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Leonsis: ‘I understand why the fans are unhappy’

Ted Leonsis gave several interviews this week, in advance of his hockey team’s season opener Saturday in Tampa. The questions I’ve heard and seen have mostly focused around the recently concluded NHL lockout. I have no doubt that many of you will scoff at his answers, but I have no doubt that many of you would scoff at any answer he’d have given to these questions.

Still, for the record, here’s how things went with Comcast SportsNet’s Jill Sorenson. (Video below.)

Leonsis: It was just like being a fan. It was very frustrating to not be playing. We’re very apologetic for putting the fans through this. We missed 34 games. But that’s behind [us]. We’re getting ready now to drop the puck, and the excitement here during the last week has been palpable.

Sorenson: What’s been your response when fans do get angry. Do you feel sort of responsible? How do you deal with that?

Leonsis: I think the fans deserve empathy. And I understand. I apologize for being one of the 30 owners that were behind us losing our games. And that’s never fun. I attended over 50 meetings. Spent a lot of time doing it. And I understand why the fans are unhappy. But I think that now we have a fantastic system for the players and the owners. The most steadfast thing that I stipulated in discussions was the length of the [CBA] deal. I don’t want our fans to have to worry about what’s going to happen, and having a 10-year deal I think will be very very positive for everybody.

Sorenson: I know you said that you have met with some of the players already one-on-one. It would seem to me, just from a total outsiders’ perspective, that might be a little awkward at first. Was it?

Leonsis: Well, when I first saw Alex, he came running over and gave me a hug and I congratulated him about his engagement. There’s zero overhang. The players are very appreciative of this community. They feel bought-in to the franchise. But I think the most important thing is to not lose sight now, that we are in this together: the players, the union, the league, the owners. We want to do what’s right for the fans, and the best thing we can do is to make this great game and play it with passion and love and intensity, and we intend to start doing that come this Saturday.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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