The NHL’s trade deadline passed yesterday, and the Washington Capitals acquired four new players to add depth to a team that already has the best record in hockey. A few weeks back, the NBA trade deadline saw the Caps’ roommates, the Washington Wizards, dumping their best players, waving the white flag in an effort to get better next season.
If you would have asked a Washington sports fan to imagine that scenario just a few years ago, they might have required heavy hallucinogenic help. The Wizards were a playoff-caliber team, though never a serious championship contender; the Capitals had a half-full arena, the fans were lackadaisical, and the only place to see playoff hockey inside the beltway was on a TV screen.
In the background of these two teams going in different directions, Caps owner Ted Leonsis is trying to buy out the Pollin family for control of the Wizards. Though the deal has hit stumbling blocks over how each side values the team, sports fans in Your Nation’s Capital should be eager for it to go through.
Having been a Yankee fan for 31 years and nine months tomorrow, I’ve been spoiled in many ways by George Steinbrenner. The once-mercurial owner has taken on a gradually lessened role in the pure baseball decisions and has relinquished much of the control of the team to his sons, but has never wavered in the Yankees’ larger organizational goal of winning championships. That means that at baseball’s trade deadline, if the Yankees need a player, they’re going to be buyers and not sellers.
Caps fans are getting a taste of that this year. How many owners, sitting on the NHL’s best record, would sit on their hands and count their money from ticket sales? Leonsis has told the DC hockey faithful loud and clear that he’s going for a championship. It’s the right way to run a sports team. And, as the richest team in baseball can attest, excellence is good for business.