Reflecting on a very special year for hockey in Washington, I sought to identify those stories and moments that really caught my eye, were real standouts. Some are honors/achievement related, some are related to the ongoing evolution in hockey media, still others are just moments that caught me off guard and made me smile. I’ll share five of my favorite recollections from 2008 with you today and five more tomorrow.
2008 was, without question, a calendar year in which Caps’ fans could point to dozens of scrapbook worthy memories. Mine are a bit parochial and certainly personal, and I’d welcome you sharing yours with us in our forum.
(10) Greg Wyshynski named one of the 100 most influential figures in hockey by the Hockey News. I’m not sure much more needs to be said. But I’m going to say it anyway. To be sure such lists are seasonal sausage, and Greg was among the first to suggest that the distinction is as much entertainment as high honor, but consider that Puck Daddy debuted just this past spring, and by mid-summer Greg’s work at Yahoo was the talk of the digital hockey kingdom. His site is a compendium of hard hockey news and uproarious, occasionally crude, and consistently, delightfully irreverent commentary. Hardly a surprise that the biggest, most talked about hockey story of the season to date had its genesis at Puck Daddy. It is hockey media 3.0, and not only is puck daddy the standard bearer for hockey media’s migration more fully into the pixelated, but it’s likely to be the next frontier in the new media revolution. After all, when I asked Greg what puckheads could expect from Daddy in 2009, he replied, “How the [bleep] do I know?” Greg is an OFB friend, and we’re damned proud of his 2008.
(9) A new and talented blogging voice joins the Caps’ blogging party — Red finds a home at a New York blog, The Red Skate. Stephen Pepper launched his blog earlier this year and by virtue of being in New York was able to provide some novel and distinctive coverage we in Washington couldn’t. He and his digital camera were at the Big Apple launch party for Alexander Ovechkin’s clothing line, and he also attended the NHL Awards event in Toronto in June. I had the pleasure of spending a
heavy drinking blogging weekend with him in Toronto earlier this month, and Pepper’s passion for puck is a welcomed addition to our blogging bandwagon.
(8) Speaking of terrific blogs, Caps’ 2008 second-round draft pick Dmitry Kugryshev is doing something distinctive with his: he’s active and interactive with it, strikingly reflective and introspective, bringing an insider’s perspective and even an engaging wit to his readers, and, perhaps most importantly, by all appearances is having fun with it. This is the sort of on line activity that Ted Leonsis has for years suggested is integral to growing hockey media — the players themselves have to get immersed in the revolution and be voices in it.
In July, during Capitals’ Development Camp, we learned that Kugryshev was picking up English rather quickly and impressively. Right before the start of training camp we had a chance to conduct an “All English” interview with him. That, too, was a highlight moment of the year for me. I should have known then that we’d be receiving more special messages from him.
And don’t lose sight of this: Kugreshev spoke no English prior to his mid-summer arrival in America, and a mere six months later has a command of our grammar and syntax that betters some sports columnists in this town.
But why not let young Kugryshev illustrate this fun site with his own words:
“I had awesome offers — money wise and years wise — before I left for North America. Why am I here? I want to be in the NHL. That jersey, that stadium — it is just an awesome feeling. The treatment, the importance of the game, being next to the action. Playing in CHL is still better than CSKA2, but . . . NHL is NHL . . . When I would put on that Caps sweater, even in some meaningless game, it was still an NHL sweater. It was the best feeling in my life. I never felt that way. The boys who have tasted the real game, say it is even better. I want to be at the show.”
(7) Comcast’s ‘Washington Post Live’ embraces hockey bloggers. By the end of this week OFB will have made three appearances on ‘Washington Post Live’ dating back to the spring, and better still, so have other hockey blogging talents: Eric McErlain, Rob Yunich, Dmitry Chesnokov. Early in the new year Puck Daddy will be in the Comcast studio. Russ, I know it’s live, but check into using a delay that day, ok?
(6) Caps’ owner Ted Leonsis, right before the start of the new season, pledges to fill Air Ted with bloggers for a brisk trip to Hershey for a Bears’ playoff game. Mr. Leonsis gave us a great interview back in late September, tackling even an uncomfortable issue such as Verizon Center’s ice quality, but OFB being OFB, we wanted to have a lot of fun in our sitdown with him, and this was the most enjoyable moment for me. Having worn down some rubber on my Jeep tires with trips to Hershey the past three years, I read with envy an account of the owner flying from Dulles to Harrisburg in something like 17 minutes’ time, and so seated across from him in his Verizon Center office this fall, I made a novel suggestion: charter Air Ted for a trip to the farm and fill it with hockey bloggers. He made some understandable stipulations for the trip — it would have to be during the Bears postseason, and not while the Caps were competing, but what was a throwaway bit of whim from me designed to elicit a chuckle from the owner he rather instantly embraced.
I wonder if there’s any way we could get Kugryshev on that bloggers’ charter?