By Rodger M. Wood
2010 was another first for me – I shot photos at the Tampa Bay Lightning/Washington Caps game last Sunday January 31st for the first time since the 1995 season…
The Caps made my day beating the Lightning 3-1 for their 10th consecutive win. The Caps’ streak did not end with Sunday’s win, as they followed it up with an 11th straight win in Boston, 12th against New York in a wide open 6-5 shoot out at the new Madison Square Garden, 13th at home against Atlanta 5-4, and 14th against Sidney Crosby and the defending 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4.
My love affair with the Capitals goes back to their inaugural 1974-75 season. With my sons Mark and Tommy, I saw their first ever win against the Chicago Black Hawks on October 16, 1974 and first ever tie game against the Los Angeles Kings two weeks later.
I was on the roll that season. Whenever I went to a game, they’d win or tie, which was pretty remarkable considering they won only 8 games and tied 5, while losing a record 67 games that season.
Growing up in Detroit, seeing Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Sid Abel, and great Red Wings teams of the 1950”s, it was difficult for me to be a Caps fan those early seasons. I used to get sick of seeing their lopsided losses in person or listening about them on Ron Weber’s radio broadcasts. But if the score got too bad, I would turn them off to listen to WBZ and Johnny Most talk about Bobby Orr and the Bruins winning ways.
The Caps didn’t start percolating until 1980 – 81, when Denis Maruk scored 50 goals, Ryan Walter captained the team, and defenseman Rick Green played the blue line well enough to make the games more competitive.
During the “1982 Save the Caps” campaign, I bought two season tickets, and shared two others to do my share in keeping the team here at the old Landover Capital Center.
In 1984, my daughter Aimee and I drove to Philadelphia to see the Caps win their first playoff series ever against the Philadelphia Flyers at the old Spectrum. I almost lost my life there when I jumped up to clap my handes boisterously, conspicuously and joyously to applaud Caps Darren Veitch’s dramatic goal in the second period of the third game clincher.
I saw the Easter Epic Playoff Game in 1987, which ended at 1:56 AM when Islanders Pat LaFontaine beat the Caps with a clutch goal in triple overtime.
I saw the Bruins sweep the Caps in four games in the 1990 Wales Conference Finals and the Detroit Red Wings sweep them in a 4 game sweep in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals…
I shared two season tickets the Caps first season but bought my own two each season afterwards until the 1990 -1991 season. Even after giving up my season tickets, I continued seeing the team at least three or four or more games a season every season to the present.
In the early days of Caps hockey, I often thought I would have to climb the glass to help our poor defensemen, Ivan Labre, defend himself from various NHL hockey goons.
HOF defenseman, and two time Norris Trophy winner, Rod Langway was my hero because I felt he saved hockey in Washington when he came over to the Caps in the big trade with Montreal before the 1982-1983 season and was responsible for making the Caps instant big winners for the first time in their 10-year history.
I was pained when Scott Stevens went to the St. Louis Blues after the 1990 season, but loved seeing him win the Stanley Cup with New Jersey a few seasons later. Scott was one of those always smiling, big young tough players you liked even though he often played for the wrong team later in his career.
Defenseman Kevin Hatcher was awesome in the 1990-1991 playoffs, almost single handedly carrying the Caps to the Conference Finals against the Bruins. I have never seen a more intense player than Dale Hunter, another one of my favorites, who reminded me of the old Montreal great, Rocket Richard, who I remembered flying down the ice with blazing charcoal eyes intent on scoring against Terry Sawchuck at old Detroit Olympia Stadium.
After beating Boston, Ottawa, and Buffalo in the 1998 playoffs, I thought there was a chance Peter Bondra, who scored 52 goals during the regular season, might lead our Caps past the Detroit Red Wings in the finals for the coveted Stanley Cup at last.
I have seen lots of Caps games, I’d guess well over 500 games. During the 1987-88 season, I saw all 40 home games and all the playoff games. There have been lots of big wins, big losses, and a couple 10-game streaks in the early 1980s, but nothing; I remember compares with the 14 – game winning streak the 2009-2010 Washington Capitals pulled off. Led by their captain, the awesome Alex Ovechkin, I think this year’s team won’t be stopped until they win our first ever Stanley Cup here in Washington, DC.
And when that happens, I hope some of the old fans from Landover will come back to enjoy the celebration for indeed, we have waited our entire lives for this glorious moment.
The “Capital Power Play” will be dedicated to that celebration of Caps hockey, and since the past is a prologue to future, we will also celebrate the feats of old Capitals players and the NHL greats they played against to get ready for this big moment. It will be a joyful time for this decade of NHL hockey will be indeed our time for “The Capital Power Play.”
Capitalpowerplay.com images by capitalpowerplay.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.