It takes a special player to transform a struggling franchise into a cornerstone of the surrounding community. Ted Leonsis fully acknowledges that Alex Ovechkin has been that player for his franchise.
After 22 years of owning the Washington Capitals, he can appreciate those rare talents a bit more than most. During a virtual press conference on Thursday, Leonsis put Ovechkin's impact in terms of a player that has been on the front of our minds since bringing Milwaukee its first NBA championship in 50 years.
"You have an MVP player who said 'I could have gone anywhere, but I decided to stay here, put the Bucks and Milwaukee back on the map," Leonsis said. "Well that's what Alex did for us."
In 2004, the Washington Capitals drafted a 19-year-old Russian winger touted as the savior of a team that had fallen from glory. By year three, Ovechkin was the league's leading scorer and the Capitals were Division Champions. Soon after that, he'd make an unprecedented 13-year commitment to Leonsis' project.
"When we announced that Alex was staying for the 13 years, it gave the whole area permission to fall in love with the team," Leonsis said. "They could trust that one of the greatest players of his generation said 'I want to be here' and that was such a rallying point for the community."
As the captain and face of the franchise, Ovechkin brought Washington its first Stanley Cup since entering the NHL in 1974.
Ovechkin committed the best years of his career to Washington when he signed the 13-year deal. On Tuesday, the Great 8 committed the rest of his NHL career to Washington after signing a five-year extension as he chases a second Stanley Cup and Wayne Gretzky's record 894 NHL goals.
"We deserve to have some happy endings," Leonsis said. "We deserve to have good news stories all of the time for our community."