Now that the Inaugural, with all its pomp and circumstance, ruffles and flourishes, is over, Roll Call reporter, Jonathan Strong, has time to talk hockey, specifically his team, the Washington Capitals. In fact, Jonathan had a busy week leading up to Monday’s festivities, he was in Williamsburg covering the House GOP retreat. We’re thankful he made time for us.
We were reminded of Jonathan’s hockey fandom a week or so ago, when he lobbed in a comment (below) on the apology post that Ted Leonsis wrote on his site. And he didn’t use an alias. We love full disclosure. Hockey + media plays into our sweet spots and this is the first in a series of 5v5 Q&As we’ll do with DC journalists. The rules are simple, five questions plus an OT and shootout, to be answered in five minutes. We yield the floor.
1. Take us back to your early days as a young Caps fan. How did you get into the game, what are some of your earliest Caps memories and who were some of your favorite players?
“In 2nd Grade, my friend got some stick hockey equipment as a gift. The first time I played in his driveway, I knew it was my sport. It was just more fun than all the other sports I had played. As a sports fan, I’m a total homer. So growing up in Northern Virginia outside DC rooting for the Caps was a no brainer. Peter Bondra was my favorite player for a long time — I love the goal scorers.
Later in life, my wife and I got season tickets for a couple of years. The Sergei Federov goal to beat the Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 in 2009 is one of my all time favorite Caps moments because I was there for that one. The crowd was roaring!”
2. Did you ever play hockey as a kid or in school? If not, might you have any interest in joining our new adult league? We’re filling out the roster with ex-smokers who’ve undergone joint replacement. Are you in?
“I did play growing up, in high school at Lake Braddock and in college at Wheaton College in Illinois. I have been playing off and on in an adult league at Fairfax Ice Rink where I worked in high school.”
It was reported that you were one of the “hard-liners” in the negotiations. I never saw a response from you to that, and you didn’t address it here in this post. Is there any truth to the notion that relative to the median position among owners, you wanted to hold out longer than most? If that’s true, can you explain your thinking? Especially since we were robbed of seeing most of a season of Ovechkin’s prime? Sincerely, Jonathan Strong
What else would you like to say to Ted about the recent troubles? What would you say to Bettman and Fehr?
“Personally, I found the lockout outrageous. As I understand it, the players made significant concessions in the last round and this time the owners wanted a lot more — despite the fact that the league was doing very well financially. It’s pathetic that Garry Bettman has presided over this amount of turmoil over contracts. And it hurts the sport.
Ted Leonsis has been a great owner of the Caps. I’ve met him, heard him speak about his five keys to happiness, and pinged him for some hockey stories I wrote as a reporter for the Daily Caller. So I was shocked when it was reported that he was one of the “hard-liners” in the negotiations among the owners who would rather cancel the season than strike a bad deal. The thought that our own owner was part of the reason we were missing a season of Alex Ovechkin’s prime was pretty tough to swallow.
At the time I wrote the comment, Leonsis still hadn’t addressed this allegation, which was first reported in October. On Friday, Leonsis did respond, downplaying his role in the negotiations. Leonsis said, “I think one reporter said I was a hard-liner, which I had to laugh at,” and that an unnamed person told him “you were really nice. You’re not a hard-liner.” He also said his role in the negotiations was minimal, and that what he was pushing for was “a 50-50 deal and a 10-year deal.”
I am glad he responded, but as a cynical reporter the response didn’t seem all that airtight to me. He never really said “it’s not true,” if you read it closely. What I’d really like to see is some of the hockey reporters do more substantive work on what happened behind the scenes, so we’ll see if that comes out.”
4. As 2012 was winding down, the CBA negotiators were banging heads in NYC and the Hill and WH were thrashing each other during the fiscal cliff debate. What were the common elements between the two fights?
Both sides are only interested in getting what they want, but since the debate is playing out in public they go to great lengths to appear “reasonable.” The more reasonable-looking side tends to have the public with them, which is leverage for getting what you want.
5. Caps fans have plenty of rivals to hate on. What team do you love seeing fall to the Capitals and why?
Growing up I saw the Penguins beat the Caps in the playoffs over and over again. I would get in trouble if you printed the things I say privately about that team and its players (especially Crosby).
OT: You’re George McPhee. Who are some Caps you would trade away, and for who in return?
Tough question. As much as I love the guy, I think you might want to look at what people are offering for Mike Green. I think he’s a player that’s extremely talented and exciting to watch, but may not be as helpful to the team winning as another player you could get for him.
Shootout: Fast forward to the spring. The Caps are locked in a tough playoff series while the debt ceiling negotiations are going on. What’s on your TV at work – C-SPAN or Comcast Sports?
“Comcast, of course!”