By Rodger M. Wood
My 8-year old son Tommy and I were anxious to see our first ever Washington Capitals game at the new state of the art Capital Centre on Wednesday, October 16, 1974.It was the Caps second home game in their inaugural 1974-75 season and the opponents were the dreaded Chicago Blackhawks, who had won the Stanley Cup as recently as two years before.I didn’t know at the time if I was wanted to see our star players, 40-year old Doug Mohns, goalie Ron Low, and Tommy Williams of 1960 USA Olympic Team fame, as much as I wanted to see famed Blackhawks, HOF center, Stan Mikita, forward Dennis Hull, and goalie Tony Esposito.
All that became unimportant once we entered the Capital Centre, looked around to see the big crowd, many of whom came right from work and were still in suits, skyboxes, which were a new phenomena, and our seats behind the visitors bench, where you could see all of the action up close. I was used to sitting in the nose bleed sections at old Detroit Olympia Stadium, and did not know what to do when I did not have to use my handkerchief once there at the Capital Centre.The fans were excited by Caps forward Denis Dupere’s two clutch goals, which put us in a 3-3 tie until the third period when Caps Jack Egers finished the Blackhawks off 4-3.
I recall poor Ivan Labre getting into a rumpus with massive Dale Talton, who I thought was going to put our guy in the hospital, but the rugged defenseman Labre always did show a lot of heart and that is why his jersey hangs from the rafters at the Verizon Centre today.I wonder if we would have had as much enthusiasm if we knew our guys were on their way to a dismal NHL record setting 8 – 67 – 5 season and 21-points overall. We would win only 7 more times after that game that season. But truly none of that mattered, as finally, we at last had hockey, whether it was good or bad, in our nation’s capital.