Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was fined $100,000 and suspended for a week for an altercation he had with a fan at MCI Center on Sunday night, a rare disciplinary action for an incident between an owner and a patron. Leonsis engaged in a tussle with fan Jason Hammer following Washington's 4-1 loss to Philadelphia, during which Hammer and other fans jeered Leonsis for the team's weak performance and last week's trade of five-time scoring champion Jaromir Jagr to the New York Rangers.
NHL Security began investigating the matter on Tuesday and Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement on the disciplinary action Wednesday night:
"I have been briefed by NHL Security on the incident and understand that Ted Leonsis and Jason Hammer have amicably put this matter behind them.
"Nevertheless, as in other instances involving players, coaches or managers, we hold all members of the NHL family to a higher standard than the general public. Even in those cases when there were instances of alleged provocation, we have made it clear that NHL personnel need to do everything possible to avoid a confrontation with fans and the failure to do so is not acceptable.
"Accordingly, consistent with our practice in that regard and my understanding of what transpired in this instance, I am fining the Washington Capitals $100,000, and suspending Ted Leonsis for one week, during which period he is to have no contact with the team, including attending any games or other team events."
Leonsis, who called Hammer on Monday to apologize and invited him to watch Washington's next home game, Saturday against Vancouver, from his owner's box, also issued a statement.
"I apologize to the Washington Capitals' community for the incident that occurred following our game Sunday against Philadelphia. It never should have happened. I remain committed to being an accessible owner. Jason and I have had a discussion and will continue to speak because we both are passionate about the Capitals. Additionally, I accept the league's findings and understand that regardless of the circumstances, I must be held to a higher standard than the general public."
Hammer declined to comment on his reaction to the fine and suspension, repeating his desire to put the incident behind him. However, league sources said that the 20-year-old college student was interviewed by NHL Security officials Wednesday and did not advocate any such punishment, playing down the affair.
Leonsis's suspension will preclude him from attending Saturday's game and hosting Hammer in his box, although that meeting is expected to take place once the suspension is over.
Fans derided Leonsis for making the financially driven trade of Jagr throughout Sunday's game, with Hammer leading the charge in his section.
Jagr had a close relationship with Leonsis during Jagr's tenure with the Capitals and credits Leonsis for bringing him to Washington from Pittsburgh in a July 2001 trade. Jagr read about the incident between Leonsis and Hammer but has not spoken to his former owner since being traded.
"I wasn't there [for the incident]; I can not comment on that," Jagr said, "but sometimes things happen and Ted is such a nice guy. I think he did a lot for hockey in Washington. [Acquiring me] didn't work the way he wanted, and it's frustrating for him and frustrating for the fans, but nobody should be mad at Ted Leonsis in Washington."