RMNB on CRL: Reliving Olie Kolzig’s Caps Commercial

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When I started submitting rough ideas for our segments on CRL this summer, there was one subject I was determined to address: those great Washington Capitals commercials from the late 90′s. The story goes like this: in 1999, a little after Ted Leonsis first bought the team from Abe Polin, he commissioned Doug Liman, the dude who made that awesome Tiger Woods trick shot commercial for Nike and the director of The Bourne Identity, to do commercials for the Caps.

They were amaaaazing. Andrei Nikolishin and Steve Konowalchuk face-offed for salad. Chris Simon checked an old lady at a grocery store to defend Peter Bondra’s honor. And then there was Olie Kolzig.

Kolzig, who was one of my childhood heroes growing up, goes out on a romantic dinner with an actress playing his wife. Then Kolzig pours the wine, and that’s when the magic happens.

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Photo credit: Matt Slocum

When Peter Laviolette was panic-fired Monday morning for his team shooting 2.4% through three games at even strength, I laughed. Then I thought about the five-year contract they gave Vincent Lecavalier over the offseason, and I laughed some more. Then I thought about how they traded Vezina-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky one season and then bought out Ilya Bryzgalov the next, choosing to pay the Russian $23 million over the next 14 years not to play, tears started rolling down my face. Paul HoLOLmgren, you are teh best.

Once I got past that (it was difficult), I was quite happy for long-time Washington Capitals enforcer Craig Berube, who was named the Flyers’ new head coach (Not interim!).

Berube becomes the third player from the Capitals’ 1997-98 Stanley Cup Final team to become a head coach in the NHL joining former Capital captains Dale Hunter and Adam Oates. With former Caps’ 98 Cup Final players Calle Johansson and Olie Kolzig serving as assistants in Washington (Kolzig is goaltending coach), I wondered how many other players from that very-talented, overachieving team are now coaching in hockey.

The number is staggering.

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Alumni Game (26 of 29)

Hold it here! Craig Laughlin poses after scoring a tying goal late in the third. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

On a crisp Thursday night in Arlington, Virginia, a bunch of former Washington Capitals got together for the team’s first annual intersquad alumni game. Featuring players flying in from as far away as Sweden (Bengt Gustavsson) and Montana (Brendan Witt), the old Caps engaged in a spirited contest. In the end, team red prevailed 6-4 in the shootout.

The Caps have ramped the visibility in recent years, starting with the 2011 Winter Classic alumni game against the Penguins. Now, though, the quality of the players participating is much improved, featuring a Hall of Fame member and a few All Stars. Granted, most of the elite players are part of the team’s current coaching staff (Adam Oates, Olie Kolzig, and Calle Johansson), but Peter Bondra, Rod Langway, Yvon Labre, and even Kevin Kaminski also participated.

Below, take a look at my photos from the night.

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Monumental Network provided a live telecast of the Caps Alumni game Thursday to the delights of thousands. During the game’s third period, Washington Capitals radio man John Walton and Comcast SportsNet sideline reporter Al Koken noticed some Caps players watching the game along the boards. After one particularly brutal shift by Olie Kolzig (on defense!), Monumental’s cameras panned to goalie Braden Holtby, flanked by teammates Tom Wilson, Steve Oleksy, and Andre Burakovsky (seen above checking out his guns). Holtby couldn’t stop laughing.

Let’s hope Braden comes back to play in alumni games after he retires. I can’t wait to see how funny he thinks it is then when he can’t fully crouch and a 70-year-old Kolzig is scoring goals on him.

Olie Kolzig (1 of 9)

Washington Capitals alum and new head goaltending coach Olie Kolzig is the franchise’s greatest goalie. From leading the team to its only Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998 to winning the Vezina in 2000, every great Kolzig memory involves him in goalie gear manning the crease (or charging out of it to fight someone).

So it was jarring on Thursday to see Kolzig out of his pads and playing defense, not goal, at the Caps Alumni Game. Kolzig’s nagging hip problem kept him out of net.

But Kolzig did fans a solid, just to help them remember the good times, by wearing his Godzilla-themed mask during his first shift. If you take a look at Chris Gordon‘s photos below, you can see him talking trash from the bench.

Yup, he’s still got it.

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Capitals Promote Olie Kolzig to Head Goaltender Coach

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Early Wednesday, the Washington Capitals announced they have promoted Olie Kolzig and named him the team’s new goaltending coach. Kolzig replaces long-time goalie boss Dave Prior, who spent 14 seasons at the helm and once mentored Kolzig as a player. For the previous two seasons, the former Vezina winner served as associate goaltending coach, mentoring the team’s minor league goalies in Reading and Hershey.

“He played the game for a long time and played at a high level and was arguably the best goaltender this franchise has ever had,” Caps general manager George McPhee said to Mike Vogel. “That experience – coupled with his training and development the last couple of years in teaching – we think suits him well to take over the NHL club now.”

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Michal Neuvirth’s New “Eagles of Washington” Mask

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Photo credit: DaveArt.com

Though recently we’ve seen him in a baseball cap more often than not, Michal Neuvirth‘s got a new mask. As with all Neuvy’s lids, the latest one was done by masterful Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson, who posted pictures on his Facebook page. This is sad news for us at RMNB as Neuvy’s current Olie Kolzig Memorial Mask is a favorite of ours. The old mask lionizes former Capitals great Olie Kolzig on one side along and Czech netminder Jiří Holeček on the other. Neuvy has yet to wear his new mask, so the old one is still around for now.

The new mask features a large image of Washington’s Weagle logo on the front, but with the head chopped off and replaced with a more realistic rendering. The right side, as always, sports an image of Strekov Castle from Neuvirth’s hometown in the Czech Republic.

“Just as usual the design is pumped with details and hidden messages,” Gunnarsson, who designs masks for many NHL goaltenders, including Braden Holtby, wrote on Facebook. “It is so exciting to create a design in old school style mixed with top modern fx.”

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Olie Kolzig bobblehead

Photo credit: Inova Blood Donor Services Facebook page

On March 23rd, Inova Blood Donor Services is holding another blood drive at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. If you’ve never considered donating blood before, this might be the perfect time to do it. Why? Because the giveaway is awesome. Anyone who donates blood will receive an Olie Kolzig bobblehead. And I’m talking a realistic Kolzig bobblehead, not this weird, green-faced alien one I got 15 years ago which scares little children.

So let’s recap. Sign up today, save a life, and get some awesome Caps memorabilia for free in the process. Good deal.

Olie Kolzig

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth recently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.

On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.

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Michal Neuvirth holds up his new mask that has Olie Kolzig painted on the side

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Over the summer, Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson released photos of the new goalie mask he painted for Michal Neuvirth. It was a thing of beauty and something all Capitals fans could appreciate.

One side of the mask features images of Neuvirth’s hometown along with a portrait image of Czech goaltending great Jiří Holeček. On the other side there’s an action shot of Olie Kolzig, the franchise’s leader in wins, juxtaposed with the old Capitals dome logo and stars.

The gesture was not lost on Kolzig, now an associate goaltending coach for the Capitals and technically one of Neuvirth’s coaches.

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