The Caps couldn’t have scripted a better reception or conditions for their annual outdoor skate at Chevy Chase Country Club Thursday night. They created a mid-winter postcard to remember for hundreds of hockey loving club members, and there was a tremendous showing to chronicle the skate by local media. It was chilly but clear and breezeless by the rink, perfect for shinny. A not-so-small army of club youths chanted and cheered “Let’s go Caps!”, many in Alexander Ovechkin jerseys, as the Caps drilled briefly and then shinny-scrimmaged.
At last year’s skate we alone represented the blogosphere, and neither local print nor broadcast covered the outing. But last night four of the local TV stations had cameras and crew at the Chevy Chase Club, and the beat reporters from the Post, the Times, and the Examiner were there as well. We met blogger Chasta, of Love the Game, Don’t Like Puck Bunnies, as we sipped a post-practice round of hot chocolate.
Truth: My fellow OFB-ers OrderedChaos and Gustafsson had cameras snapping away the entire time and collected hundreds of photos. We also shot some video. We’ll be busy with editing this weekend.
Bruce Boudreau put his team through about 10 minutes of drills before turning loose three-man teams against Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson. This was a serious workout — they skated all 200 feet until just before 7:00. That’s a lot of ice for six guys to chase a puck around. Boudreau officiated (to some good-natured griping from his charges) and kept shifts disciplined in duration.
U.S. Supreme Court represented! It was a treat to see U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stroll right up beside us on an observation deck for media and take in the action with his family. A child whom we gathered was Chief Justice Roberts’ son was modeling a smart-looking red Caps’ Ovechkin sweater for the occasion.
When a hockey team enjoys a conspicuous chemistry, just loves competing, practicing, and being around one another, and is placed in a novel setting and encouraged to have fun, the results are a hockey fan’s delight. Bruce Boudreau scripted a scrimmage format tailored to the enjoyment of hockey fans young and old last night. It’s so much fun you want to experience it more than once a season; but then you think, perhaps this is our miniature winter classic and it’s special enough that it ought to be maintained as an annual event.
This was a remarkable opportunity for hockey fans to see the skilled brilliance of a legend like Sergei Fedorov and a legend in the making in his countryman Ovechkin, up close, with the players competitive but at play with boyish enthusiasm. With so much ice and space, stick-wizardry was a constant on every possession, the trios in constant motion, darting and dashing and distributing with flair and passion, always trying to set up the poetry-perfect tally.
Not a typo: John Erskine had a hat trick in the scrimmage. So did Donald Brashear.
Boudreau was regularly on the receiving end of players’ complaints about his officiating (which as you might imagine wasn’t particularly mobile). Afterward he pledged never again to yell at a referee, having gained a keen appreciation of what they go through. Anyone else think that pledge might not make it through period one on Saturday afternoon?
Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot for a minor infraction, and he teed up a hellacious and successful slapshot up high on JT from just about 25 feet out. It glanced off JT’s shoulder quite near his head. Although mildly competitive, this was a fun-loving hour-long session free of rancor and rough-stuff, and it seemed that JT took none too kindly to his star teammate’s bullying blast.
No one really knew who won the scrimmage — JT’s or BJ’s squad. Ovechkin may have scored a tying tally right as the skate was halted, but referee Gabby didn’t allow it.
Actually, it was abundantly clear who won last night: the spectators.