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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On Bruce Boudreau’s Future

Photo credit: Marianne Helm

Bruce Boudreau became head coach of the Washington Capitals around Thanksgiving 2007. He turned around a losing season, made the playoffs, and sported a winning record ever since. From then on, the Capitals have consistently won the Southeast Division– if not the Eastern Conference or Presidents’ Trophy.

But the Capitals have not lasted long in the playoffs, and their last two seasons have been plagued by dramatic losing streaks. After last night’s rout at the petioles of the Maple Leafs, General Manager George McPhee declined to comment when asked for a vote of confidence for his head coach. And now, on Sunday afternoon– when we’re all surely glued to the Redskins game– the Internet is atwitter with talk of Bruce Boudreau’s future.

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Welcome Home, Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr

Doesn’t this picture just make you sick? (Photo credit: Jonathan Newton)

A long, long time ago, in a frightening world before iPads and Windows Vista, there was this belief that the Capitals needed only one guy to get over the hump to become a stone-cold Stanley Cup contender. It was 2001-02. They already had fifty-goal scorer Peter Bondra, Vezina winner Olie Kolzig, and what many thought to be among the most solid defenses in the NHL.

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Winter is Coming in One Day

Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Toni L. Sandys of the Washington Post

Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.

Seeing a Steve Konowalchuk hat trick live with my dad and brother made me fall in love with hockey. Joe Juneau’s jamshot past Dominik Hasek made me wildly jump up and down as a teenager. But Alex Ovechkin’s first career playoff tally is my all-time favorite NHL goal.

Here’s why.

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals hosted their third annual Capitals Convention. A sold-out crowd of over 6,000 fans descended on the spacious confines of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to get autographs, pose for photos, and have questions answered by their favorite players.

Ted Leonsis, a mastermind behind the yearly event, was ecstatic for the turn-out. “That we’re able to sell out everything we touch really shows how wonderful the fan support is and my goal is to build a team as good as our fan base,” he said.

And really. What’s not to love? There were so many great moments. A few of our favorites: the Knuble’s Knights got knighted by GM George McPhee, Brooks Laich’s mom Jane participated in “The Support it Takes to Make it to the NHL” panel, and Braden Holtby and Jay Beagle played floor hockey with some kids. And oh yeah, this too.

“Hockey players are so approachable,” Bruce Boudreau said. “They could be walking amongst [the crowd] and they’ll sit down and talk to you. I think it means a lot to [the fans] that they are so human.”

Below are my pictures of from the day including Alex Ovechkin giving out some free hugs, Mike Green signing a baby, and a lot of smiling players — and when I mean a lot, I’m talking some sort of world record.

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Alex Ovechkin Signs Six-Year Deal with Bauer

Ovi sports his new gear. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Bauer)

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

The world’s most famous hockey player has got some new gear. After dropping CCM over the summer, Alex Ovechkin unveiled a new six-year sponsorship with rival manufacturer Bauer, whose equipment Ovi used for the first three years of his career. This is Ovechkin’s second new sponsorship of the week after news of his long-term deal with superpower Nike for “lifestyle” and “performance” products surfaced on Thursday night.

“I think that CCM treat me well,” Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “They help me a lot and without that project I can’t score 65 goals. But in that kind of moment and that kind of situation right now, I feel that Bauer is company who I’m looking forward to work with. I played with this stick a couple years ago and I like it.”

The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. With Ovi’s ditching CCM — and therefore their parent company Reebok — that left Bauer as the only company with the cash to pickup a superstar endorsement.

The move was also teased on Bauer’s Web site over the holiday weekend, with their home page sporting a picture of skates with the Great Eight’s trademark yellow laces and the banner “This year will be different.”

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Brooks Laich is Back; Ladies, You Can Exhale Now

Brooks Laich

It looks like six more years of high-fives and tire changes are on tap. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As all of you Brooks Laich fans kept hitting refresh instead of working Tuesday morning, the Capitals announced that the soon to be unrestricted free agent had re-signed with the team to the tune of six years and $27 million.

“There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else,” Laich said. “The main core of this team is very young and if you can keep that together, you’re looking at a chance to win a championship for potently the next 10 years, rather than just a window of two to three years. That was a great motivator to get me re-signed.”

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“Time heals all wounds.” – Olie Kolzig (Photo credit: Joe Lavelle)

Olie Kolzig is back! Three years after the fan favorite goalie lost his starting role to Cristobal Huet and left on bad terms the club with which he had spent his entire NHL career, Kolzig has rejoined the Capitals as associate goaltender coach. In his new role, Kolzig will assist Dave Prior, who regains the title of goaltender coach he gave up in 2009 to spend more time with his family. Arturs Irbe took over for Prior but decided not to return for the 2011-12 season, citing reasons similar to Prior’s when he left his coaching job.

“I’m ecstatic to finally come back basically to the place I call home — playing there for so long,” Kolzig told reporters on a conference call. “Being away for two years, I started to get the itch again to get involved again with hockey. … When Dave Prior called me a few weeks back and pitched the idea of coming back and being an associate goaltending coach and working with him, I thought there’s probably not a better person that I want to work with and an organization that I want to be back together with.”

And Kolzig wasn’t the only one who found it a perfect match.

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Fire Bruce Boudreau

Decisions, decisions (Screen-grab via @eahoff)

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Is that title too much?

The Capitals are likely to fall short in yet another run for the Stanley Cup. Almost forty years into the team’s history and in a city starved of championships, the stakes are as high as the desperation. The Capitals have started the last few seasons not with aspirations for the Cup– so much as expectations. And now that those expectations are (probably) going to be snuffed out, the fans are out for blood.

Bruce Boudreau’s blood.

The topic on the table is the continued employment of Bruce Boudreau as head coach of the Washington Capitals. Do you want to fire him? Well first, let’s be clear: who exactly are you talking about?

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Behold! Alexsandr's other "We Are The Champions" painting

Did you think this would be a slow news week? Maybe an injury update here or a scouting report there, but overall an uneventful period before the semifinals. Well, you were wrong. From the Internet’s very own disreputable flea market emerges what might become the cultural moment of the hockey season.

(Are we building this up too much?)

Artist Aleksandr Reut has crafted Washington Capitals – We are the Champions!, an exquisite 40″ x 32″ oil painting on canvas. This inspired (yet absurdly premature) work of celebratory art and its partner piece are available for bid or purchase on eBay right now. Starting bid is only $5,000, so crack open those piggy banks.

A 50-something Ukranian ex-pat living in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Reut fills the daytime hours as an architect, but the muses compel him to high art. A decade-old profile from Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record (reprinted here by brama.com) extols Reut’s passion for mixed media as a sculptor, but he tells me that it’s hockey that really inspires him.

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