be better off in "the other Washington."

Do you listen to these guys as well? Or are you cemented in the fact that, "D.C. needs a hockey team?"

Ted Leonsis: D.C. IS A GREAT MARKET -- WE WILL BE FINE.

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Dunn Loring, Va.: I heard a bunch of crazed soccer fans are invading the upper deck tonight. Does that mean the "Go Caps Go" guy is going to attend DC United matches?

Ted Leonsis: Isn't that great? Yes, we will do everything to embrace them and cross promote -- with the Nats, too.

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Melbourne, Fla.: You mentioned in your Blog earlier this year that you saw the Caps play in Atlanta. How many road games do you attend each year? Which cities are on your "can't miss" list?

Ted Leonsis: I try to see other arenas -- but I have a full-time job too; so I go to maybe 5 to 7 per year.

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Section 404, Verizon Center: Ted, thanks for taking the time out of your day to chat with us. I was hoping you could give us an update on the new jersey designs. I hear we might be going back to a red, white and blue scheme.

If you are changing the logo I'd recommend that you go for something that looks classic (but not the Caps original logo) and will age well. Basically the opposite of Buffalo's "slug". Thanks!

Ted Leonsis: I agree that red, white and blue are the true Caps colors.

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Manassas, Va.: Are you willing to make a move in order to acquire the right free agent help or did Jagr's acquisition and subsequent lack of production sour you to free agency?

Ted Leonsis: We signed free agents this offseason -- Pothier and Brashear jump to mind. We added from within with Semin and Green; we traded for Zednik. We will use all levers to improve the team. I just don't want to win the offseason derby, we want to win in the actual season. And I am now less concerned with making a splash and more concerned with doing it the right way -- which may be slower-- but if it works, will last.

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Alexandria, Va.: I live close to the new practice center and was wondering, is there a schedule posted so I know when I can come and watch the guys practice?

Ted Leonsis: The Web site tries to reflect the schedule everyday.

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Vienna, Va.: If I remember correctly, I read that Donald Brashear is classically trained on piano (I may even have read it on your blog). Does he still play often? Ever in public?

Ted Leonsis: Yes he does -- and he is very cultured and loves D.C. and the museums and arts, etc.

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Brisbane: When are you going to cross "Go to Australia" off your list man. You are missing out on one of the nicest countries in the world. Take a few weeks off and explore down under mate.

Ted Leonsis: I want to do a twofer -- go to Australia and swim with great whites, and I will!

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Pentagon City, Va.: The last time I was at a Caps game I missed the third period because a bunch of drunks wouldn't sit down. I tried working within the system and asked the usher/security to get them to sit down or remove them, but no effort was made. Instead they told me that I and my party needed to move. This would have meant splitting us up and in the end, why should we have had to move? We were not misbehaving nor were the row of teenage tourists in front of us who also missed out.

Ted Leonsis: I apologize ... always e-mail me at washingtoncaps@aol.com and I promise to handle and work it out.

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D.C.: I know you're promised first dibs at the Wizards when Abe is ready to relinquish his control. How badly do you want to get into the NBA, which has a much bigger market, because your fellow dot.com friend, Mark Cuban is having a heckuva ride despite Stern being a thorn in his side.

Ted Leonsis: I am happy with the situation right now. I am majority owner of Caps and Mystics and minority owner of Wizards and Verizon Center The Wizards are a playoff team. All is good in my book.

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Bowie, Md.: I heard about the movie you funded recently and that it will be shown at a prestigious film festival. It is based on the "Rape of Nanking," by Iris Chang, but your film focuses on Germans who were there to help. How much were you able to focus on the tragedy suffered by the Chinese and did you meet any resistance from Japanese interests, as Japan still does not acknowledge their war crimes.

Ted Leonsis: Well, not really -- my film is not about the "Rape of Nanking" book; it is like "Schindler's List." It is about people that stayed behind and helped save people in Nanking during the invasion by the Japanese. I am very proud of this film -- and the work -- I hope you will go see it .

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Richmond, Va.: So (just between you and me), after five fights, numerous penalties, a couple of suspensions, and a fine for the coach -- does the owner sneak down to the locker room after game to high five everybody? I know I would !

Ted Leonsis: No comment :-)

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Washington, D.C.: I think Frederick, Md.'s question was a legit one. Ted, you responded a little defensively there.

Ted Leonsis: Sorry, didn't mean too -- just curious though why the fascination and the question? Do you know how much the Charlotte Bobcats spend in the NBA vs. the Los Angeles teams? That is what we want to get to in the NHL; we now have competitiveness -- and all markets have hope. Look at how many teams were in the playoff hunt last year and already this year -- it is very exciting.

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College Park, Md.: I know you're an alum of Georgetown and a big supporter of their basketball program. Given that, what can you do to convince JT3 to play in the BB&T Tourney, which is for a great cause? It's a great tourney, and I promise us Terps won't beat you guys too badly. We'll even spot you 10 points next year.

Ted Leonsis: I encourage Georgetown to play Maryland, G.W., etc.; I think rivalries are good for sports!

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Baltimore: Hi Ted, I am not a Capitals fan (don't dislike them either) but do attend a handful of games each year. It's always a fun and friendly atmosphere. From what I see, this team is a lot better than I would have thought so I think good things are in the near future for the Capitals.

Ted Leonsis: Thanks -- how do we get you hooked? That is our issue. Any ideas?

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Fairfax, Va.: Mr. Leonsis, do you read the Caps message boards to see what the die-hard Caps fans concerns are? Just curious.

Thanks

Ted Leonsis: Yes -- about every week or so -- I spend quality time reading the boards. I learn a lot -- and I cringe at times as well. We do have an active community of which I am very proud.

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The District: Ted

Thanks for taking our questions. Have you read any Wash Post articles by Tarik El-Bashir? If so, what do you think of his coverage of your team, as well as around the NHL? Go CAPS!!!

Ted Leonsis: I love The Post -- but we need more coverage -- it is why we have encouraged a blogging community. We need to get more inches in cyberspace and in search engines and we are. Go to our Web site or my blog for a blog roll of lots of people and fans covering our team.

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Greek City: Being a fellow Greek, I would enjoy having some traditional fare at Verizon. Kabobs and gyros would be great.

Ted Leonsis: Ha, great idea; I could go outside in an apron and cook for the fans too!

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Alexandria, Va.: Ted, I am the Caps' lucky charm.

When I went home to Ireland to see my family, the caps went into a six-game losing streak.

I returned on the 27th of November, and since then they are 4-0, defeating some of the best teams in the league.

Do you think I deserve a night in the executive box?

Ted Leonsis: Never leave the country again! Wait 'til July to travel.

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Washington, D.C.: I've been to games and enjoyed them, but how about appealing more to the female fans? Any thoughts on that point?

Ted Leonsis: Will you e-mail me at washingtoncaps@aol.com with any ideas that you have -- as we are developing new outreach programs and we are very open minded. Thank you.

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Herndon, Va.: Ted-

Are you an advocate of live broadcasts of NHL games over the Internet? I mean, if the MLB can do it...

Ted Leonsis: Yes -- I believe that fans should have access to media however and whenever they want it. But we do sell our rights to cable companies, and we will all work to find new ways to get the word out and to generate more interest in the game and to generate dollars for us and the players.

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Metro Center: Ted: I need a new job. Are you hiring?

Ted Leonsis: E-mail me your resume.

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Arlington, Va.: Mr. Leonsis,

As a resident of Ballston, I was excited when the Capitals decided to build their new practice facility here. However, there are numerous ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) violations in the building that prevent wheelchair users from enjoying the complex. This potentially alienates a section of your fan base. Please take action to correct the violations so that all may enjoy the new facility.

Ted Leonsis: Thank you -- we are looking into all matters to make all of our facilities friendly to everyone.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Ted, as you know, hockey is the best sport to watch live. The speed and strength just is not captured by analog television. That said, HDTV makes the game look light years beyond current broadcasts.

Do you think HDTV sales and broadcasts will hurt ticket sales, or help expand the market?

Ted Leonsis: I don't know. I am hopeful and believe that if the game does well on TV, it will serve as a motivator to get people into the arena. And if it does well on TV, ratings will increase and that will drive new dollars to teams as well; so it is a good thing to always do the best thing for fans.

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Alexandria, Va.: The "new" chemistry of the team is phenomenal. I love the intensity of our forechecking system and effort of all our guys. Reminds me of Dale Hunter, Rod Langway days. Is this what you intended the "Washington Style" of play to be? Do you think we will revisit our "Department of Defense" days?

Ted Leonsis: Thank you -- I agree -- we went into rebuilding with a serious focus on team chemistry and recruiting players that want to be focused on team goals, not individual goals. The difference in talent levels isn't that great around the league. Playing together in a consistent system, I believe, is very important. Character does matter, coachability does matter.

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Ashburn, Va.: Uncle Ted, it kills me that the club level seats always seem to be empty during games, especially during the week. Do the Caps ever do promotions or giveaways to fans that might be interested in purchasing those seats in the future?

Ted Leonsis: We do not market the club seats nor own them -- they are owned and operated by Washington Sports -- they go on sale after we have sold out the bottom and upper bowl.

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Vienna, Va.: Will the Caps ever bring back "stick day," where each kid gets a street hockey stick as they leave? This had a huge effect on my family and the kids in my neighborhood in the late '80s. It increased our love for the game, led to use playing street and ice hockey for years, and was a factor in my family becoming season ticket holders for a while. I think it would a great way to create excitement about the game in the Washington area. You'd be sending thousands of kids out the doors of Verizon Center equipped to play the game!

Ted Leonsis: Good idea -- I remember those fondly -- we will look into it ASAP.

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The Phone Booth, D.C.: Please, Ted, is there anything you can do to stop Bettman's upcoming snug-jersey plan? I love the idea of the Caps changing colors to some sort of red-white-blue combo, but the idea of tight, tucked-in jerseys seems ridiculous. Great, use the new fabric technology, make 'em a little snugger if need be, but tucked into the hockey pants? Sounds awful. Thanks for listening.

Ted Leonsis: I have seen them -- and have to admit I like them very much. Our game is about speed and physicality -- the new uniforms that I saw accentuate both, at least from what I saw.

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D.C.: Are the Caps going to have freaky theme nights like "Singles Night" that the Wizards have?

Ted Leonsis: I would do whatever the fans think we should do to increase attendance -- fire me your ideas.

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The Minors: My folks have retired to Hershey, and so it is a lot of fun to see the Future Capitals playing up there right now.

How important are the Hershey Bears (and the AHL) to the success of the Capitals? Does the fact that Hershey is having a second straight strong year mean that the Caps will be in good shape for the foreseeable future?

Ted Leonsis: The Hershey relationship, the rebuild, the Ballston facility -- were all part of an integrated plan; the rebuild of our marketing and sales operations too. We needed a reset for our franchise -- we did it -- and now we are all on an upward tilt. I hope the plan stays on course and that you all will support it.

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Washington, D.C.: How many questions have you received today?

washingtonpost.com: Slightly more than 200 so far.

Ted Leonsis: I think I have answered as many as I have received to date.

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Arlington, Va.: You asked Ted in Baltimore, "How do we get you hooked?"

How about getting Caps games televised in high-definition on DirecTV? DirecTV on its Web site claims that it televises Capitals games in HD, but everyone in Washington with DirecTV (and on the HD blogging sites) knows that it does not happen. HD goes a LONG WAY toward getting fans hooked on the Caps, and hockey overall. Why are the Caps limiting themselves to HD only on Comcast? Seems like you could win a lot of hearts and eyes with HD through satellite as well.

Ted Leonsis: We sold our rights to Comcast -- I encourage them to do everything in HD. If you are a Comcast subscriber, writing to them helps a lot.

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Pasadena, Md.: Ted,

Can I buy you a beer tonight at the game?

Ted Leonsis: Come by and say hello. I don't drink beer though.

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Washington, D.C.: Ted,

I believe the on-ice product is finally headed in the right direction. I am pumped about this season and I have gotten some of my non hockey following friends to get excited as well. If we can add to the fan base and get the word out more things can only get better. What's the latest marketing wise?

Ted Leonsis: We are doing lots of innovative things online -- go to Ovechkin's aimpage too; we are going with big outdoor billboards; we are working radio and even new TV spots.

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Cap Hill: Just for the record. Barra Brava -- the "crazy" fans who will invade the game tonight. (I'm NOT one but I go to United games for the past seven years and Caps games for the past 20 years.) They are BY FAR the BEST, MOST PASSIONATE fans a team could hope to have supporting them. Cheers to the Barra Brava and their spirit.

I can't wait for tonight, the Ducks are going DOWN!!!

Ted, I love you too. I wish you owned the Redskins.

Ted Leonsis: I am going up to the seats to hang out and scream!

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About the "snug jerseys": Ted,

Have you seen the typical hockey fan? To put it politely, "snug jerseys" won't fit well. Stick with the loose fitting ones or I'll think you'll have problems in selling them to the fans...

Ted Leonsis: I believe the fans will have looser fitting ones -- as a big guy myself I relate :-).

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Ted, love the way the team is playing and, more importantly, how it's been built up.

Hockey is a game best observed up close. One can't truly appreciate the skill and speed of the players from the upper deck. That being said, the pricing structure at Verizon Center is difficult for me to comprehend -- $70 gate price to get into the lower level? I know these tickets are geared toward business owners and the like, but considering many lower-level seats are vacant most nights, wouldn't it make sense to re-structure some of the pricing to make these seats more affordable?

Ted Leonsis: Here is the tension for us. One one hand, we have people that want us to spend and spend; and on the other hand, we have people that think tix prices are too high.

We have tried to have really low tix prices. Last year you could buy four tix for $19.99. Sadly, we didn't sell out of those tix either...

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Rockville, Md.: I just want to give you kudos for stepping up and taking questions from the fans, unlike other owners in the area (ahem...Mr. Angelos and Mr. Snyder)

Ted Leonsis: I grew up in a Web world -- transparency matters in my business experience.

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Springfield, VA: Ted,

How happy are you to have media personalities like Elliot in the Caps corner providing unlimited talk and news!

Ted Leonsis: How can you not love it? he is a true fan and a great personality -- we are lucky to have him in our area.

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Washington DC: As a native who just returned from college (and who is therefore not swimming in disposable income) I just wanted to say thanks for the $10 seats. It's what lets me and my friends go to the games. And also, if it's economical for you to discount them even further, that would be nice too.

Ted Leonsis: Ask for Phi Kappa Cheapa info -- we will soon have a great promo too with a pizza company -- check out our Web site soon for details

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Singles night .. yess!!: I think the singles thing is great! I had a nurse next to me last game and she was smoking! There are women who come to scope guys who aren't on the ice ... us guys!

How about it, Ted? With, of course, gyros as the appetizer!

Ted Leonsis: Pizza and gyros -- I am heavy set enough!

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Washington DC: Hey Ted what did you think about the hit Ovechkin made on Briere? It was so out of character for him are you surprised he didn't get a bigger fine?

Ted Leonsis: Alex is not a dirty player -- we do not want him to change his game. Briere played on the power play after the penalty -- all is well.

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Ted Leonsis: Thanks to everyone -- I did my best to answer everything; hope to see you at some games; Let's Go Caps!

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