Wearing the Nation’s Colors Next February 22

On Sunday, February 22, 2009, the Capitals matinee-host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center. That day will commemorate the 29th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, the greatest day in the history of hockey and the greatest day in the history of sports. Summertime question for you: what do you think of the idea of the Caps doing something radically different with their sweaters that day — like, say, wearing re-issues of the Lake Placid heroes’ sweaters? Before you dismiss the idea out of hand, let’s first have a little chat among patriots about the matter.
First, let’s acknowledge the Caps’ unique qualifications for potentially pursuing such a scheme. In representing the nation’s capital, Washington’s hockey team is different from 29 others in the NHL. They aren’t a generic animal of prey (Panther, Bruin) or an abstract circumstance of nature (Lightning, Hurricane, Avalanche, Star); they are named as a signifier, of something nationally unifying and laudatory. Millions of Americans each year flock to Washington to experience what our city represents. In return I say a sports team named for the entirety of that experience can well represent one of this nation’s finest moments. If ever there were a pro hockey team compelled to don the ’80 Miracle look for a commemorative occasion, it ought to be Washington’s Red, White and Blue Capitals.
Over the past three decades, the NHL has been curiously uninvolved in acknowledging Lake Placid’s Miracle. Why? Thirteen of the 20 rostered miraculous Americans went on to NHL careers — and five of them earned more than 500 games in the league. On the Miracle’s anniversary, is there any possible downside to the league associating itself with the feat? Understand that I’m not calling for some extended exploitation of the team and event, just a single day’s acknowledgment, which arrives at the heart of each hockey season.
Perhaps, it could be argued, each NHL team should wear a commemorative patch for that week’s play. I’m fine with that. But the game of hockey changed forever that night in upstate New York. Boys dreamed. Men wept. Traveling strangers pulled over their cars on interstate highways and hugged. A downtrodden culture rejuvenated itself. To this day some very learned minds suggest that geopolitical affairs were irrevocably altered by those 60 minutes of hockey. (Imagine.) And so from the NHL I’m looking for something larger as display and remembrance. Why not have a team wear the actual sweater, for one day? And who better to do that than our boys?
OFB readers this week will have noticed our humble efforts at offering up a third jersey design for the Capitals to consider down the road. Its color scheme — wholly unintended — bears a striking similarity to the sweater worn on February 24, 1980, when the Americans earned gold at Lake Placid against Finland. I find that interesting.
The next obstacle to address would be a purported “forced nationalism” on a contemporary NHL club necessarily comprised of nationals from a half dozen or more foreign nations. Specifically, wouldn’t there be awkward irony in an Alexander Ovechkin and his Russian teammates wearing “USA” across their chests the third Sunday of next February?
It’s irrefutable that the achievement of 2/22/80 was distinctly sovereign, distinctly — I would argue — American. But as it’s aged, hasn’t it acquired an EveryNation sheen of admirable heroism, a universally acknowledged sense of David slaying Goliath, and thereby broadened the general appeal of our now very global game? Isn’t there something in the Miracle for every hockey player from every nation to delight in, and celebrate? Isn’t it part of the Miracle’s lore that even the shocked and stunned Russians, standing forlorn on their own blueline, looked down the Lake Placid ice at their collegian vanquishers and admired? And if not, if that’s overstatement, couldn’t we next rationalize the commemoration merely on these grounds: at the highest level of hockey, for just one day, let’s simply and distinctly acknowledge the greatest hockey game ever played.
It would be close to a franchise-best moment to have the Capitals debut a new, very patriotic-looking third sweater next February 22, but the NHL requires that teams identify in advance all sweaters to be worn during the season. The Capitals aren’t adopting a third sweater this season. What I’m advocating is a league-issued waiver from the uniform regulations for a very special Sunday that just happens to showcase the two greatest hockey players on the planet.
This is a very, very, secondary consideration, but talk about a marketable television event! The game between Ovechkin’s Capitals and Crosby’s Penguins is already slated for national television (I say this not because I’ve confirmed it with NBC but from a sense of how could it not be?). What aura in the Phone Booth then if this unprecedented uniforming were to take place. What might tickets sell for out on the District’s streets that morning? What if one or four members of the Miracle team were in the house?
I have another compelling and deeply personal reason for pursuing this idea. During their home games the Capitals like to seat me next to SovetskySport’s Dmitry Chesnokov. Dmitry, newly sworn in as an American citizen, is younger than I am and by virtue of his age forgiveably unaware of the immediate impact of the Miracle. After next February 22nd’s game I’d like my friend to accompany me down to the Capitals’ locker room and interview his countryman Ovechkin, who’d be wearing a sweater whose style will never go out of fashion, and one which changed the world.

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This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Dmitry Chesnokov, Hockey Heroes, Miracle On Ice, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sovetsky Sport, USA Hockey, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Wearing the Nation’s Colors Next February 22

  1. michele says:

    I love this idea.

  2. keef says:

    I’ll place myself in the nay line. 50/50 thus far?
    I don’t like the idea and I’m glad to see that you’ve acknowledged the reasons I’d be against it above, but to reiterate:
    a. This team had nothing to do with the Lake Placid gold
    b. This team doesn’t skate for the US
    c. This team isn’t comprised solely of US players (and as I believe you reminded us towards the end of last season, it’s the most geographically complex NHL team)
    If the US National Team was playing, I would wholeheartedly agree they wear a patch or throwback jersey to commemorate the event.
    Is this how we know news is slow this time of year? πŸ™‚

  3. keef says:

    Come to think of it, shouldn’t the team be focused on commemorating the anniversary of the release of Slap Shot in late February every year?
    Hyannisport throwback sweaters of course would be the best way to remind us all of Gabby’s role in that fine film.
    Yes, satire reigns supreme when my sleep cycle is interrupted early in the morning.

  4. The Peerless says:

    I’m not generally a fan of the idea, mostly because there is no significance to the date in 2009. Now, if this was 2010, and we were talking about the 30th anniversary…
    Make a weekend of it. Although the 22nd would be a Monday in 2010, it could be the culmination of a weekend celebrating the team and its accomplishment. Bring the team together for the events.
    Of course, what would probably happen is that the Caps would be in the middle of a six game road trip, thanks to league scheduling.

  5. SovSport says:

    I wanted to say something, but then decided not to.
    “[t]he greatest day in the history of hockey and the greatest day in the history of sports.” Hmm… Anything else happened on that day?

  6. Check his papers.

  7. SpartyCuse says:

    Id say no to the Caps wearing a USA jersey. Many of the players are not American, and only Americans should wear team USA jerseys.

  8. That’s a very fair and reasonable observation. I certainly wasn’t proposing the jersey wearing as representatives of the U.S., but rather as a tribute to an extraordinary team, one whose feat transcended sovereignty. I suppose too I was thinking a little about the international soccer tradition — my thoughts soccer are limited and seldom — of players exchanging jerseys and wearing another competitor’s jersey.

  9. Flipper says:

    I say nay. The Caps are representative of this city, not the country as a whole. Also, there are two Russians on the team who likely remember that day well and do not have the same feelings about it as we do. However, I’d love to see fans encouraged to wear the old Team USA sweaters that day.

  10. V says:

    “29th anniversary”? Summer is getting to somebody πŸ™‚

  11. ns says:

    sorry, but definitely a NO on this. its in bad taste to commemorate a very American feat with a team full of international players. i can’t even imagine the NHL considering this.

  12. You who become patriot only in even numbered years — shame on you!

  13. jmu_capsgirl says:

    I’m in the “no” camp as well. It just doesn’t feel right. Not that I was around in 1980 to say how it felt then, but there’s just something sacred about it that makes an NHL game the wrong venue for it. It would make more sense for the US to wear them in Vancouver in 2010. Thirtieth anniversary and all.

  14. Jed says:

    I like capsgirl’s idea much better… There isn’t that much significance to a 29th year anyways… if you’re going to try to start a tradition, or commemorate an event, the 30th anniversary is a much better time anyways.

  15. NS2NOVA says:

    Come on guys, you really need to get over this. It’s like Canadians getting all worked up over “The Goal” in ’72.
    That in fact was the greatest moment in Hockey, and sports history. The day Canada became a nation.
    Ummm.
    Never mind. Forget I said anything.
    πŸ˜€

  16. muddapucker says:

    I don’t think its a good idea. Nationalism is not a good idea when its forced on someone.
    I really don’t know how you do it without embarassing some of our greatest stars who we have become heroes to many of our children and some of us fans. I would be embarassed if I played basketball on a Russian team which had American players wearing Russian jerseys to commemmorate the win that Russia had over the United States in basketball back in the 70’s. Can you imagine putting some of our guys in their jerseys? Particularly when we felt like we were robbed.
    Somewhere, good taste has to enter the picture. I think a few words and a tribute to Herb Brooks would be much better. Keep it tasteful, keep it dignified. Do it in a way that all can participate without national feelings and pride being involved.
    I wouldn’t want to celebrate at the expense of our Russian teammates.

  17. muddapucker says:

    By the way, Keef mentioned Slapshot… The Caps did have the Hanson Brothers one year during intermission at a game in Cap Center. They brought down the house. Just seeing them skating all out around the rink in their blue Chiefs jersies, straggly blonde hair catching the breeze and horned rim glasses… It was enough to psych anyone up.
    You had to love em!!! Stinkin rut beer…

  18. Lee (PTO) says:

    What if our team wore the Hammer & Sickle CCCP jerseys (given our plethora of Russians) and the Pens wore the USA jerseys? Before you cry “HERESY”, consider that Herb Brooks DID coach the Pens later on in his career. We may have inadvertently started something that can’t be stopped. Nice job. :p

  19. billd says:

    No to the team jersey/ game idea, but how about this for year #30.
    Invite all the players from that team to come to Washington for an evening of celebration.
    film clip of the Russian victory, followed by the gold medal clip and of course a “Do you believe in Miricles” clip with all the players on at center ice. I think I saw a comment on a documentary that they had never all been together again since that time.

  20. There’s novelty just in the Caps playing on February 22. They didn’t this past. This season’s date is at home, on a weekend, against perhaps their greatest rival. It adds up, potentially, to a special day. Wishes to wait to do something notable for the 30th anniversary don’t take into account VC’s availability then, or how the NHLers will allot it (home or road or not to be played upon at all). And of course, that’s an Olympic year.
    I for one don’t see any difference in significance between # 29 and #30; every anniversary of it is remarkable.

  21. billd says:

    OK,
    How about a reunion of the players this year then. Maybe a hint to Ted L and the gang would start something. Couldn’t hurt eh?

  22. Muddapucker says:

    I am okay with a reunion of sorts… but make it about sportsmanship and respect rather than of Americans beating their chests and speakers with a lot of puffery about how great we are.
    In my way of thinking, greatness does not need to be stated. On the contrary, the truly great events don’t need to be gone on about… Understatement is, in my opinion, the ultimate in confidence and sportsmanship. A few words to set the stage is fine.
    Lets focus on sportsmanship and continue to build the bridge between Russia and the Washington Capitals. Lets honor our opponents and our own team by bringing both teams back for introductions and gifts.
    No honor to an athlete is ever as significant as being remembered…
    Forget all the fantasy stuff and replica jerseys etc… You want to sell em on the concourse, fine, but leave them off the ice.

  23. NS2NOVA says:

    One thing that may have been overlooked with regard to the 30th anniversary is that there may not been any NHL games, as there will almost certainly be a break in the schedule for the Olympics.

  24. Stephen says:

    There are 6 Americans on the Capitals and 4 Russians on the team, that is a horrible idea. Most of the Washington Capitals are Canadians, are we really considering doing this?
    Why doesn’t the US Olympic ice hockey team do that in Vancouver in the next olympics? Maybe they’ll actually win a few games if they do that.
    Bottom line, Capitals have had very little success against the Penguins in recent years. Pittsburgh would look like the bad guys if they won this game. Both of these teams are good. There is no David and Goliath battle going on. Let’s leave it at that,
    Don’t put Ovechkin in a USA jersey…

  25. Michael says:

    I made my way over here from The Pensblog, and they bring up a great point (which was mentioned earlier in the comments). Why not wait until the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? It would be an appropriate anniversary (30th) and ALL of the hockey players could wear old-school 80s throwbacks to celebrate the event. I just can’t see Ovie wearing Team USA colors/unis anyway. Good idea, just not 2009.

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