CongressionalHockeyChallenge (24 of 24)

Reps. John Katko, Pat Meehan, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer pose with Lawmakers teammate Peter Bondra after defeating the Lobbyists in the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge. (Photos by Chris Gordon)

When you hear that someone famous is a hockey fan, it has novelty, something not reserved for fans of baseball, basketball, and football. While we may be absorbed in the community, hockey is the smallest of all major professional sports in the United States. Many Americans have never watched it. Fewer have tried it. On Wednesday, however, it was featured at American’s center of power. In the afternoon, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went to the Hill to meet with members of Congressional Hockey Caucus and announce Thurgood Marshall scholarship recipients. In the evening, four of those congressmen played in the seventh annual Congressional Hockey Challenge. Representatives John Katko (R-NY), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), and Pat Meehan (R-PA) competed for the Lawmakers. They were joined on their team by former Capitals player Peter Bondra (RW-Slovakia) as well as administration officials, congressional staffers and Canadian Parliament member Gord Brown.

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Washington DC yesterday. While he was in town, he took in the Caps-Pens rivalry game from the owner’s box at Verizon Center. Bettman also held court with the local media.

When asked about the growth of hockey in the DC Area over the last decade, Bettman marveled at the job both Alex Ovechkin and Ted Leonsis have done. Seconded.

“It’s the Ovechkin era and there’s an era that’s a little bit longer than that one and I would call that the [Ted] Leonsis era,” Bettman said beaming. “I think Ted’s ownership of this franchise has been nothing short of phenomenal in terms of how the community has been engaged and in terms of how fans have connected with and interacted with this franchise; the stability of ownership and management has been very important.”

Then it got weird. Bettman credited (I think) definitely-not-Washington Capital Evgeni Malkin.

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NationalsParkWinterClassicAlumniGame (16 of 19)

Bondra scores late in the game. (Photos by Chris Gordon)

This year’s NHL Winter Classic has not had much buildup. Aside from the game, there isn’t much going on. The lack of an official alumni game — which had become a tradition at Winter Classics — angered and vexed many fans. Washington cancelled this year’s Caps Convention, saying they wanted to focus on Winter Classic events and has been hyping its former players all year long, with this season being the team’s fortieth anniversary. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, and Caps owner Ted Leonsis have all given competing answers as to why the event didn’t occur. Nevertheless, a group of former Caps, media members, and As Seen on TV people like NBC’s Washington Amelia Segal, took to the Nationals Park ice on Tuesday afternoon as part of an informal skate that came together in the past few weeks.

“I guess we all unfairly assumed that there would be one,” Alan May, who played in the game, said of an official alumni game, noting that Rod Langway and numerous former Blackhawks and Capitals expressed interest. “There’s nothing that can be done about it.”

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event last week in Southeast DC. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It’s been 40 years since the Capitals first took the ice in the 1974-75 season. The team has been celebrating the occasion incessantly, honoring the franchise’s best players with video tributes that air every night at Verizon Center and when CSN+ doesn’t have anyone in studio for the late game.

Despite the trumpeting of their former players, the Capitals will not be hosting an alumni game prior to the 2015 Winter Classic, which heretofore had been a tradition. According to the NHL, this was a decision made by the Caps. Speaking to Capitals season ticket holders last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly suggested one possible reason for the move: the League didn’t agree to a deal with Nationals Park until September.

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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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Photos: Amanda Bowen

On a bright, sunny Tuesday at Nats Park, the Washington Capitals held their grand Winter Classic jersey reveal in front of a bunch of media and select Caps season ticket holders. Not only did Caps Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Braden Holtby model the new sweaters on stage (oh man, I love those ties), a bunch of other news and details about the event were released too. We learned that we will actually be able to see the all-access Winter Classic show produced by EPIX, the Russian machine’s fashion sense is still one of a kind, and the history behind the new Caps classic logo is pretty darn cool.

But the most interesting part of the day was having some of the biggest NHL personalities on the same podium modeling all this cool new stuff. Amanda Bowen, who’s had quite a busy first week with RMNB, has your photos from the event.

(Please someone get me one of those toques.)

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This is a Garage League and Other Lockout Lessons

Ted Leonsis

I guess it’s appropriate to start by saying that we’re all unimaginably happy about the return of hockey. That said, we’ve learned a lot over the four-month lockout, and this seems like the appropriate time to take stock.

Lesson 1: Mario Lemieux was right

The NHL is a garage league. I’m not talking about riff-raff players spoiling up the staid finesse hockey of a bygone era; I’m talking about business competence. Since my adolescence, the NHL has lost part or all of three seasons. Fans who have been following hockey for a decade have seen 20% of that time obscured or obliterated by lockouts.

Imagine running a business where you do work 80% of the time. The rest of the time you’re struggling to master a skill most functionally social humans learn in kindergarten: sharing. Your business plan is flawed.

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During the third period of the AHL Showcase between the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals, Caps fans broke into several “Fire Bettman” chants. It’s especially clear at the 4 second mark above.

Full disclosure: that noise at the 2 second mark is my ferret sneezing.

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KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Deadly Plane Crash

September 7, 2011 will be remembered as one of the worst days in hockey history. An airplane carrying the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed just after takeoff from Tunoshna Airport, 11 miles southeast of Yaroslavl in central Russia. The team was on its way to Belarus, where they were set to begin their regular season against Dynamo Minsk.

The aircraft was an Yakovlev Yak-42, an outdated Soviet-era plane that was due to be phased out next year. In Russia the plane is known for its woeful air safety record, and just two months ago 44 people were killed when an Antonov-24 caught fire in midair before crashing in western Siberia. There have been eight fatal crashes in Russia just this year.

According to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported Yak-Service, the airliner operating the plane, was ranked last by the European Air Safety Commission. The New York Times reported that the company, founded in 1993, was suspended for three months in 2009 by Russian authorities because of “major safety deficiencies.” The BBC reports that the aircraft broke into two pieces after hitting a radio mast before crashing into Volga river. The Times notes that eight Yak-42s have crashed over the years, killing 570.

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Alex Semin: Bettman Has Never Been to Siberia!

Alex Semin

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

In his first game back since January 8th, Alex Semin led the Capitals with four shots on goal in 17:47 of ice time. After a 12 game layoff that stretched over 26 days, Sasha Minor looked rusty and missed on several golden opportunities. The Capitals fell to the Sharks 2-0, and endured their eighth shutout of the season.

After the game, SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov caught up with Semin and asked him how he felt in his return, his thoughts on Bruce Boudreau’s trap, and what it’d mean to him to open next season in Russia. RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation below the jump.

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