Sunday, October 03, 2010

2010 Caps Convention

I went to the Capitals Convention and later in the day, the Maryland-Duke Football game. Pictures of that, plus my behind the scenes look after a Maryland football game, can be found at Section 19.

Here is my recap of the Caps Convention:

I left the house at 7:30 AM, drove to Bethesda and parked. Then I took the Metro to the D.C. Convention Center where I arrived shortly after 9:00 AM and met up with my friend Paul, who is a Caps season ticket holder. He's the one who I was able to get a ticket to the convention from. This convention, the second time the Capitals have done this, was limited to 5,000 fans and it sold out pretty quickly.

The first event was on the main stage was Mike Gartner and Rod Langway. Two Hockey Hall of Famers discussing their careers. What it was like to get to the NHL, have a lengthy career and finally, get that call notifying them that they have reached the pinnacle of their sport by being elected into the Hall of Fame.

Both Garther and Langway played in the old World Hockey Association. Gartner told a story about how he came off the ice after practice to find no one in the locker room. He consulted a trainer, who told him everyone went to the bank to get their pay checks cashed. Yeah, back in the late '70's the league was on thin ice so to speak and some players had their checks bounce.

Gartner also mentioned when he finally decided to take hockey seriously as a sport, he enrolled in a skating only class where all he did was skate. No sticks, no shooting. He said that was the most important part of his being a professional player.

Another question Gartner was asked was what kind of player would he be if he broke into the NHL today. Obviously players are conditioned differently than back in the '70's and '80's and Gartner added he'd find a way to score 20 goals a season. For the record, Gartner holds the NHL record of 15 consecutive 30+ goal seasons and finished up with 706 goals in his career.

Rod Langway, I found out yesterday, is the only NHL player to have been born in Republic of China. He grew up in Massachusetts, started playing the game late (age 13) and played two seasons at the University of New Hampshire before getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1977. He was part of the Canadiens 1979 Stanley Cup winning team but wanted to get out of Montreal as he was being paid in Canadian dollars and he had a family at the time to support. In 1982, the Canadiens obliged Langway and traded him to the Caps. After the deal, he had heard a rumor that Caps General Manager David Poile was going to trade him to Boston so he wasn't sure whether to unpack or not. Poile told him he wasn't going anywhere and as the Caps "Secretary of Defense", he was credited with significantly reducing the Capitals' goals against average which enabled them to finally make the playoffs in 1982 for the first time.

It was wonderful hearing these two talk about their careers and it was my favorite part of yesterday's festivities. Gartner, along with Ryan Walter, were two of my favorite Caps. Walter was a part of that deal that brought Langway to Washington.

While this is a nice part of the Capitals rebuild since the 2004-05 lock out year, it is a reminder that there is unfinished business for the best team in the league last year. Could this be the year the Capitals finally hoist the Stanley Cup?

Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis kicks off the Convention at 10:00 AM. He remains deeply upset at the Caps failure to advance out of the first round of the playoffs and he said he's doing all he can with the organization to bring the Cup home for the fans who have been patient. The way he talked about the Caps, his passion, hell I wanted to run through a wall for him and I'm just a fan.

Steet hockey is always cool.

Ted signs copies of his book, The Business of Happiness. I read the book, it's an excellent read and I bought a copy for my Mother in Law and he personalized it for her. Quick story about my Mother in Law. Like Ted, she experienced near death. Last October 21st, she had a brain tumor removed. The surgery was successful and she endured a lengthy recovery period before she was able to return home five weeks after her surgery. She still struggles with a limp but she's sharp as ever and she's very positive day in and day out. I thought this book would be great to give her to celebrate one year after her surgery. As I write this, she's upstairs reading and she said she'd love to meet Ted one day. Maybe I'll take her along with Weena and Benjamin to a Caps game this season and we can.

Not a great picture but one of the many activities for kids yesterday.

Gear!!! I love seeing the old jerseys.

Really, tell me how you feel about the Pittsburgh Penguins. Love it!

Mike Gartner was one of many Capitals alumni signing autographs. While I was waiting in line for his signature, I met a nice woman who was a long time fan. Her son is in the Marines doing another tour of Afghanistan and he's a Caps fan. We traded stories about the team and while meeting these players is pretty neat, talking to random fans and sharing stories is a lot of fun for me. We missed Gartner's hour so I ended up going under the ropes to get his signature as he left. It was an honor for me to meet one of my boyhood sports heroes and I got him to sign my badge. Also got Rod Langway and Bernie Wolfe to sign. Bernie Wolfe was signed as a free agent in 1975 by the Capitals. He would play four seasons before retiring in 1979 at age 27. In 120 games played, his record was 20-61-21, with 424 goals against, a 4.17 goals against average, and one shutout. He was a solid performer on a bad team but fans loved him and players respected him. After he retired, he became a Certified Financial Planner and his firm Bernard R. Wolfe & Associates Inc. was recognized in 2009 by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the Washington DC area’s top financial planning firms.

At games and events like this you always see the Ovechkin #8, the Hunter #32 or Kolzig #37 jerseys to name a few. Gerry Meehan came over in a trade with the Atlanta Flames in 1976. I even saw someone with a Dean Youngblood jersey from the movie Youngblood, starring Rob Lowe.

Early Caps jerseys

A display of what the Caps locker room looked like. Here is Nicklas Backstrom's replica. The Montreal Canadiens have an incredible display of all their greats in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The Capitals AHL team the Hershey Bears won the AHL Calder Cup for the 11th time this past season. This season they celebrated back to back titles. The Bears Calder Cup finals games were telecast on Comcast Sportsnet locally and had the great John Walton calling the games. Love his signature call to end a game. "Good morning, good afternoon and good night Texas!" as he said when the Bears clinched their title in June.

One of the Capitals most exciting players, #12 Peter Bondra. Sad day here when the team traded him to Ottawa as part of the 2004 salary purge before the lockout. BUT in this deal, the Caps received a very valuable part in their rebuild, Brooks Laich. Bondra scored 472 goals during his Capitals career. I believe Bondra scored his 500th career goal as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks before retiring in 2007.

Caps Owner Ted Leonsis and his Monumental Sports and Entertainment partner Dick Patrick discuss the Capitals, the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center. It was an interesting discussion about the day to day operations of one of the most powerful companies in sports today.

The Winter Classic logo

The Caps Winter Classic uniform unveiling. Left to right; Yvon Labre, Alex Ovechkin and Rod Langway model the uniforms the Caps will wear on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh.

Former Caps Captain presents Alex Ovechkin the Caps MVP award.

This was a very cool event. Alex Ovechkin, Matt Bradley and Eric Fehr took questions from young kids in the audience. I stopped by briefly as another discussion was going on at the same time. Among the questions to the players I heard were: What kind of car do you drive?, What color is your car? What is your favorite restaurant? Some of the questions drew a lot of laughs and applause as those at the discussion next to this could hear it. Very neat that the Caps scheduled this for the kids.

Deputy Commissioner of the NHL Bill Daly discussed a variety of issues in the league from the Olympics, to the NHL and concussions, bad contracts and the general state of the National Hockey League.

The final event I saw before I had to go to College Park was Caps head Coach Bruce Boudreau introducing the 2010-11 Caps roster. He described the what each player brought to the table and their strengths and role with the team.

Among the things I missed was:
A couple of scouts talking about their role tracking potential draft picks.
Past and present Caps discuss their role as enforcers in the game.
Hockey Bloggers
The Caps 1998 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Overall, a very fun event. I looked at a lot of the audience and all I saw besides everyone wearing Caps gear was a lot of happy faces and people having fun. Nicely done Washington Capitals. Now there's a Cup to go get. Go Caps!!!

No comments: