NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event last week in Southeast DC. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
It’s been 40 years since the Capitals first took the ice in the 1974-75 season. The team has been celebrating the occasion incessantly, honoring the franchise’s best players with video tributes that air every night at Verizon Center and when CSN+ doesn’t have anyone in studio for the late game.
Despite the trumpeting of their former players, the Capitals will not be hosting an alumni game prior to the 2015 Winter Classic, which heretofore had been a tradition. According to the NHL, this was a decision made by the Caps. Speaking to Capitals season ticket holders last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly suggested one possible reason for the move: the League didn’t agree to a deal with Nationals Park until September.
“That’s a complicated issue,” Daly said, as quoted by Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post. “There are a lot of issues involved in that. It’s the host team that makes that decision and we try to work with the host team, and we’ve had complications in the past, and I expect that in part was part of the reason here. Another part of the reason could be our venue deal with Nationals Park was fairly late in the game, as I think everybody recognizes.”
“In terms of doing all the things we would normally do around this game with the home club, we’re probably a little behind than where we normally are in that case,” Daly added. “It’s a great event, but it comes with a lot of issues that need to be resolved too.”
However, when I pressed NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the issue last week, he insisted the late deal had nothing to do with it, rejecting Daly’s suggestion.
“I didn’t hear what he said to you,” Bettman retorted when I relayed Daly’s comments. “I’m not sure what you’re telling me is an accurate portrayal, not that you would mislead me. We have no issues. We’re thrilled to be playing at Nationals Park. They’re going to be great hosts.”
“We haven’t always done an alumni game,” he added. “It varies by market to market and situation to situation. I don’t think anybody should read too much into it. Our primary focus is the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals.”
Despite the crosstalk on the late deal, the decision not to host an alumni game was ultimately up to Washington. The reasons behind that move are subject to debate and speculation, at least for now. The Capitals did not respond to a request for comment.
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