Where market size does matter is the fan base. Leonsis said the Caps have about 14,5000 full or “equivalent” season-ticket holders. The 119-day lockout didn’t seem to cut too hard into that, according to Leonsis.
“I think during the lockout we had about 150 seats, that probably represents 70 accounts [canceled],” he said. “Three of those accounts have already emailed me personally asking for us to reinstate them. We’re doing our best there because we, honestly, had to sell those seats to people on the waiting list.”
That there’s a waiting list for season tickets and has been for years shows how much the interest in hockey has grown in the D.C. area, due in no small part to Alex Ovechkin and the downtown rebirth around Verizon Center.
“People understood. People knew were we gonna come back. And they’re back,” he said. “We’re sold out. They’re happy.”
Attendance during training camp at the Caps’ practice facility was high, and the team said 10,000 came to the arena for Thursday night’s open practice.
“So our fans remain very, very loyal and I appreciate that. But we’re not going to take that for granted. We know we have a lot of work to do. All of these things that we’re doing like tonight — tonight’s a very innovative and, frankly, expensive thing to open building and say, ‘Anybody who wants to come into the building, come on in,’” Leonsis said. “We just want to continue to give back as much as we can.”
The NHL’s slogan for the lockout-shortened 2013 season is “Hockey is back.” Hockey itself never left, but with the Caps and the top hockey league in the world back in business, Leonsis is confident bygones will be bygones.
“Our fans will come back. But we know that we didn’t do right by them,” Leonsis said. “Missing 34 games is not what you want to do as an owner of a team or the commissioner. He’s been apologetic. We’ve all been apologetic. But now it’s time for us to move forward.”
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