The morning got off to an early start with the annual equipment sale. When I arrived around 7:40 there was a line at the check-in table stretching back the length of Kettler Capitals IcePlex [Ed note: Do you people ever sleep?!?!]. Making my way into the stands that served as a waiting area until the sale officially started at 8am, I was shocked to see a section of the bleachers already filled. At 8am the crowd was led to the upper level of the rink where a vast panoply of new and used hockey equipment awaited their perusal. The crowd quickly, but orderly, made their way into the sale area, making a beeline for the player sticks and used practice jerseys. Patrons could be seen with armfuls of gear and frantically pawing through piles of clothing – clearly the event was a success for the Capitals.
Heart-throb Brooks Laich made an appearance at Kettler today. (Photos by Addison Huber)
Group A Observations
Braden Holtby still looks a little shaky in net, letting in a few goals he probably should have saved. This could be a function of the fact that he recently had LASIK surgery done on his eyes and they aren’t quite back to normal yet. It is also important to remember that Holtby went from starting to backing up Michal Neuvirth and did not play very much over the last two months of his season.
Anton Gustafsson continues to remain an enigma. It is clear that the young Swede pick has a plethora of talent, certainly worthy of him being first-round draft selection. However, there were times during the week when his motivation appeared questionable. For example, during offensive zone entry drills today, there appeared to be moments when Gustafsson would stop skating and lackadaisically enter the zone.
Kuznetsov and the professor share a laugh as Leysan, the instructor, hides her face in her hands. (Photos by Addison Huber)
Yesterday, after the Caps’ second development camp scrimmage, players made their way rinkside for media availability. I noticed Evgeny Kuznetsov slinking towards a small group of kids and adults in the far corner of the practice rink. My developing reporter sense tingled and I followed Kuznetsov and listened in to his conversation with the group. The assembled crowd was a first-year Russian class from the University of Maryland, made up of mostly rising freshmen getting an early start on their language requirements.
Kuznetsov was incredibly patient with the class, patiently listening to their choppy questions in Russian (and even correcting them at times) and answering clearly and slowly, often repeating himself several times for their benefit. The group was later joined by Stanislav Galiev and the pair of baby Capitals talked about their favorite bands (Kuznetsov loves Russian rap), cities, and foods. It was clear the students appreciated the experience and it was cute to see the young Russians teaching Americans.
Team White celebrates their shootout victory as Russian Prospect Stanislav Galiev is the only player to score. (Photos by Addison Huber)
By 9am the stands at Kettler were about 1/3 filled as the Capitals’ prospects took the ice for their second scrimmage of 2010 Development Camp. In marked contrast to yesterday’s chippy, gritty scrimmage, today’s affair was much more fluid and wide open, resulting in over 30% more scoring. On the red team the lines stayed pretty much the same as the first scrimmage. On the white team, Stanislav Galiev was bumped down to the second line, serving with Wade MacLeod (Jr, Northeastern) and Garrett Mitchell (WHL, 2009 Draft, 6th Round, 175th overall). The chemistry of the Galiev-MacLeod-Mitchell line was palpable: the line exploded for the first three goals of the scrimmage – MacLeod was 2-1-3 and Galiev was 1-1-2. Galiev scored his goal camped out in front of the net on a nice deflection that beat goalie Taylor Nelson (So, Ferris State) Red quickly responded with a pair of goals from Jake Hauswirth (both on mostly empty nets) and one from Stefan Della Rovere. The red and white teams alternated goals for the remainder of the game, with Cody Eakin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring for the red team and Marcus Johansson and Felix LeFrancois both picking up their first goals for the white team. In the overtime shootout Galiev scored the only goal to win the game for white with a sick deke in front of the net.
Stanislav Galiev is certainly full of personality. (Photos by Addison Huber)
Day 3 was a busy day for the draftees and invitees at Capitals Development Camp. Both Group A and Group B were on the ice in the morning, and the whole squad took the ice in the afternoon for a scrimmage. The additional activity made for an extremely long day, one that not only left me exhausted, but also (and more importantly) left me feeling like a full-time member of the media. I also increased my attempts at multi-tasking: interspersing periods of photography with Tweets, especially during the afternoon scrimmage. Day 3 also provided a glimpse into the world of the best PR staff in the NHL when Nate and Kelly invited all the bloggers in attendance to a roundtable to discuss ideas and innovations.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov & Cody Eakin stood out in Group A today. (Photos by Addison Huber)
Group A Observations
Group A was the second group to take the ice on Day 2, and arrival onto the ice was delayed over fifteen minutes because the coaching staff was unhappy with the ice conditions after Group B skated earlier in the morning. Of the Group A players, Eakin, Kuznetsov, and Orlov were by far the most impressive and polished. Kuznetsov was the class of the group, displaying noteworthy hustle and speed as well as solid shooting ability from the point and deft, light hands in close around the net. Two college invitees also showed flashes of brilliance. Sean Wiles, a junior forward from the University of Alaska Anchorage, threw his body around, landing several big hits and crashing the net well. Additionally, Andrew Cherniwchan, a sophomore forward from Northern Michigan University, put on a puckhandling show, leading Comcast Sports Net’s play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati, an unexpected visitor to camp, to label him a “dangler.”
Walking into Kettler Capitals Iceplex this morning, a chill flickered across my skin as I admired the clean sheet of ice that stretched in front of me; not only because the rink was 30-plus degrees cooler than the humid July air outside, but also because of the fresh start that this development camp represented. After the crushing first-round defeat in the 2010 playoffs that sent the Caps home early, development camp is the first milestone on the path to the 2010-2011 season. It seemed many other people had the same idea. During both sessions, there was a good number of spectators in the stands – probably 75 or so – definitely a good turnout for a weekday.
The goosebumps on my arms were complimented by butterflies in my stomach – as a rookie journalist, today I would be passing through the heavy metal gate separating players and press from the general public on the back side of the practice rink. After meeting the Caps PR staff and receiving my press pass, my nervousness abated somewhat, until about a minute later, when I walked into the press room and found myself surrounded by Tarik El-Bashir, Mike Vogel, Brett Leonhardt, Corey Masisak, Dan Steinberg, and all the other big name journalists who cover the Capitals.
Complaining about officiating is an unmistakable sign of a poor sport. Only a terrible sportsman blames the referees, but let’s get real: the Caps are getting screwed on penalties against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’m not here to spread conspiracy theories or accuse officials of malpractice; I’ve just got some cold, hard facts that may blow your mind.
[Ed Note: This guest post was written by Addison Huber, who some of you know as ahwahoo2006 on Twitter, after being invited into the Owner's Box last Thursday for the Caps/Senators game. Thanks to Addison for the post and for the awesome Christmas Present. Also, we <3 you, Ted. Thank you for being the best owner in all of sports.]
For many sports fans, the mere mention of the name of the owner of their local team is enough to send them into heart palpitations and evoke a litany of curses that would put a sailor to shame. Within recent history we have seen owners trade away fan-favorite stars thought untouchable (Peter Pocklington) and take measures to ensure that their fans were unable to watch their teams on television without paying a hefty fee (Bill Wirtz). Even locally, in the Washington DC area, we are not immune to fan-unfriendly practices (see: television rights battles and sign confiscations). Luckily, Washington-area hockey fans are blessed with a different kind of owner: an owner who has gained recognition from fans and both traditional and non-traditional media alike as an owner to be admired and emulated.
When Ted Leonsis bought the Washington Capitals in 1999, there were already indications the he was not going to be a typical ivory-tower owner. In a Washington Post article, Mr. Leonsis noted that his strategy in running the Capitals would be to “let the hockey people run the hockey team,” and take a more hands-off approach to the personnel issues. It was evident, however, that Mr. Leonsis would shine in the areas of fan relations and marketing. As the same articled described, “[Capitals management] want fans to feel like “members” or “shareholders” in the Capitals, not merely ticket holders… They said they would like to meet every season ticket holder and establish a better line of communication between themselves and the fans.” (Washington Post, May 14, 1999, D1) From the start, Mr. Leonsis was not shy about reaching out to and engaging with fans. A few months into his tenure as a rookie owner, Mr. Leonsis “took a 40-minute break from his vacation last week to telephone a Washington Capitals season ticket holder and lobby her to renew her seats.” (Washington Post, July 13, 1999, D1)
That trend of accessibility to the Capitals chief executive has not only continued to the present, but has blossomed into an incredible demonstration of the power of social media and fan relations. Under Mr. Leonsis’ direction, the Capitals were among the first NHL clubs to utilize and legitimize bloggers as a news medium, granting them media credentials and crafting a Blogger Code of Conduct after blogger Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion contacted and met with Leonsis in 2005. In addition to his duties as owner of the Capitals, Mr. Leonsis serves on the board of directors of several companies, including RevolutionCard, Rosetta Stone, and SnagFilms. Nevertheless, he finds time to engage fans and season ticket holders via myriad communications avenues, such as AIM, email, his blog Ted’s Take, and Twitter. Mr. Leonsis also takes time to highlight extraordinary fans like Kiddo, the young Capitals fan struggling with numerous health issues.
Until recently, however, these concepts remained fairly abstract to me. While I was certainly aware of Ted’s reputation as a responsive owner, I had not been fortunate enough to experience it firsthand. That changed just before Christmas when I sent Ted an email regarding a recent post on Ted’s Take in which he expressed disappointment in the number of negative emails constantly clogging his inbox. I composed a reply in which I expressed my contentment with the team and thanks to Ted for everything he had done to bring about the hockey resurgence we are witnessing in Washington. True to his reputation, Ted responded within hours, asking for my phone number so he could call me. He called the next day and we chatted about the team and hockey. At the end of the conversation, Ted invited me to stop by the owner’s suite at Verizon Center during a game in early January. As I result, I found myself in well-appointed Suite 103 during the January 7 game against the Ottawa Senators. Ted was extremely gracious, posing for pictures with me and my friends, chatting us up, and providing snacks and desserts while we watched the Caps cruise to a 5-2 win over the Sens. The experience was truly memorable, and I really felt like a true stakeholder in the team, exactly what Ted intended with his fan-centric approach to management. Washington and the Capitals are lucky to have an owner like Mr. Leonsis, and his management bodes well for continued success in the years to come.
Below the fold are photos from Addison’s Night in the Owner’s Box with Ted Leonsis:
Look I might be an intellectual, but I’m not much of a reader. Hence why when I go over to Redskins Insider for my daily visit, I generally get bored after the 6th straight paragraph about how much Carlos Rogers sucks. I just can’t help it, you know? I guess it’s ADD.
But there are some things that I will force myself to sit down and read. And one of them is the new book written by both Tim Leone and Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau called “Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer.”
Over the summer, our friends at Japers Rink pretty much sold us on the book after the first teaser. But then JP shared with us 4 more (Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) , and we pretty much wanted to drive to the nearest Barnes and Noble and rip through all the bookshelves until we found it. But alas, the book wasn’t going to be released until the upcoming October, so I decided to play the waiting game and just get it then.
Oh, if I didn’t work in Columbia, I could just drop on by during lunch!! But taking a 3.5 hr lunch break wasn’t going to fly especially with having to have 6 websites done by the end of the year. Sigh.
Well, a few days ago, I posed a question to my Twitter Followers. I asked them “What’s the Best Thing About Caps Fans?” And here are some of the responses: