<the Caps Road Crew asked those of us who had been present when Alex Ovechkin was drafted to write up a few thoughts from our time at the draft, this is what I sent to them>
Those who know me are aware that I have been a Washington Capitals hockey fan for a long time.
The basis for that does not come from any personal hockey experience, the few times I have tried to skate, I spent the vast majority of the time falling down. My mother was born in Winnipeg Manitoba and all of my cousins even the lamest and least coordinated were great skaters and loved hockey. Because of them when young I became a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan, many of the cousins lived in Toronto.
Shortly after Washington received an NHL hockey franchise, my allegiance transferred to my hometown team and I became a junior member of a season ticket group. Over a period of years, the group slowly dissolved until I ended up the last one standing. The Capitals were willing to transfer the season tickets to me (do they still do that)? And since then I have grown the group back up and increased the number of tickets we purchase from two seats to six, scattered all around the arena.
I will not spend time going over all of the reasons why rooting for the Washington Capitals in hockey has a lot of similarities to rooting for the Chicago Cubs in baseball; other than to mention in passing that I am one of those people who was at the famous Easter Sunday seventh game of the Islander playoff series, so-called because of when it ended not when it started, which limped into closure a bit after 2am in the fourth overtime (a Capitals loss of course); as well as seeing Dale Hunter beat Philadelphia in overtime; and seeing the Capitals beat the Penguins at the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh.
Ten years ago this month, I took my first trip with the Caps Road Crew, a group collectively even more fanatic than me, to Raleigh, NC, home of the Carolina Hurricanes. Between the Road Crew and the Capitals Fan Club, more than five buses of fans (more perhaps) went to the draft.
The lower bowl of the arena was reserved for Hurricane season ticket holders, fans of other clubs were upstairs. While the ratio of Hurricane fans to Capitals fans was 100’s to 1, there was no question that we were by far the louder, supplemented by the many (many) horns present. Those plus our shouting every time the name Ovechkin was mentioned on the floor got the attention of the staff below us.
I remember an interview with George McPhee, the Caps General Manager, where he said it was the loudest he had ever heard a hockey crowd outside of a game when a goal scored.
When Ovechkin was finally drafted and walked off the floor I remember him waving at us as he passed underneath the stands. After the draft, Ted Leonsis held a reception for Ovechkin and all of the other drafted players and invited everyone who had come down to the draft, which was a really nice gesture. I remember getting to meet all of the players and being able to meet Ovechkin’s father as well as Ray Bourque, a true hockey legend, since we had also drafted his diminutive son, Chris.
During the day it was really exciting to meet many hockey players and staff who we otherwise would have had little chance to get to talk to. I was able to spend time with one of my favorite Capitals former coaches, Ron Wilson, who was kind enough to put up with many, many questions I had about what it was like to coach a hockey team. It turned out he lived off-season in Hilton Head, SC, where my wife’s parents lived, and still are, and in fact where we will be going to visit later this month.
Of course, thanks to the lockout we were not able to see Ovechkin’s first game until the 2005-6 season.