- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ted Leonsis woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, as usual, in the same bed in the same house, but surrounded by uncharted territory.

Later, his Washington Capitals would play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center, leading 1-0 in an Eastern Conference semifinal. In the 10 years that Mr. Leonsis has passionately and visibly owned the team, the Capitals never have ventured this far.

Since he bought the team in May 1999 for $80 million, there’s been a series of fits and starts - building up with high-priced players, tearing it all down and building it up again, mostly through the draft. Last season provided a breakthrough of sorts as the Capitals won the Southeast Division, but they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by losing Game 7 at home to Philadelphia.

Now they have broken through that barrier, advancing to the second round. And how was the excitable, animated Mr. Leonsis handling such a circumstance? Unexpectedly.

“I’m unnaturally super-calm,” he said while eating lunch at the team’s training facility in Arlington. “I don’t know what it is. I’m just very calm, very steadfast. I think that’s part of maturing as an owner.”

So is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Mr. Leonsis was unnaturally subdued during the first-round series with the New York Rangers.

“With the New York media, I wanted to make sure there was no fodder, if you will, for them,” he said.

He has since opened up a bit, but he was still sticking to his routine. Mr. Leonsis answered his e-mails at home in the morning before heading to his office at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “There are so many games and you have to approach each game like it’s no different from any other game,” Mr. Leonsis said. “Because it’s not life and death.”

Not yet, anyway. The Caps’ tense, 2-1 win in Game 7 with the Rangers “WAS life and death,” he said.

Prior to Game 2 with the Penguins, Mr. Leonsis, as always, visited with coach Bruce Boudreau and his assistants. He assured them that his emotions were holding steady. “And Bruce really appreciates that,” he said.

Then he strolled around the arena, schmoozed with fans, washed his hands (you can’t be too careful these days) and settled into his seat in the owner’s box.

“This is gonna be a long series,” he said before the game. “I liked some of the things we did the last game, and I’m sure there are some things we can do better. I’m sure we’re going to adjust and they’ll make adjustments. Tonight’s another game.”

Not quite. Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin and his Penguins counterpart, Sidney Crosby, each had a hat trick and Washington won again, 4-3, as the roof almost came off the building.

“I think that was one of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen as a fan,” Mr. Leonsis said. “It was just nonstop, back-and-forth, with two unbelievable players.”

Despite his placid exterior, Mr. Leonsis conceded that his “superstitions have been turned up a little higher.”

Story Continues →