Washington Capitals Launch Courage Caps Program

Erskine Courage Caps

Washington wore Courage Caps hats during warmups to support the cause. (Photo credit: @KCity65)

Sports teams may feel like glorified corporations these days. There still, however, is something more to them: the fans, the community, and the good the teams can do through charitable work. On Sunday, the Washington Capitals launched their annual Courage Caps program, which raised over $100,000 for TAPS, a military charity, last year.

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Courage Caps (14 of 14)

Photos by Chris Gordon

The past decade has seen the United States involved in two wars — one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. We’re all aware of them, we’ve seen the headlines. But for most Americans, the country’s battles are an abstraction. It’s something on the news, not part of the stories of other human beings.

Some Americans, though, can’t remove themselves from them — the wars have taken members of their family. Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers: the all have loved ones who will never come home. This has unfolded thousands of times throughout the past 12 years.

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Braden Holtby meets Zach

Holtby skates Zachary around the ice. (Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward)

Holtby skates Zachary around the ice. (Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward)

Photo credit: Ann-Marie Ward

The day before the Washington Capitals played their most inspired game of the season — a 5-0 shellacking of the Florida Panthers, some special guests invaded Kettler Capitals Iceplex and raised the spirits of three Caps in particular: Braden Holtby, Jason Chimera, and Tomas Kundratek. The Caps hosted Extreme Recess Hockey in conjunction with Dreams For Kids DC, a program which allows children with physical and developmental disabilities — as well as at-risk youth — to get out on the ice and skate with the pros.

The event had a profound impact on both the children and players involved.

“It’s making me feel unreal,” Kundratek told John Walton in a team-produced video. “Kids having smiles on their faces. That’s what this is all about. This is my first time and I’m really enjoying it.”

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On November 17th, Washington Capitals first-line winger Troy Brouwer suited up for the Goals For Dreams hockey game, a charity exhibition that pitted the NHL Players Association against Winnipeg Police Patrolmen. In front of a sold-out crowd at the University of Manitoba’s Max Bell Centre, locked-out stars like Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber, and Mike Richards hit the ice again and raised over $80,000 for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Dream Factory.

Good news for all you Brouwer-maniacs out there: Goals For Dreams has put every player’s game-used jersey up for auction on eBayincluding Troy’s — and bidding ends a little after 9pm tonight.

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Resisting… urge… to make fun of MG52’s shirt. (Photo credit: @KevinMacDonnell)

Via his Twitter account @GreenLife52, Mike offers a free drink to his 75k+ followers

NHL players have missed their first four paychecks of the 2012-13 season, but one Washington Capitals player is still willing to empty his pockets for a good cause. On Saturday night, Mike Green asked all of his followers in a tweet to come out to the popular sports bar Front Page Arlington. The all-star defenseman then bought all Caps fans in attendance a round of shots and then later just paid for the entire bar tab. Green also served drinks from behind the bar, signed autographs and took pictures with fans, and even participated in the last round of a day-long poker tournament to help benefit Hurricane Sandy victims and the Ballston restaurant whose revenue is down 10% because of the lockout. How cool is that?!

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: hockey players are the most down-to-earth and generous athletes in any sport. These types of gestures make fans for life, regardless of how the unnecessary league-imposed lockout darkens our collective hockey souls.

Below the jump, I’ve included a few more pictures from the night — and if you’ve got some more, feel free to send ‘em our way.

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Tomas Kundratek

Photo credit: Kyle Mace of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

November 1st marks the first day of Movember, an event where men across the globe grow mustaches to raise money to fight prostate cancer. Hockey players have been among the most avid supporters of the charity, raising thousands for research and awareness.

Almost the entire Hershey Bears team is participating this year, and some players are trying to one up each other. After Boyd Kane’s wife offered a signed team photo for any person donating $25 or more, Caps prospect Tomas Kundratek responded with his own overture.

No signed jersey or stick. Too rote. Instead, Kundratek is offering to take the fan who donates the most money out to dinner at the finest establishment in Hershey: Houlihan’s! If you’re nice, he might let you order an appetizer.

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Paralyzed high-school hockey player Jack Jablonski drops the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between Parise and Hendricks. (Photo via Defending the Blueline)

When George McPhee traded for Mike Ribeiro and signed Wojek Wolski, he formed perhaps the greatest shootout line-up in the history of hockey. That duo is rounded out by Matt Hendricks, who went 5 for 6 and embarrassed some of the best goalies in the game last season. The Capitals don’t even need Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom for the gimmick anymore.

But temper that confidence. On Sunday, NHL players including Zach Parise, new Caps defenseman Jack Hillen, and Hendricks, took the ice for a charity game benefiting Defending the Blue Line. The game brought 3,000 hockey-starved fans out to the University of Minnesota and raised an estimated $50,000 for the children of military parents. It was great, until Hendricks’ shootout attempt at the end of the game.

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It’s summertime: lean days for hockey fans. But I’ve got some good news though: here’s an opportunity to play (or watch) hockey– and do it for a good cause.

On August 3-5, the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, MD is hosting the Leap Towards a Cure Presented by Outback Steakhouse, Laurel, MD, hockey tournament. 26 teams will compete in the tourney to raise money for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

Leap Towards a Cure is looking for players for the tournament right now, so if your rec league is winding down, please get the word out. There are a bunch of divisions for different talent levels, so please don’t worry about your skills.  They particularly need free agent skaters for the women’s division.

Plus, you might see some hockey guys you might know.

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Sunday: Maryland vs Navy Charity Game for USA Warriors

What are you doing on Sunday? Ain’t no Caps game, so you have no excuse not to get down to The Gardens Ice House in Laurel for an epic match-up for a good cause.

University of Maryland Hockey will face off with its in-state rival, the Naval Academy, for a charity game to raise money for the USA Warriors. There is no charge at the door, so spectators are asked to make a donation to the Warriors. Here’s the Facebook event page.

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Caps Fight Cancer

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin stands next to 12-year-old cancer survivor Anthony Holley during the national anthem. (Photo credit: Ned Dishman)

Cancer affects millions of people every year and is truly an awful disease. So on Saturday night, while the boys in red battled the Detroit Red Wings, the Caps held Hockey Fights Cancer Night, joining in a league-wide program to raise money for cancer research and treatment. During warm-ups, the team wore special jerseys with Hockey Fights Cancer patches and lavender outlining around the names and numbers, representing the official color of the initiative. The sweaters, which were signed by their respective player, were then auctioned off to fans at the community relations booth.

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