Thursday, September 30, 2010

And Then There Were Two

Entering training camp, the Caps had one center spot up for grabs. The candidates were youngsters Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson, and Cody Eakin.  Eakin was a long shot from the beginning, but his play throughout camp kept him in the conversation.  That is, until he was sent back down to captain his junior team in Swift Current for the 2010-2011 season.

Eakin’s play impressed many over the last few weeks, and it didn’t go unnoticed by coaching staff.  The organization would probably love to have him in Hershey this season, but Eakin doesn’t meet the AHL’s minimum age requirement.  Looking down the road, don’t be surprised if he cracks the Caps lineup in the next two or three years, which is a pretty sweet deal for a 19 year-old.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Not Personal, It's Business

As sports fans, we love our team.  We live with their successes and die with their failures.  We spend money, time, and effort supporting our team and the organization.  The players feel like a family, our family.  The entire franchise feels like a tight-knit group that truly cares about one another.  We love this team so much, how can they not love each other the same way?

The fact is, fans mainly live in that delusion because we love it.  Sports is, first and foremost, a business.  The organization is a business.  The league is a business.  The stadium is a business.  Every aspect of the team is created to maximize profits.  Giving more fan access to the players makes the fans more loyal.  They are then more likely to buy jerseys, shirts, etc.  Every decision that is made is made for business reasons.

As cold as that sounds, it’s the only way a business can succeed.  Most who are involved in the sports industry understand that.  No one is trying to intentionally hurt anyone else, but there is serious money at stake for all involved.  Players generally understand that, and the oddest part of this whole Eric Belanger fiasco is that he seems to be the only one who doesn’t.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Executive Take: Dick Patrick

The major executive who has been with the organization the longest and is perhaps the furthest from the spotlight is team president and partial owner Dick Patrick.  He is a member of one of hockey’s most legendary families, starting with Lester Patrick, Dick’s grandfather.  Lester Patrick helped develop many of the rules of hockey in its infancy in the early 1900s.  He also has an award named after him, the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is given for dedication to hockey in the United States.

Dick’s cousin, Craig, played for the Capitals from 1977-1979 and won two Stanley Cups as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Oh yeah, and he won an Olympic Gold Medal as Herb Brooks’ assistant with the 1980 U.S. Men’s hockey team.  His father Muzz and uncle Lynn both played for the New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup in 1940.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Executive Take: Ted Leonsis

People often wonder what they would do if they were extraordinarily wealthy. What would you buy? What would you do? Where would you go? Some have the dream of owning a professional sports team, but few achieve the level of wealth to make it possible. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder proves a lifelong dream doesn’t necessarily lead to success, while Capitals owner Ted Leonsis worked through his rookie mistakes to become the majority owner of the most successful team in the city.

Ted Leonsis was born in Brooklyn, NY and attended college at Georgetown University in D.C.  His marketing company, Redgate Communications Corp., was bought by AOL in 1993 and Leonsis became a senior executive at AOL for the next 13 years.  Among the positions he held at AOL were vice chairman and president.

In 1999, Leonsis had the opportunity to cross something off his “bucket list”: owning a professional sports team.  He bought the Capitals from Abe Pollin, then owner of the Washington Wizards and the MCI Center (now Verizon Center). 

Leonsis’ reign began just after the team’s lone run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and in his first two years as owner the Capitals won back-to-back Southeast Division titles.  Aiming to improve on his team’s consistent playoff woes, he began going to free agency to bring in big name, big money players.  He signed Jaromir Jagr to a 7 year, 77 million dollar contract which at the time was the biggest in NHL history. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Executive Take: George McPhee

It wasn’t too long ago that Caps fans had little hope of playoff appearances, let alone deep runs.  There were times when a 10,000 person attendence was considered a good turnout.  The Caps have now sold out their last two seasons, and likely will again this year.  One man was primarily responsible for their turnaround, and his name is George McPhee.

McPhee didn’t always spend his days in a suit.  A prominent player at Bowling Green State University, he was awarded the Hobey Baker Award in 1982 for college’s top player.  After being a standout player throughout his entire college career, McPhee had a seven-year stay in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers.

McPhee began his front office days with the Vancouver Canucks where he held the position of vice president and director of hockey operations while assisting then general manager Pat Quinn.  The Canucks made the playoffs four times, won a division championship and made it to the ’94 Cup Finals (where they fell to the Rangers) while McPhee was with the team.