Photos by Chris Gordon
Early Monday, the Washington Capitals announced that they had promoted Ross Mahoney, who has been the Caps’ director of amateur scouting for the past 16 seasons, to the vacant assistant general manager position.
At 1pm, Caps GM Brian MacLellan held a conference call with reporters to talk about Mahoney’s promotion, but the discussion quickly turned to everything else.
Photo: Chris Gordon
Nashville beat reporter Joshua Cooper shared some pressing news on Twitter just now. Per a “source close to the situation” (how DC is that phrase?), new head coach Barry Trotz intends to bring goaltending coach Mitch Korn to DC along with him. That would mean Olie Kolzig is out.
Gone. (Photo: Chris Gordon)
Adam Oates is a smart man. After going undrafted out of college, he turned into a Hall of Fame player. It wasn’t his skill that made him an NHL success, but his elite ability to notice things other people didn’t. Oates had a coaching mind in a player’s body.
“If Adam notices something in a game, he adjusts right away,” Ron Wilson, then the Caps coach, told SI in 2001. “Even if it’s only how somebody is holding his stick. He takes the information, processes it, and puts it to use. The thing about Adam is that he assimilates a lot of stuff at once. Most guys might see one or two things, and the rest is a blur.”
However, years later, when Oates became head coach of the Capitals, that obsession with improving individual players would undermine the team as a whole.
As a kid (and definitely definitely not as an adult), I was a collector of hockey cards. I took pride in my Capitals collection. Like, I have every Pat Peake card ever made, and I don’t even care what you think.
The other night I was cleaning up my office downstairs and I noticed the above card of still Capitals coach Adam Oates, which I had completely forgotten. Please note that’s not Oatesy swinging a hockey stick – that’s a golf club. And he’s also wearing those high-waisted jeans again.
This card was produced by Be A Player (now owned by In the Game), which was a wildly popular brand of trading cards back in the day because it included so many autographs in their sets. I thought Be A Player would become one of the titans in the industry, but I can tell you when things started to go very, very wrong: in 2002-03 when they produced these hideous golf card inserts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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