[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
1. Capitalizing on the Promotional Market
What can be said for the Capitals 1993-94 team calendar that hasn’t already been said about a JCPenney’s catalog from the 1990s?
As a child growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore with this calendar in my room, I didn’t notice the cringe-worthy dad photos that were above the fold; I only paid attention to when the expansion teams were coming to the Capital Centre, and if my dad could secure some tickets to them.
Nevertheless, whether it’s Rick Tabaracci in the Canadian Tuxedo look …
Or Todd “Greed is Good” Krygier …
Or Al Iafrate and Sylvain Cote showing a lot of leg.
It’s hard to pinpoint which look is the most regrettable.
But the Caps took a big step.
Rather than just go with the usual in-game action shot (or more recently snuggling up to dogs), the Caps took a hard-left when it came to the calendar and put the players in forced comfortable setting, like when you’re at a family reunion trying to care about the story of your third cousin’s Lasik surgery.
While I don’t doubt the Caps went out and about to places in Baltimore and DC to spend their off-days, I do know for a fact Randy Burridge does hang out on above the right field scoreboard at Camden Yards as that was his assigned section for selling peanuts on game nights.
However, further on down the line, the Caps’ promotional department realized that if they want to get out to the general public in the DC area — first, don’t show that much of Baltimore, but second, make sure that you get things on TV to get people talking rather than the hand-out calendars you could only snag at a game.
That’s what they did with their “Always Intense” promotion. The commercials tried to capture the intensity that the Caps players have not only on the ice, but off the ice, as well. It was also a good way to sell tickets to the new arena the Caps moved into when the area around was sketchy at best.
The insanity of some of them created quite a buzz, ones that are often talked about today. While Chris Simon checking an old lady in a grocery store because she bumped into Peter Bondra’s cart and Olaf Kolzig pouring wine over himself in a fancy restaurant are solid, the weirdest installment has to be Ron Wilson in a men’s room.
Let’s get past the creepy part of Wilson timing his players’ urination habits, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone get hyped over an intense line-change. There’s not a fancy stat (yet … I don’t think) about coaching line changes over 20 times four; but Wilson could be considered a trailblazer if that does become a focal point for a new stat.
That said, I would hate to be the one to tell Dale Hunter or Chris Simon to hold his pee and risk damaging his kidneys because Michal Pivonka is a better match-up against the short urinal.
2. International Championship Tours
We all know the Caps haven’t won a Stanley Cup; many of us painfully aware that the preseason predictions and pre-playoff predictions of the Caps’ lifting Lord Stanley’s mug does not a championship make.
But what if I told you that the Caps have won a championship in the post-season? What if I told you they have won two tournament style championships? Now, what if I told you they have won them overseas with little acclaim from the domestic media?
That’s the luck the Capitals have had with this, but maybe they should go ahead and embrace these titles more.
The first title came in 1976 when, in the infinite wisdom of the NHL, a series of four games for the two newest teams in the Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts was created so that the teams could get a taste of post-season play. The catch, however, was that they had to fly over to Japan in order to play these games.
Why the NHL would take the two statistically worst teams in the league to be the ambassadors for the league in Japan may never been known, but due to those games– the Capitals won their first championship in only their second season.
The Caps took three of four from the Scouts to capture the illustrious Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Cup, though no banner hangs in the rafters of the Verizon Center and not much recollection about the series is out there aside from the wonderful piece Becca H of Japers’ Rink put together and the newspaper clippings that The NHL in Kansas City scanned from the local newspapers.
These games were also the last of the Kansas City Scouts before they moved to Colorado to become the Rockies.
Not content taking over the Far East, the Caps had their sights set on Scandinavia next in order to show their hockey brilliance.
Along with the Minnesota North Stars, the Caps went to Sweden to take part in the Dagens Nyheter Cup against two Swedish teams: Djurgarden and AIK Stockholm. The Caps went a perfect 3-0-0 to take home the $28,000 cash prize put up by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter with the final game being broadcasted on Hockey Night in Sweden.
The Caps went back with the Rangers in 1981, but only went 2-3-0 against Djurgarden, AIK Stockholm, and the new Finnish counterparts for these games HIFK Helsinki and Oulun Karpat.
3. The Team That’s Always in (Lip) Sync
You know that buddy you have who always wants to go to karaoke night, not for the goof but because he thinks he has the best set of pipes and the most passion for every song he sings.
In the hockey world, that could be the Washington Capitals.
They have done not one, not two, but three music videos which has their roster lip-synching a terrible (or stylish at the time) song done by John Stamos….’s brother Richard.
It all started with “Double Trouble” in 1988-89 with the Caps clad in jeans and a white polo, grooving around to this diddy in a setting that could be described as a multi-purpose room in a VFW hall.
A year later, the Caps stepped their game up a little bit.
Before their shift at Applebee’s the Caps decided to get the instruments out between prepping the Jack Daniel’s chicken and got another little diddy about their “Capital Feeling” for the upcoming season.
The biggest compliment to continuity is the double pianos being put into the shot. Also, a little changing of the guard with Dino Ciccarelli being at the forefront over Rod Langway.
Not nine months later, the Capitals dressed for a black-tie affair.
Nick Kypreos and Calle Johansson with string and brass instruments, Dino Ciccarelli and a young Peter Bondra awkwardly clapping along, Kelly Miller and Mike Liut putting their heart and soul in the lip-synching, all while Rod Langway conducted the “orchestra.”
How none of these guys have made a mint out of participating in SpikeTV’s “Lip Sync Battle,” I still have no idea.
4. Mocking ‘The Moose’
While his tenure was only 47 games long spanning four seasons, Craig Billington left an indelible mark on the Capitals faithful on December 22, 2001.
During a mid-season battle against the hated Pittsburgh Penguins, things got heated at the end of overtime with Olaf Kolzig getting involved during a Brendan Witt and Billy Tibbetts scrap.
Johan “The Moose” Hedberg skated towards center ice like he was going to join in, but stood at the red line and jawed at the Caps bench. Having heard enough of his Swedish accent, Billington leaned over the boards, jawing back at Hedberg while making moose ears with his blocker and catching glove as he motioned for Hedberg to go ahead and join the fray.
You can be sure that this wasn’t an impromptu moment.
It’s like when you’re buddies are mocking a bouncer at a club. He walks by trying to look intimidating, but you talk trash because you know deep down you could take him. Then four drinks in, the terrible impression comes out, and as your other comrades are yucking it up, you and the bouncer tussle. Your friends get in between you two and calm him down so he doesn’t throw you out of the bar, like he was Uncle Phil and you were DJ Jazzy Jeff.
This was a plan that had to be something cooked up on the bench, talked about during the line changes, and then Billington unloaded when there was no time left in the extra frame and he knew that he was protected by his teammates.
Luckily, Comcast Sportsnet was able to capture the moment and leaving us with a great portrait of the current Colorado Avalanche assistant GM.
5. Management Getting Too Hands-on
There are two schools of thought to “hands-on” management: the school that if you have smart hockey people at the helm, they can do with it what they will in order to get the ultimate goal. The other school is that no matter who the management is, let the players and coach do their thing because they’re out there on the ice.
Then there’s the Caps’ school of thought where it’s not hands-on until you’re physically accosted by the management.
The first such instance is when emotions got the best of the Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks on September 26th, 1999 in an exhibition game at the neutral site of Columbus, Ohio. There were five fighting majors and 32 penalties for a total of 113 minutes in penalties.
Things got a little more heated after the final horn, as then-Caps’ GM George McPhee went to ice level and then to the Blackhawks dressing room, confronting, and then – according to those who saw it – punching Hawks coach Lorne Molleken in the eye. Here’s Molleken the following day:
A melee occurred with some Hawks players, and McPhee left the scrum with one less sleeve on his suit jacket and a cut on his face.
When asked about the incident that night, Caps’ coach Ron Wilson said, “I’m upset George didn’t tell us he was doing that because I think he would’ve seen the whole staff march down there.”
McPhee was suspended for one month due to the incident.
Not to be outdone, five years later owner Ted Leonsis was in the news for attacking a fan after a game in 2004.
Needless to say, the 2003-04 season was a lean one for the Caps, as they finished next to last in the NHL (behind the Penguins and Blackhawks) with the likes of Matt Yeats, Josef Boumedienne, and Rick Berry on the season-ending roster.
During January, it got to be too much for fan Jason Hammer, who made a sign mocking Leonsis and the entities that he owned. The sign read “Caps Hockey; AOL Stock– See a Pattern?” which is at a time when Leonsis had a big role in AOL’s heyday, meaning he’s the one to blame for all those trial disks coming your way.
According to reports, Hammer waived the sign in Leonsis’ face, to which Leonsis couldn’t take it anymore and put his hands on Hammer’s neck like he was Rasheed Wallace and Hammer was PJ Carlesimo, then threw him down to the ground … or just pushed him aside … or a shoving match occurred– the stories are murky at best.
All ended up fine as Leonsis reached out to Hammer (from a safe distance through email) and invited him to the owner’s suite to take on a game. Leonsis made good on his offer and Hammer attended a game with him. Here they are celebrating together. Hammer is the second from the left with a buffer between him and his (alleged) attacker.
The NHL suspended Leonsis for one week, meaning he could have no contact with his team, and fined him $100,000 for the incident.
If nothing else, the lasting impression left from that incident is that Leonsis could grasp at the task at hand, but in the end – much like his Caps – couldn’t finish the job.
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About the author: Scotty Wazz is a podcaster for Face Off Hockey Show and the FOHS Farm Report while blogging at TheSinBin.net. He still curses Esa Tikkanen for his Game 2 missed open net in the ‘98 Final. Follow him on Twitter: @scottywazz.