- - Sunday, June 10, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Cleaning out some leftover pucks from my notebook before the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup parade celebration Tuesday:

Alex Ovechkin is not only the toast of the town — he has toasted the town.

We saw some very entertaining photos and videos of Ovechkin and his teammates partying from Arlington to Nationals Park to Georgetown this weekend.

Which made me wonder — how would life in Washington had been if the champion of a good time, Redskins great John Riggins, had roamed the city at a time of cell phone cameras and social media?

Ovechkin’s popularity soared with every new photo and video of him embracing the joy of winning the Stanley Cup with Washingtonians everywhere he went — which, if you really think about it, is remarkable. The most celebrated figure in the capital of the United States is a Russian hockey player — not just a Russian hockey player, but one who is a well-known supporter of the most toxic Russian on the planet, Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Is there any doubt that Putin will have a photo with the Stanley Cup before President Trump?

Here’s what Putin told reporters over the weekend. “I congratulate Alex Ovechkin, as well as the whole Capitals team he played with. This is a great achievement for any team in world hockey. As for the meeting, we meet regularly. We even met before he won the Stanley Cup.”

Will Leonsis pull a Robert Kraft and give Putin a ring?

Speaking of the parade, let’s hope the Redskins realize it’s the Capitals‘ day in the spotlight.

The Redskins ought to postpone their long-awaited ceremony honoring the replacement players from the 1987 Super Bowl champion team. The event, which includes the presentation of rings, is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Tuesday at Redskins Park — 15 minutes after the parade is scheduled to begin on Constitution Avenue in the District.

The Redskins just hired a new chief marketing officer. Let’s see how well the new guy recognizes marketing here.

— He called it.

Former Capitals general manager George McPhee predicted Washington would win the Stanley Cup this season — sort of. The Vegas Golden Knights general manager, in a conversation earlier this year on my “Cigars & Curveballs” podcast, McPhee said, “They haven’t punched through yet, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t. It could be this year. You see teams that have been knocking on the door for a long time and finally they punch through, whether it was the Detroit Red Wings years ago who couldn’t seem to get through, couldn’t seem to get through and then they got through and won two or three Stanley Cups. While it has been difficult, they have been real good teams, they’ve been knocking on the door, and you never know — this could be the year, you never know.”

How strange must it have been to McPhee watch the team he essentially built — the Capitals — defeat the other team he built from scratch in the Golden Knights.

— A title can open a lot of doors — and checkbooks.

Will Ted Leonsis cash in on the Stanley Cup with a new arena? His ownership group, Monumental Sports, announced earlier this year they would be putting $40 million in Capital One Arena for improvements, which I thought would have indicated that Leonsis’ desire for a new arena in the city had passed.

But $40 million is a drop in the bucket, really. Now, armed with the Stanley Cup and the evidence of the impact it has had in these past few days on the city, don’t be surprised if Leonsis starts priming the pump again for a new arena — probably after the one he is about to open, the 5,000-seat home for the WNBA Washington Mystics and his new Capital City Go Go G League basketball team in Southeast D.C., is unveiled later this year.

Leonsis spearheading the 2024 Washington Olympic bid was all about a new arena and leaving Capital One Arena, now in its 20th year of operation. That effort died a well-deserved death, but his leverage has certainly been upgraded with the Stanley Cup championship. The city would prefer to do a Madison Square Garden-type of renovation to the existing arena.

What may complicate things is the city’s bid for a new stadium for the Redskins. Expect that to heat up after the mayoral primary election is over next week.

— The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Talk about cashing in — how about Laurene Powell Jobs, the very rich widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs?

Before the Capitals season began, Powell Jobs bought 20 percent of the parent company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, for an estimated $500 million — the second largest share of the company behind Leonsis.

What’s that 20 percent worth now?

Other winners in Monumental Sports — Mark Lerner, of the Washington Nationals’ Lerners, will be getting a championship ring, but not from his baseball team. He is one of Leonsis’ minority investors.

— It’s a great time to be a Washington fan

First championship of note in the city in 26 years. Enough said. You also have the new home of the D.C. United, Audi Field, scheduled to open in less than four weeks. A few days later, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game comes to Washington. And, as I mentioned earlier, a new arena for the Mystics and Go Go in Southeast Washington later this year.

Think about this — there was a time when Washington was below Buffalo in the sports town food chain. In 1972, Buffalo had three major sports franchises — the Bills in the NFL, the Sabres in the NHL and the Braves in the NBA — as well as a Class AAA minor league baseball town.

Washington had the Redskins, That’s it.

Yes, a good time to be a Washington sports fan.

• Thom Loverro’s weekly “Cigars & Curveballs” is available Wednesdays on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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