Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us! Leonsis is here and we'll start "Ask the Owner" shortly. Leave your questions or comments here and we'll ask him.
Well we don't have a winning record, so we can't be looking that good. But I do think we have a good team and we're healthy. Ovechkin is off to a good start. I'm hoping to get off to a good start on Thursday. We don't want to get behind.
We sell out every game, the league gives us a lot of home games in the beginning of the year and then puts us on the road later on.
I'm hoping in the future we can spread it out a little bit. If you're playing five games at home in a row early, you're playing five games in a row on the road later on.
It's certianly not easy. To be honest, owning a sprots team is an incredible experience, a lot of fun, but it's difficult because of the scrutiny of the fans, the media. The demands are very high right now and the expectations have to be raised. This is the 4th season we've owned the Wizards and we said we were gonna start young and build from that, and we're ready. I believe the team is ready to take the next step, be a 500 team, and get to the playoffs this year. I take my cues from the head office and the team and they're confident.
Were all in trouble if we don't meet our expectations, but I have to enter the season with confidence. We're hoping some of our young players take a step forward. This is our team, this is our process, and our expectations are positive right now.
I've owned teams a dozen year, there is a lot of talent, but talent without dedication, a love of the game and accountability, doesn't seem to work. We've had a lot of talent on the team but the players didn't really care. It all starts with leadership. John Wall is the most tenured player on the team. We've had a complete turnover of personnel, but he's still on his rookie contract and his our most tenured played. Bradley Beale, his second year on the team. He's an old soul, very polished.
The budget battle:
I just can't imagine 30 days from now if we can't work this out. And its self -inflicted. We have to find a way to make sure people around the world trust us. If we're gonna shut down the city and shut down the economy, its unfathomable to leaders outside the U.S., they look at us like 'why are you doing this to yourself, to your populace'
Caller: How do you deal with the preMadonna athlete today? How do you deal with an Alex Rodriguez in basketball or hockey?
I think it starts early with recruitment. You can tell in the draft, now you have to spend as much time around character, talking to coaches, talking to people who have been around the player to make sure they're not going to be a distraction. And when someone like that comes along, you have to make a decision, you have to cut them.
Ive run into that with the Wizards. We had a lot of talent, but the players weren't a part of the culture we wanted to create. The bigger agenda here is team success. if we have team success than your individual contributions will be highlighted the same way. But you do have players that are 'me me me me.' One or two players about 'me me me me me' can be a problem in the locker room. I've learned that you have to act quickly.
Twitter question: Will Leonsis commit to hosting the Winter Classic inside the Capital Beltway?
I think that's a fair question and I wish I could commit. There are two teams that play in it, we would be the host city, and I have some input but the league makes the decisions. I certainly would love to have the game played in D.C., Nats park would be a great venue. but the league will canvass, reach out, look at all the options and do the research -- there's a lot that goes into this. How many tickets? Can you build benches?
I'm always concerned when you hold a big event like this because things won't work exactly the way the fans want. If you have Row A seats in a hockey court, they won't necessarily be good seats in a baseball stadium. And we have to host the other team and their fans.
The other thing I find interesting -- someone the other day made a sneering comment about how we're lining our pockets with the Winter Classic. This isn't a boondoggle for the Washington Capitals. The league writes you a check for your average of what you earned. Then the league has to pay for the venue, everything else that went into it. There is also a fair amount of charitable work.
It would be fantastic for the economy because whoever we play would come to see their team, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants.
It's not your game if you host it. So, can I commit? No, but I can influence. But the league ultimate will decide.
The players liked it and voted for it. One of our assistant coaches, Calle Johannson, that's how he got injured and it kinda ended his career. We have to do all we can to protect the players, but we have to balance with not taking too much away from the game. So hybrid ice, that's a conversation.
The nets are a little different. In old games you see a lot of guys operating behind the net and trying to get the puck in and that changed with the new nets.
The game and the NHL - where it is now.
It's a players league and the players want to play in the Olympics, and I've always thought it was good to do what you can for the players. That's important to Alex. The Olympics are fun, we're doing everything we can to accommodate the Olympic committee, it's good for the league. And then, the games end and we come back. I'm hoping we'll come back with Alex. Hopefully he plays here for the rest of his career.
Insurance concern about Olympics:
Its obvious the game has progressed, the salary cap has gone up, the players are making a lot more money. We always hold our breath. We don't want a player to get injured, affecting the rest of his career. The stakes have gone up dramatically. That's the nighmare scenario, if a player lost his career while playing for the country. You don't want to not send them, because they'd say you're not being patriotic, and they'd be the first to say 'how could you do that?' if a player got injured and ruined his career.
Response to Laura:
It's not a silly question but its not me. I think you're talking about Dolph, and he's handing out stats. They update stats regularly.
Redskins name controversy:
I have so many issues to deal with in my own organizations, I think it would be inappropriate to comment. I've stayed out of that and I think that's the right position for us. There are a lot of fans who think we should change the name back to the bullets. They're very passionate. There are a lot of fans who think we shouldn't. I'm focused on winning a championship under the Wizards name.
Caller: The Wizards and free agency.
I think that's a very astute question and something we have secret strategic planned and we look at every off season, which players are going to be free agents and where the salary cap is. At the same time you have to have the cap space, and the environment to have a free agent that says 'I believe in this franchise and I think I can make a difference.'
I think if we had gone out in the last few years and gone after a name free agent, I don't think they would want to come. Because we were building. So we've built up the young players, then lets bring some vets in who have a good experience, and then they start to generate the discussion that DC is a great fan base and great players and we like the coach -- its a good place to want to come. You have to create a name for yourself that is able to attract free agents. We've got the funds, but that doesn't mean they'll want to come. We have to build the team, build the young players, have success.
It's a long winded way of saying we're very cognizant of the pacing of what the salary cap will be, what we'll spend. The biggest downside is if you swing and miss at bringing the named free agent, but then you have this money burning in your pocket and you've got to pull in another one and sign them to a long contract.
Rule changes in NHL: You can no longer take your helmet off to fight:
You don't want helmets off because you don't want concussions, that's what it comes down to. Safety is first and foremost. Fights, fans appreciate it, teams appreciate it, and its a new rule and they're gonna have to find their way. After the season they'll look -- did it work or didn't it?
We always need to look and make sure we are doing what we can to keep players safe.
Olympics: Where do you see that Olympic bid going?
I went to LA, Atlanta, Vancouver ... the Olympics are a gas, and when I heard people were trying to bring them here, I thought that was great. That would be a lot of fun. I'm sure it's going to activate 50 percent of the naysayers saying it would be crazy, and 50 percent saying it would be great. I happen to think it would be great for our community. We have to decide if we can afford it, how we'd plan for it.
Caller: Jack in D.C.: I got 3 daughters that have never been to a Caps game and I was wondering if I could surprise them with seats in the owners box.
Leonsis -- (laughs) You should definitely bring them to a game. I'd love to meet them and say hello.
Thanks for joining us everyone!! Keep coming back.
Caller: A lot of teams bring back retro uniforms for a game or two. Any chance you'll bring back the old Bullets jersey for a few Wizards games?
The organization I think in the past has done a great job, the Zephyrs uniform. And last year we brought back the 35th anniversary of the championship team, and we've launched alumni outreach program and if you come to games you'll see lots of players, we just brought Greg Bower onto the organization as one of our lead scouts. I think that's very important. I think you've touched on something. We certainly have done that with the Caps, you see Peter Bondra, you see Rod Langway, you see last week we had a dozen players, we've been playing in Baltimore, actually had the Baltimore classic for Hockey and now we're doing the same next week in Baltimore for the Wizards, and good seats are still available. If you want to go retro, you should go to the Baltimore arena.