craig-berube-named-flyers-coach

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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Peter Bondra holds up the 2002 World Championships’ trophy.

By beating the Czech Republic 3-1 in the second semifinal of the World Champs, Slovakia earned the right to play Russia, who defeated Finland earlier Saturday, for the gold medal. The Slovakians have won the Worlds once, in 2002, when they upset Russia in the final. Capitals legend Peter Bondra scored twice in that game, including the game winner with less than two minutes left in the third period of play.

Video is below the jump.

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Former teammates congratulate Hunter as his number is retired. (Photo credit: Linda Spillers)

Back at Piney Orchard, only a handful of fans would come out to watch the Capitals practice– usually just the locals.

One day– a million years ago, my brother and I were sitting in the stands watching Mike Eagles and Steve Konowalchuk take an optional skate before leaving the ice. A few moments later, we heard someone cursing nearby. “F%$#ing thing!” the voice boomed.

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kolzig

Rumors, and for us Caps fans – despair, fill up most of the downtime until we wait for the puck to drop again in October. Some of us speculate on which UFA will be (re)signed, some of us debate hotness of hockey players with or without teeth and some of us debate who’s sweater should hang in the rafters of The Phone Booth.

Olaf Kölzig spent 16 years as a Washington Capital — including six appearances as their goalie in the playoffs. He owns many of the franchise’s meaningful goalie records (GP, W, SO, Pts, SVs and SV%). Should the Caps honor the now-retired Kölzig by hoisting his jersey to the Verizon Center rafters?

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Russian Machine’s First Post

If you’re here at this blog right now, you’re here for a reason. It’s either because I managed to goad you into somehow clicking on one of my links or because you genuinely have a large passion for hockey and can’t get enough of it. If you’re one of the latter, then I totally get you.

Why do I get you? Well, because I’m a hockey addict too. My parents get it (when I used to live at home, I’d yell at them if they didn’t have the Caps game on during dinner), my girlfriend puts up with it (no dates on game days) and my roommate worries about me (he frequently asks “did they score or is there a dead body in your room?”)

So how did I get to this point? Let’s go back in the Way Back Machine. Like every other kid who loved sports, I watched SportsCenter every morning religiously before getting on the bus for school. And generally, I’d be excited about the NBA highlights, the NFL highlights and kinda get bored by the hockey highlights which were – let me add – always shown at the end of the show. I seriously remember having an inner thought as an 8 year of “Who is Pierre Turgeon and why does his name sound so funny?” I didn’t really get what a hat trick was, I didn’t understand the fighting, and it just seemed like a boring sport to watch. And don’t even get me started on the weird standings point system. The Patrick Division? Two-Line Passes? What the hell? Admittedly it was a hard sport to learn as a youngster.

This all changed when one night I came downstairs to find my older brother Brandon watching a Capitals game in October 1995. At the time, I was a scrawny 11 year old who looked up to my brother – 3 years my senior – for everything. I remember sitting there beside him having trouble finding the puck along the boards while guys would forecheck. It kinda made my brain hurt. But I kept watching because my brother was. At some point, I don’t remember when, I saw this Big #24 guy (who ended up being Capitals legend Mark Tinordi) crunch another player hard (and I mean hard) into the boards behind the goal. “WOAHHHH!!!! THAT’S AWESOME!” I screamed. “Isn’t that a penalty?!” I asked my brother. “Nope, that’s legal in this sport.” Instantly I was intrigued.

After all these years that’s all I remember of the first NHL game I watched, a huge Mark Tinordi check. But after that night, I started watching more and more. So much more that my parents took notice. On Christmas Day 1995, after my brother and I opened all our gifts by the tree, we got to our stockings. What’s inside you ask? Capitals tickets with my dad and brother to go see them play the Rangers on January 6th!! What was my reaction? Kinda like this.

Sadly I don’t remember much of that Capitals game beyond the fact that a few minutes before the second intermission, I left my dad and brother and went down to the lower bowl of the USAir Arena. This was after Steve Konowalchuk scored two awesome goals 44 seconds apart. As the players walked back towards the locker room I yelled “Kono, are you going to get a hat trick?” He came up to me, gave me a high five and said “You bet I am!”

Excitedly I ran back up to my seats and told my brother and dad. I couldn’t believe an athlete just talked to me!! My brother and dad were skeptical it even happened. They remained skeptical until Konowalchuk scored his third goal of the night in the third period and I jumped up and down screaming “I told you so!! I told you so!!”

The Caps ended up tying the Rangers that game 4-4, but that didn’t matter. The point was that after that small gesture by Steve Konowalchuk, it made me feel such a huge connection to the team.

Since then, I’ve tried to watch every Capitals game on TV during the season, go to as many practices as I can and go to as many games as I could afford. I’ve been to 11 straight Opening Night games at Verizon/MCI Center. I have 7 different Caps player jerseys. I have a booklet full of autographed cards which includes two leaflets full of Peter Bondra autographs.

And so now, naturally, it’s time to take the obsession to the next level: a hockey blog.

After my success with Matt Wieters Facts, I thought it was the right time to bring together an extremely talented and diverse group of writers including musician and information architect Peter Hassett, Carroll County Times Features Writer Brandon Oland, and Camden Crazies blogger and resident Russian Translator Daniel Moroz to bring you another entertaining look at the NHL’s most interesting and dominant team. Expect to laugh and be intrigued. That’s for sure.

Anyways, if you remember yourself crying and having a sleepless night over a horrible playoff loss or tearing up all your Detroit Red Wings trading cards and throwing them in the toilet because you’re so upset that they beat your favorite team in the Stanley Cup Finals, then this blog’s for you. And even if you haven’t done any of that, this blog’s for you anyways. I hope you enjoy our content in the months to come. Please follow us on Twitter, and if you’ve got the time, tell us how you fell in love with hockey below in the comments!