Leonsis involved in incident with fine

Updated: January 29, 2004, 8:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The NHL has suspended Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis for one week and the team has been fined $100,000 following an incident between Leonsis and a fan.

Jason Hammer told The Washington Post that Leonsis placed his hands on his neck and tossed him down to the ground after the Capitals' home loss to Philadelphia.

Leonsis, a vice chairman of America Online, later apologized to Hammer, a 20-year-old Caps season-ticket holder who had taunted the owner.

In issuing the penalties to Leonsis and the Caps, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, "I have been briefed by NHL Security on the incident and understand that Ted Leonsis and Jason Hammer have amicably put this matter behind them.

"Nevertheless, as in other instances involving players, coaches or managers, we hold all members of the NHL family to a higher standard than the general public. Even in those cases when there were instances of alleged provocation, we have made it clear that NHL personnel need to do everything possible to avoid a confrontation with fans and the failure to do so is not acceptable."

Leonsis can have no contact with the team, including attending any games or other team functions, for a week.

On Tuesday, Caps spokesman Kurt Kehl said Leonis was "embarrassed. He regrets the incident happened. He reached out to the fan.''

In describing the incident, Hammer told the Post, "The security guards came and broke it up, and pulled me away to the side. But Ted was still trying to come at me again.''

Other witnesses offered different versions to the Post.

Hammer told the Post he led a derisive chant directed toward the owner during the game and held a sign that read: "Caps Hockey; AOL Stock -- See a Pattern?"

Hammer said he did not intend to press charges.

"I think both he and I are going to drop it and continue on and have it be like that," he told the newspaper.

Leonsis, 48, has a reputation as one of the more fan-friendly chief executives in professional sports. He often can be seen personally greeting spectators at Capitals home games and he answers fans' e-mails.

Sunday's game was the team's first at home since it traded star forward Jaromir Jagr to the New York Rangers. The Capitals have languished at the bottom of the NHL standings this season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.