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Hendy signs his new four-year contract with Nashville. (Photo credit: @MattHendy26)

Matt “The Wagon” Hendricks has signed a four-year contract with the Nashville Predators for $1.85 million a year. That’s quite a payday for a grinder who three years ago had an uncertain future in the big league. Back in 2010 George McPhee invited Matt Hendricks to training camp on a hunch and signed him on the spot. Hendricks has been a solid fourth liner for the Capitals ever since, dropping the gloves in a few epic fights, and stunning goalies in shootout attempts. Those bona fides have made Hendricks a fan-favorite, so we invited our readers to share their favorite Hendricks stories.

This is a good one.

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[Editor's Note: Instead of rocking the red at Verizon Center for game two on Saturday, five-year Caps season ticket holder Ilan was at his brother Eyal's graduation at Indiana University. Enjoy.]

I am a long-time hockey fan, long-time Caps fan, and season-ticket holder. My brother and I grew up playing hockey and sweating the Caps hardcore. When I was in high school, we converted our basement into an indoor rink, and while pretending we were Olaf Kolzig, Craig Berube, and Peter Bondra, we wreaked havoc to the tune of drywall crumbling and light bulbs bursting. It was awesome.

Now for the not-so-awesome: I had to miss game two. My brother actually managed to graduate college this year, and his graduation ceremony was scheduled for that Saturday in Bloomington, Indiana. I thought about skipping his graduation but I am not a douche. Instead we tried to convince our mom to let us skip the festivities of the graduation at Indiana University and fly my brother home for game 2. No dice. Then I found out the worst part: we had to be at the ceremony at 2 pm. I wanted to die.

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[Editor's note: Renee, a long-time Caps season ticket-holder, won the ultimate prize in the Caps annual "Jerseys Off Our Backs" event on Fan Appreciation night. Here's her story.]

The "Jersey Off Our Backs" winners hang out at ice level and watch the Boston Bruins walk into the locker room.

The “Jersey Off Our Backs” winners hang out at ice level and watch the Boston Bruins walk into the locker room.

I started off my Friday like anyone else — scrambling to get work done before the week ended. But one phone call ended my productivity: I had been randomly selected for the “Jersey Off Our Backs” event on Fan Appreciation Day. As a longtime season-ticket holder, this is one event I’ve watched with awe – even back when the Caps would toss their signed jerseys haphazardly over the glass to waiting fans. Long story short, I didn’t get much done on Friday.

Fast-forward to game day. I watched periods one and two like anyone else — anxious to have the Caps produce on what looked to be good play despite the 0-2 score at the end of the 2nd. As the 3rd period started, I gathered with a crowd of lucky fans in the concourse. Count was taken and we were ultimately asked to pick a random manila envelope from our host — the envelope that held each of our future jersey’s numbers. We were escorted underground to wait for the end of the game. None of us saw Mike Green’s goals to tie it up, but we heard the crowd’s amazing cheers and we celebrated too. We followed tweets and text messages from friends and family in the arena, trying to harness the excitement of broken glass and overtime. The horn sounded a win and the crowd erupted in a frenzy. From the end of the hall, we watched the Bruins, heads down, trek to their locker room. And then it was our time.

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Steve Oleksy Meets Jessica, Loves Her Binky Shirt

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[Editor's Note: RMNB reader Jessica Martin met Steve "Binky" Oleksy at practice Wednesday. She shares her experience.]

I’ve been waiting for a chance to meet Steve Oleksy ever since he played for the Hershey Bears. It was only a matter a time before he was called up to the Capitals and began blowing everyone away with his hits, fights, and ability to put up points. The only thing I needed was a sweet shirt or a jersey for him to sign. Russian Machine came to the rescue with their exquisite Binky 61 shirt. I ordered it as soon as I could, and when I got it in the mail I made plans to come out to Kettler.

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The Brouwer Rangers Reveal Their Spandex Suits

Brouwer Power sign

[Editor's note: When Mike Knuble was let go by the Capitals over the offseason, Knuble's Knights were temporarily without a player to worship. After some careful thought, they re-formed as a fan club dedicated to power forward Troy Brouwer and dubbed themselves the Brouwer Rangers. Nathan Burchfiel, the group's fearless leader, is now here to reveal the group's new spandex'd uniform and signs for the Caps home opener. The floor is all yours, Nathan.]

After the Caps lost their season opener to the Tampa Bay Lighting on Saturday, many Caps fans were weeping and gnashing their teeth about this Schultz or that Ovechkin. We, on the other hand, were busy experiencing something of an existential crisis.

As we struggled to squeeze into lycra suits and freshly painted motorcycle helmets during our first and only Brouwer Rangers “dress rehearsal,” the existential question wasn’t, Who are we and what are we doing with our lives? It was more, How are we going to pull this off without being arrested for indecent exposure?

As you may know, for the past three years, we’ve attended Caps games decked in plastic armor, shields and swords, and armed with an array mildly controversial but mostly silly signs in support of fan-favorite Mike Knuble. With Knuble’s departure – and at his encouragement – we knew we had to continue the tradition with a new victim muse player to cheer for.

There’s plenty floating around about why we picked Brouwer (and why we do this at all in the first place) so we won’t rehash it here. With the lockout still fresh in our minds, who really wants to dwell in the past anyway? Instead, the fine folks at RMNB asked us to provide a preview of what’s in store for the Brouwer Rangers during this shortened season. Our existential crisis has become, Can this possibly live up to the antics and adventures of Knuble’s Knights?

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On Saturday, several Washington Capitals players rented out Kettler Capitals IcePlex to scrimmage against local college kids. Two readers who attended, Lexi Martinez and Kate Hudson, share their experience below. Lexi did the write-up, and Kate snapped the photos. Enjoy!

Caps fans got a surprise Thursday night, when John Carlson took to Twitter to announce that he’d be joining a few teammates back on the ice at Kettler the following morning for something special. Along with Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Jeff Halpern, and former Capital Peter Bondra, John would be scrimmaging a team of college players from around the area. It was thrown together late and all for fun, but for me, it meant a little taste of the Caps hockey we’ve all been missing so much. Naturally, I was freaking out.

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Knuble’s Knights Are Now The Brouwer Rangers

[Editor's note: After the Washington Capitals extended Troy Brouwer's contract for another three years on Wednesday, Nathan Burchfiel, fearless leader of Knuble Knight's, had his own announcement to make. The floor is all yours, Nathan.]

When the 2011-2012 NHL season ended, the questions about the future were only just beginning. The zeitgeist was buzzing about whether there would even be a 2012-2013 season, but moreso about what would become of Knuble’s Knights, that magnificent armor-clad duo who won the hearts of many a Caps fan with their often strange and occasionally ill-advised antics in support of their one true liege. Could the Knights continue on with their fearless leader in limbo? Would they carry their swords into battle for another worthy team member? Would they fade into the masses of normal Caps fans? Would they finally get upgraded to full season tickets? (YES!)

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Not All Fighters Carry Hockey Sticks

Editor’s note: RMNB reader Tharen Koelsch shares this story about a very special Caps fan.

Less than two pounds. That’s what the machine read when Skylar Elizabeth made her life debut. She was just a little bit longer than a ruler. Among the many wires, machines and blue lights, there was a little baby who had a lot of fight in her.

Baby Skylar

Skylar was born without the typical fanfare of a baby’s entrance to the world. There were no bottles of champagne waiting to be opened. No outfit ready to make her look cute for the first car ride home. The hospital bag wasn’t packed and waiting by the door. Instead, frantic nurses, anesthesiologists, and doctors tried to hide their own fears. Her father didn’t see her being born, and her own mother was not conscious. Within minutes, she was airlifted in a helicopter to Children’s National Medical Center, without any of her family.

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Goodbye, Mike Knuble, from Knuble’s Knights

Photo credit: Paul Bereswill

[Editor's note: We asked Nathan and Ryan of Knuble's Knights to bid a fond farewell to Mike Knuble as he departs the Washington Capitals. Here's what they gave us.]

Sir Michael of the House Knuble, First of Your Name, Man of 1000 Games, Crasher of Nets, Breacher of Creases, Abuser of Goalies and Grandpa of Slippers:

Thank you.

When the RMNB guys invited us to write a farewell post, they suggested that we provide some highlights of your time in D.C., defend your performance this year, or re-tell some stories about the Knights’ antics. To be honest, the stories have already been told, and there are people much more qualified who will write the reviews and summaries and analyses. As fans, all we’re really qualified to do is say Thank You.

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Ed. Note: Justin Goldman is the founder of The Goalie Guild, an independent goalie scouting service and overall resource for all things professional goaltending. He’s written for NHL.com, been interviewed by Stephen Whyno, and knows more about goaltending than everyone in this blog put together. Check out his story below and make sure to check out his site. Padtracker is the best.

Caps Fans:

I’m writing this note during Game 6, because regardless of whether he wins or loses, my message remains the same.

You have a very special young goaltender in Braden Holtby.

For his age, he is very polished, composed, and adaptable. In fact, when I break down his game at the elemental level, I come to find that he has many positives, and very few negatives.

Most of you are keen enough to see this with your own two eyes. It’s just the way he moves in the crease, the body language he displays. The statistical results act as the perfect “visual proof” most of us need to argue that he has a very bright future.

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