Before most Caps home games, fans at Verizon Center are treated to a stirring, up-tempo rendition of the national anthem by Sergeant Major Bob McDonald. McDonald’s bass-baritone is popular; he has performed at the Super Bowl, the Winter Classic, Major League Baseball games, and, of course, RMNB Party 7: PARTYZORD. As an active-duty member of the Army, McDonald has entertained presidents, visiting heads of state, and supreme court justices.

This week, McDonald will perform twice at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, sharing highlights from his illustrious career and singing Broadway tunes and songs he’s sung for US presidents. Wednesday night’s performance is sold out, but Friday’s show still has tickets remaining. You can purchase tickets here.

On Sunday night, while I grilled a pizza and Bob grilled a steak, we discussed his upcoming concerts and what it’s like to perform at some of the biggest sports events in the world.

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Lars Eller finally put on a Washington Capitals jersey and met with DC press for the first time Tuesday morning — eleven days after Caps GM Brian MacLellan dealt two second-round picks to acquire him. The Caps plan to use the former Canadiens forward exclusively as the team’s third-line center, replacing Jay Beagle and Marcus Johansson who both played the position at different points last season. Eller was excited about his new opportunity.

“Honestly, it’s been nothing but positive since we got here,” Eller said, after putting his new number 20 jersey on. “I’m sure it’s going to be a great fit for me and my family.”

Eller revealed that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was the first player to reach out via text, despite being on vacation in Europe. “I don’t think there were any smiley faces,” Eller said with a laugh, when asked if Ovi included any of his trademark smilies.

The 27-year-old Dane is under contract for the next two seasons and plans to move his wife and young daughter to Washington before the season starts. Eller’s three-year-old daughter Sophia had a special request. “She asked for a pink room so I’m going to try and get her that at least.”

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

On Monday afternoon, checking-line forward Michael Latta was not tendered a qualifying offer, ending his tenure in Washington. Lats will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

“We struggled with that one,” Barry Trotz said to Elliot in the Morning the next day. “He’s been a really good soldier for us. We felt with where the game is going, in terms of our team, with four centermen, Lats is best playing in the middle and right now we don’t really have a place for him. And plus we have a couple centerman, Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson, who have really stepped up from the minors. Their skill sets are a little different. They’re more about speed and skill. And Lats is more about the physicality and the grind.”

“We wanted to give him an opportunity somewhere else,” Trotz continued. “Lats has been exceptional as a teammate. A lot of his teammates are sorry to see him leave. But I’m hoping the best for Lats. He’s a terrific guy. He’s a guy’s guy and a great teammate.”

On Tuesday night, I spoke to Latta and he opened up about the team’s decision to not bring him back. He also discussed his time in Washington – a time he will remember fondly – and also spoke seriously about his close friendship with Tom Wilson.

He also had some very sweet words for Caps fans.

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On Tuesday night, a day after news broke that Michael Latta would not receive a qualifying offer from the Washington Capitals, I had a lengthy interview with the forward, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Latta told me that he was caught off guard by the team’s decision to non-tender him, but had nothing but good things to say about his teammates and his time in Washington.

“I was getting texts from everyone,” Latta said when the news dropped. “I wasn’t replying right away to [Tom], so he double, triple, quadruple texted me.”

“I think that’s one of the best things about hockey, the relationships you build,” Latta continued. “Tom and I obviously have become very close and will probably be one of my best friends forever. I’ll take a lot of good things from Washington, like the friendships I’ve built.”

Latta, who according to Hockey Fights has dropped the gloves 106 times in his professional career, will now look for a new team. He’s hoping to find a spot where he can bring energy every night and penalty kill. Depending on where he ends up, Latta could find himself playing against his former Caps teammates next year. It may get very awkward for fans.

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For 17 years, George McPhee served as the Washington Capitals’ General Manager and Vice President of Hockey Operations. He presided over many drafts and selected superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby.

But on Saturday, McPhee — now serving a different role as a special advisor to Garth Snow — left the New York Islanders table on the floor of First Niagara Center and found a seat in the crowd. He had a different role to perform once the fourth round of the draft began: being a dad.

“After all the years in the business, it’s torture sitting there,” McPhee said to Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt about the experience.

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Photo: @CapitalsPR

Standing in front of reporters three hours after the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft began, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan was happy that he finally got his man. He was not referring to the draft pick the Caps made an hour earlier.

With a sly “yes” and a smile, MacLellan confirmed that Lars Eller, whom the Capitals traded for earlier in the night, would be the team’s third-line center heading into next season. According to the 2016 GM of the Year finalist, the deal was in the works for a long time and that he inquired about the center’s availability frequently.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

Washington Capitals goaltender and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby rocked a stunning John Varvatos number to the 2016 NHL Awards on Wednesday, noting that he enjoyed the “rock and roll” motif of his new suit. Caps video coach Brett Leonhardt appeared wearing socks with Barry Trotz‘s face on them to go along with a fancy tuxedo. When Trotz, who won the Jack Adams, appeared on the red carpet, he was also wearing new attire, ditching his usual black for a fresh blue suit with narrow pinstripes.

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Photo: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey

Back in the 2009-2010, the Washington Capitals dominated the NHL’s regular season, capturing the franchise’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular season team. While the Caps lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round that year, their top minor league affiliate, the Hershey Bears, had different fortunes in the playoffs, winning their their second consecutive American Hockey League championship. It was the storied team’s 11th Calder Cup.

Six years later, Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Jay Beagle — all stars from that championship Bears team — guided Washington to another Presidents’ Trophy this season. But once again, the Caps made an early playoff exit. The Bears, however, are still playing hockey in June, competing in their first Calder Cup Finals since their championship in 2010. But after Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Lake Erie Monsters, Hershey faces a 0-2 series hole, though both games in the series have been relatively tight affairs.

“It’s not over by any means,” said Aaron Ness, who had two points in eight games with the Caps this season. “We’re excited for the challenge, we’re excited for the next game, and we’re ready to go.”

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Capitals’ forwards Eric Fehr and Joel Ward watched helplessly as the Rangers’ Derek Stepan sent a puck flying past Braden Holtby in Game Seven of the second round last year. Both wanted to win a Stanley Cup with Washington. But as the Capitals blew a three-games-to-one series lead, Stepan’s overtime tally became their final play with the team.

If the offseason, the Capitals acquired Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, letting Ward and Fehr walk. Ward, going to the Sharks, and Fehr, going to the Penguins, signed three-year deals worth $9,825,000 and $6,000,000 respectively. Now, they will face each other in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins Monday night in Pittsburgh.

“Fehrsie and I were good buddies when we played together,” Ward said Sunday. “It just kind of happened and we parted ways. I went left and he went right. And here we are.”

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It’s been a couple weeks since Nick Bonino of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored in overtime to eliminate the Washington Capitals from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The second round series was an epic battle between the hottest team in the league, the Penguins, and the team with the best record in the NHL, the Capitals.

Over the six-game series, the Penguins netted just one more goal than the Caps, outscoring them 16-15. Three of the games went to overtime. If a few more bounces went the Capitals’ way, they could be getting ready to host Game One of the Stanley Cup Final right now.

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