Oh, I just don’t really know how to feel about this. Via Deadspin:
Ted then calls me over to sit by him at his desk and starts clicking his mouse to show me lots of game videos he’d stored on his computer that prove that the NHL wants the Pittsburgh Penguins to win and the Capitals to lose. I was too giddy at what was taking place to retain much of what I was shown, but remember clips of hits by Caps, including Alex Ovechkin, that garnered NHL suspensions, alongside clips of similar hits by Penguins players on Ovechkin and others that went unpunished by the league.
I also recall leaving his office thinking: 1) Ted knows his hockey 2) he’s as nice and interesting as I’d figured, and 3) Holy mother of god he’s a big conspiracy guy!
On one hand, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis strikes me as a fun-loving, wear-it-on-his-sleeve owner who will taunt Penguins fans in their own building; who is willing to do anything to make his team win. In some ways, you can see a dash of Ed Snider in him.
On the other hand, well ... it’s pretty obvious winning is his goal to the extent that it helps him make money, which is of course the anti-Ed Snider.
I live in D.C., and the sports media circles are pretty small here. You hear stories. That whole thing about Leonsis being a hard line owner during the 2012-13 lockout? Yeah, that’s pretty widely regarded as fact down here. There’s some sliminess involved.
Leonsis will be one of the first owners to claim that his team loses money, or that his deal on Verizon Center is one of the “worst in pro sports”. In reality, neither of those things are really true — Leonsis is six years away from paying off the mortgage on his building, and the location is quite possibly the best of any arena in sports. It’s a lucrative asset. And sure, maybe the “Washington Capitals” lose money, but there is no world in which their Leonsis-owned parent company, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, considers the Caps a drag on their finances. They are the damn engine.
So for these reasons, I have a relatively negative view of Leonsis as a sports team owner. Not that there’s anything wrong with making money; I just don’t like being told he’s having a rough go of things financially while me and my taxpayer friends are paying for 90 percent of his new basketball practice facility.
But to flip the coin even one more time, I think we all kind of feel the way Leonsis does about the Penguins? I might not be wearing a tinfoil hat about it, but we all have at least had the feeling Leonsis is expressing here about the Penguins.
I truly don’t think there’s a league-wide conspiracy against the Capitals -- or for that matter the Flyers — but we all look at things like this and scratch our heads:
NO GOAL! This was determined to be offsides. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/83Kwl2iKkf— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 30, 2017
Or we see Brandon Manning get (deservedly) suspended two games for hitting a Penguin in the outdoor game in February, while a week prior to that, Evgeni Malkin did this with no punishment:
Or also in the Stadium Series game, the lack of penalty or supplemental discipline for this spear ...
Raffl takes a stick between the legs. pic.twitter.com/xkxAPyXRHY— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) February 26, 2017
... while a month later, this was worthy of five minutes, the game and two more for this spear:
Brad Marchand received a 5 minute major for this spear. pic.twitter.com/WaOYagK7Tk— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 4, 2017
If anything, it’s probably just some unconscious bias in favor of Pittsburgh, which over the last decade has become perhaps the most important market in the league from an NHL head office perspective.
But hearing it from a team owner -- particularly one that’s been screwed over by Pittsburgh’s succes more than any other? That’s gold, Jerry.