The unusual team endorsement, believed to be the first of its kind for a pro sports franchise, comes as energy industry lobbyists in Washington intensify efforts to influence climate legislation working its way through Congress.
"Nuclear energy is an important part of a technology-based solution to climate change," Capitals majority owner and long-time AOL executive Ted Leonsis said in a statement released by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the team's new partner.
"It's a proven energy provider in Virginia and Maryland for Capitals' fans. We are pleased to work with NEI to raise awareness of the role that it can play in reducing greenhouse gases across America."
But the announcement carried no afterglow for climate campaigners, who immediately questioned how much money the Capitals organization received for its nuclear nod. Sources at the Nuclear Energy Institute confirmed the group would pay the team for a season-long advertising campaign involving print, radio and arena signs but declined to disclose the amount.
"The Washington Capitals are backing the wrong horse. Nuclear power is too expensive and too risky to solve the global warming crisis," said Dave Martin, a climate policy analyst with Greenpeace Canada.
NEI officials in Washington said they drew inspiration for the partnership from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which struck a deal with Bruce Power in July making the nuclear utility an official sponsor of the Air Canada Centre, the Maple Leafs, the Raptors and the Marlies. But the sponsorship did not involve such an overt and high-level endorsement from the Leafs' parent company.
The dollar value of the Capitals deal "is not hugely significant," NEI vice-president of communications Scott Peterson told the Toronto Star.
"But it is a significant partnership for us to have access to the fan base. Because it is Washington and because the team's television feed will get the message out pretty frequently to people in a part of the country we want to reach."