- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ted Leonsis denied the idea that he was a “hardliner” during collective bargaining negotiations and said the NHL lockout was worth it for the changes that came from it.

“I’m very apologetic that we lost the 34 games but I’m not apologetic that we had to get a new system that was good for everyone, and I think we achieved that,” Leonsis said Thursday night.

The Washington Capitals owner, who was on the negotiating committee representing owners, downplayed his role in the 119-day lockout.

“I’d like to tell you that we had a really big role but it’s mostly sitting at a table and listening. If I said 500 words in the 50 sessions in total that I attended, I think that would be an exaggeration,” Leonsis said. “I’m not a hardliner. …We basically served as proxy, it was really the league and the union that were doing the negotiating.”

Leonsis was one of four owners on the committee, along with the Boston Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs, the Minnesota Wild’s Craig Leipold and the Calgary Flames’ Murray Edwards.

Leonsis reiterated that the franchise has never made a profit since he bought it. It’s his hope that the new CBA at least helps the Caps “break even.”

Big picture, he endorsed what it does for the NHL, most importantly having a 10-year agreement and a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue between owners and players. At the end of the previous deal, players got 57 percent.

“I think we got a system that puts us in direct partnership with the players,” Leonsis said. “The big deliverables for me, were a 50/50 deal and a long-term deal. I was very, very adamant that if we could get a decade of peace that would be terrific and we have that. So I’m thrilled with the deal.”

Leonsis is not worried about repairing relationships with players, “We hashed it out. … There’s no overhang at all,” or fans. He said he did not have any negative experiences with fans during the work stoppage.

“I was just upstairs and I was getting hugs and people asking for autographs and taking my picture with their kids,” Leonsis said, referring to the Caps’ open practice at Verizon Center. “Don’t mistake Twitter for the real world, would be my advice to you.”

Asked if NHL owners were willing to cancel this season to get what they wanted, Leonsis said: “I don’t want to go there.”

Leonsis was not on the NBA negotiating committee during basketball’s 2011 lockout, but now that he’s been through two of these work stoppages, he doesn’t want to do it again: “Say no when they ask you to be on the negotiating committee.”

And if it were up to Leonsis, fans would not be privy to what’s going on behind the scenes in labor talks.

“The business side of owning a team is really of no interest and should be hidden from the fans. And that fans don’t care about it and they shouldn’t care about it,” he said. “Fans only care about the team, the experience, the players and can you win a championship. And that’s how it should be. And so I’m hoping that there is a decade from both teams, both leagues, of peace and I think we can do that. That would be a good thing.”