Craig Brownstein of PuckBuddys writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks.
Just before hitting the ice, Joe Bowser of the Warrior team was asked what their strategy was to beat the Congressional squad, “Just show up,” he joked. He later added, “And we promise to pay our taxes on time.”
The big man for the Warriors talked a big game, but at the end of the night, the Lawmakers came out on top, 6-3. Taking an early lead in the first period, the Hill team held off the Warriors, a squad comprised of active duty members, reservists and vets, many of them skating with artificial limbs. “We’ll put our best foot forward,” Bowser said before the game, aware of the obvious pun.
The rain didn’t do much to dampen attendance at Kettler last night and the stands held a raucous crowd, primarily Warriors boosters. But it was the Obama address to the Joint Session of Congress that kept a number of elected officials away. But as per usual in this town, the hard work (and scoring) was done by the staff. Rep. Mike Quigley was the sole elected official to play last night. We thanked him for the time he gave us earlier this week when we previewed the game. Just before taking the ice, and maybe a bit torqued on how we characterized him, Quigley looked at us and said, “Pugnacious?” Mustering every bit of confidence that 15 years at C-SPAN will give a guy, we looked him square in the eye and replied, “What – did we spell it wrong?”
Some brass from the NHL also were on hand – Rob Wooley, Manager of Cause Marketing and Ken Martin, VP of Community Affairs and Diversity Programming, came in from New York for the game. They were fresh off a successful event in Chicago on Wednesday that saw some Blackhawk players join Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Quigley at a GLBT center for a floor hockey clinic, part of the League’s ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ initiative. Wooley and Martin will be up on the Hill Friday meeting with members of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, to talk about some future events.
Like elsewhere in the region, yesterday’s downpour played havoc with the power at Kettler. Just before game time, the lights flickered then went out. The generators kicked in quickly and the players took to the ice for warm ups.
The ceremonial puck drop was handled by Caps star Mike Knuble. We caught up with him before the game to get his opinion on the teams. “The Warriors looked to be in better shape,” he said. Knoobs went on to talk about the Warrior spirit. “They’ve done so much for the country. They play competitively and rally around each other. Injuries don’t stop them; they play through the pain. Knuble, who has a collection of signed hockey sticks at home, brought an old wooden one (circa 1970’s) with him to the game and had the entire warrior team sign it. And since it was a presidential evening, we asked Mike what he would say to Obama that might convince him to attend a Caps game. “We’re the best ticket in town. It’s a no brainer – come see us play. It’s an exciting building and a good house. Ted will give him a good seat.”
After a hard-fought 45 minutes, the players posed for a group photo and then filed off the ice. Mike Vaccaro of the Warriors shared some of the chirping from the bench. A staffer-player got a text from the House chamber saying “Obama fired Quigley.” If that’s the sort of joking that goes on in the House cloakroom (or House gym), is it any wonder that this guy is so pugnacious?
The Warriors have a full season ahead, playing college other armed services teams. They’ve got a new coach and also face frequent personel changes as players go in and out of therapy, transition from active duty, and change units. It was an honor being able to watch them play and we hope we get another chance to see them on the ice in the future.