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Bettman talks to Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event on Friday. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Nearly 57 years ago, Willie O’Ree became the first black player in NHL. Today, society is different place — except when P.K. Subban plays in Boston.

“You don’t really notice it too much,” Capitals prospect Madison Bowey, who is black, said when I asked whether race was still an issue in hockey. “Everyone treats you the same. It’s not a big deal anymore; it’s a new generation.”

While race has come up as an issue for more broadly in America recently, it is becoming increasingly irrelevant in sports. Today, the Capitals and the NHL dedicated a refurbished street hockey rink in predominately black Southeast D.C.

Recently, though, questions have been raised how inclusive the NHL really is in other areas. Since August, three national hockey writers have been fired for making predatory advances towards female hockey fans online and via text message.

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When we heard a superhero foundation was holding a fundraiser in D.C. featuring Caps players Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer, and John Carlson, we put our best subject-matter expert on the case. Here’s a report from RMNB Senior Spandexed Superhero Correspondent Brouwer Ranger Nathan on “Heroes Rock the Red.”

Spirits seem to be rebounding among Caps fans following back-to-back victories against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend. A handful of them came out to celebrate the nascent winning streak with Caps players and a bunch of superheroes while raising money for Foundation 4 Heroes (F4H).

Brouwer and Carlzner signed autographs, took photos with fans, and tended bar at City Tap House DC to raise money for the F4H, which takes a unique approach to supporting kids with life-threatening diseases. The non-profit sends superheroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman to visit kids and encourage them to find the superhero inside themselves.

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“Stay tuned” is what the Capitals told us when we asked when and how fans could buy the team’s nifty new Winter Classic toques. We are too impatient for that.

Based on a scorching hot tip from reader @Maggles330, we sent Ian Oland out on assignment. He hit the road during the first intermission of Friday’s game and headed to Dick’s Sporting Goods, now open on Buckeystown Pike in Frederick. The good people at Dick’s even agreed to take a photo holding the toques.

Boom.

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On Friday, the Washington Capitals held a photoshoot for their annual dog calendar, benefitting Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. While we posted everything that was put up on social media that day by the Caps, we didn’t tell you that our very own Amanda Bowen went to the event and got her own photos.

And oh man, they are incredible.

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EightToFastToCatch getting a work in the slop

EightToFastToCatch getting a work in the slop (Photo: Anne Frederick / Maryland Million Ltd)

When we last left our four-legged equine hero, EightToFastToCatch, a local Thoroughbred named for Alex Ovechkin, he had just won the 2011 renewal of the Maryland Million Classic. Just ahead of puck drop against the Panthers at Verizon on Saturday, horsey Ovi will be looking to score his own hat trick, right up the road at Laurel Park.

Since 2011, ETFTC has had 19 races and found the winners’ circle 7 times, most notably with a repeat win in the 2013 Classic. Where was our coverage in those intervening years? Simple – in the 2012 Classic he ran 5th and we were so gripped by NHL lockout paralysis we could barely get out of bed, let alone play the races. I’m sure we have some other excuse for 2013… maybe we blame Oates, but that’s a bad horse pun.

Now an EIGHT year-old, this gelding (don’t ask!), is wrapping up his career, and has one more race on his schedule after today’s mile-and-an-EIGHTH Classic. And if his engine and the Racing Gods have their way, he’ll cross the finish line first on Saturday, ahead of his EIGHT rivals, and get his 3rd Classic win, a rare racing hat trick. The track odds-maker installed his as the prohibitive 3-5 favorite. It may not make dollars and sense to bet on him at such a low price, but we’re going to cheer for him just as loud (and obnoxiously) as we do his namesake.

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How The Horn Guy Made His 2014-15 Horn

The man behind the Capitals’ best-known cheer is simply known as The Horn Guy. Before every opening face-off, after a goal, or any time the Caps need a kick in the pants, Sam Wolk unleashes three blasts from the upper level of Verizon Center. The crowd responds with a hearty “Let’s! Go! Caps!” chant. You heard it on TV. You’ve probably participated in it. Sam is famous.

He has starred in a Caps commercial, he helps lead the Caps Road Crew, and– thanks to his regional hockey fame– has taken megapixels of photos with eager fans. But away from the rink, Wolk is a simple man who just so happens to be bursting with creativity. The Lead Coordinator for Direct Mail at FedEx Office and Print Services, Sam is also a talented, self-taught illustrator.

If you’ve spent a second near Sam at a game, you’ve certainly noticed his horns. Each is an elegant painted piece of art that Wolk invests hours upon hours painting before every season.

Wolk gave RMNB an inside look at process of painting his new noise device for 2014-15.

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Photo: @courtlaugh22

During Wednesday’s Capitals preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres, Courtney Laughlin, daughter of long-time Caps color commentator Craig Laughlin, announced that she is joining CSN Washington’s pre-game show, Caps Central.

Courtney will make her TV debut next Thursday before the Capitals home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

I spoke to Courtney via email Wednesday night, and she explained her new role.

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Justin Peters New Caps Mask

Photo: Amanda Bowen

Recently, a lot of Washington Capitals masks designed by Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson have looked similar (which is kind of hard to avoid when you do a million of these). Justin Peters‘ new mask is, um, not one of those.

“In junior [hockey], my nickname was Pete-Dawg,” Peters began as he showed off his new bucket to RMNB Saturday. “That’s the whole theme behind my mask. It’s a dog, obviously. It’s got the mean teeth and stuff.”

The mask, which features a dog’s mouth wide open with yellowed, bloody canine teeth surrounding the opening of the mask, includes subtle details like the Caps weagle and stars. On the bottom of the mask, Peters’ nickname is found in a script font with a weathered look.

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Photo: Tyler Lapeyre

Before the Washington Capitals played the Vancouver Canucks last October, Alex Ovechkin noticed a girl standing along the boards during warm-ups. The sign she held read, “All I want 4 my 16th birthday is a puck, Ovi.” The Russian machine obliged and tossed a puck over the glass. The moment was expertly photographed by Jonathan Hayward.

We wrote about the photo. The story went viral. It was even on Buzzfeed.

“The whole thing was pretty surreal,” Tyler Lapeyre, the Vancouver girl who caught the puck, explained to me in an interview on Sunday night. “Then to see the picture show up all over Facebook and Tumblr really made the moment more special. It was like the world realized how awesome the moment was for me!”

That tiny gesture wasn’t the only kind thing Ovechkin did for the young Canadian Caps fan.

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