ovechkin-the-crazy-8s

For the last ten years, Max and Zach Wolpoff,The Crazy 8’s, have been a familiar site at Washington Capitals game, sitting on the glass right beside the Caps bench. Yesterday, we wrote about how the Caps/Devils game would be the Ovechkin superfans’ last together due to higher learning.

During warm-ups, Alex Ovechkin gave them a parting gift. In yet another gesture in a season full of them, Ovechkin gave the brothers two game-used sticks. It was a complete surprise to them.

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GreenSticks (5 of 15)

Photos: Chris Gordon

Seven years ago, Joseph Caprario’s father took his eight-year-old son to a Washington Capitals game after winning a charity auction. This was back in 2008, when Mike Green was electric and on his way to a 31-goal season. After that game, little Joseph met Green. The defenseman gave the fan a game-used stick and signed the blade with a silver Sharpie. Joseph treasured it; he hung the stick on his wall. For the affable Green, it was a routine gesture.

“A few months later, I started playing hockey myself,” Caprario told me. “Meeting Green was what inspired me to do so. I started as a defenseman. He was my favorite player.”

Elyssa Cole, a 29-year-old teacher in Sterling, Virginia, has always been a huge fan of the Caps and an even huger fan of Mike Green. She loves collecting Caps memorabilia. Five years ago, she found on eBay something she had to have. It was a Mike Green game-used stick. Cole splurged, shelling out $200 to buy it.

On Sunday, both Caprario and Cole made the hour-long trip to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to give back to the guy they felt had already done so much for them.

“I figured that if this stick is so good to him that he plays better, this was the right thing to do,” Cole told me. “As a fan, I’d do anything to help the team win.”

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GreenEaston

There it is. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

At the start of the 2008 NHL season, Mike Green came to camp with just 15 sticks. They were Easton Stealth CNTs. At the time, Green said his sticks had been discontinued for “a while.” He would be getting no more. Over the course of that season, Green posted unbelievable numbers for a defensemen, scoring 31 goals. Looking at the goal leaderboard for that season, Green is just below some of the most high flying scorers in the league: Malkin, Toews, and Crosby to name a few.

At one point Green scored a stunning 10 times in eight straight games. The goals during the streak all came off the same Easton, which Green said was the best stick he’s ever played with. Reluctantly, he agreed to donate it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“You can only be superstitious for so long,” Green said.

Green’s moment of reckoning came on May 2, 2009. Playing in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Green broke his last surviving Stealth CNT.

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ovi-falls-over-smiles

Alex Ovechkin loves to score goals. Afterwards, sometimes he leaps in into the glass, sometimes he does a jig, sometimes he tumbles to the ground like a building loaded with TNT. That last one happened on Sunday night after Ovi’s fortieth goal of the season.

“I think sniper was up there, shot me in foot,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game.

When I asked around the Capitals locker room at the Kettler on Monday, I was hoping the learn that Ovi’s teammates had seen the fall — or at least the replay — and had been giving Ovechkin a hard time. Troy Brouwer didn’t let me down.

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bensten-caps-video

Six days ago, Bensten opened his eyes for the first time since his accident. On Thursday, to the surprise of everyone, little B-man spoke– and he even laughed a little. Bensten’s uncle Tyler called it a miracle.

At his bedside, Bensten’s mother Heather played for her son the video the Capitals had made for him. You can see his reaction below. Warning: This is going to be emotional.

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ann-schaab-thank-you-ovi

Photo: Melissa Schaab

“I think he said card,” Melissa Schaab said to her son Matthew. “I think he’s going to give Ann a card. Not a car.”

“But play the video again.”

That was the scene late Sunday night at the Schaab’s Laurel, MD home. Melissa’s 15-year-old son had been sent a video clip from his friends. It was of Alex Ovechkin speaking to reporters after his fifth career All-Star Game. The future Hall of Fame forward had mentioned Matthew’s sister.

The moment was unexpected, surreal.

“He means card. He’s going to send Ann a card.”

A 2015 Honda Accord is $22,105. A “Thinking of you” card by Hallmark is maybe $3.99.

He couldn’t mean car.

“Then I got on the computer and googled a little bit and saw more about it,” Melissa said. “It was all just sort of unbelievable. This is crazy. This is not happening.”

It was.

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joel-ward-john-carlson

Photoshop by Ian Oland

While the Capitals and Red Wings were busy boring a mostly full Verizon Center, a sporting contest of greater import was taking place in the Boston suburbs. With a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line, the 2013 Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens took a 28-14 lead on the New England Patriots. With five minutes left in the game, however, Tom Brady threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to give New England a 35-31 lead and send the entire state of Maryland into Old Bay-seasoned tears.

After the Capitals’ 3-1 victory over Detroit, I caught up with Joel Ward, a massive Ravens fan. Though Ward scored in Washington’s 22nd victory this year, he become downtrodden when I brought up the game.

“I knew they were going to be tough,” Ward said. “I saw that they were up by a couple scores earlier on. Foxboro is a tough building. I can only imagine how they are feeling right now because it was such a battle with what they accomplished. I think a lot of people counted them out early on.”

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Scarf

Photo credit: Chris Gordon.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nate Schmidt sat in the corner of the Washington Nationals clubhouse, quietly taking off his gear after Caps practiced outside at Nats Park. With the NHL taking over the baseball stadium, the room has been temporarily transformed into a hockey locker room, though it’s not quite as smelly as a real one. To Schmidt’s right, around 15 reporters gathered around Karl Alzner, eager for his thoughts on the eyewear revolution he started. As RMNB’s Chief Fashion Reporter, I had my eye on a different aspect of Winter Classic apparel: the scarf Schmidt was wearing.

“This is my first ever scarf experience!” Schmidt gleefully announced to me. “First ever. I used to always make fun of people who wore scarves.”

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Introducing the John Kerry/RMNB Selfie

Kerry Selfie

John Kerry is now a friend-of-the-blog, I guess. Like us, he shares a passion for hockey. Kerry has been playing his whole life, from the varsity team at Yale to the Lawmakers team he led during his years in the Senate. A few days before the Bruins White House appearance in 2012, Kerry appeared at the State of the Union with two black eyes and a broken nose, injures he suffered during a pickup hockey game.

Back in February, I interviewed him before he dropped the puck as part of a ceremony honoring the Olympic athletes from the Jets and Capitals. We chatted just off the ice in the private quarters of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

“You know this guy?” Ted asked Kerry. Indeed he did.

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BackstromLockerRoomHats (3 of 7)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

Nicklas Backstrom is a quiet Swedish assist machine. He sits in the background, setting up Ovi and racking up points. He’s a bit shy, often speaking to reporters siting down and speaking in a soft tone. He’s not underrated. People know Backstrom is good, but he’s just doesn’t flout it at all. That’s why he’s not one of the league’s most recognizable stars, despite the skill and stats to back it up.

But we Caps fans know how good he is. Tonight, Backstrom put on a grand Saturday night production. After not scoring in almost a month, Backstrom registered a natural hat trick, his first three goal game since 2010, as the Caps beat the Bolts 4-2.

There was a present waiting for him after the game. Upon entering the Capitals locker room, Backstrom found his locker filled with the hats thrown on the ice by fans.

“I don’t know who the f—k was doing that,” Backstrom told me. “Someone surprised me.”

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