[Hockey season’s over. Herewith, 25 of my favorite, most personal moments covering hockey in Washington during the 2009-10 campaign, relayed in no particular order.]
(25) Not one, not two, but three blizzards buried Washington in the heart of hockey season. Blizzard no. 2 took out my home’s power for fully three days, but my beer was kept cold out on the patio in nature’s natural refrigerator. Undaunted — indeed, happy as a fatted bear in hibernation — I blogged by battery, in a Columbia snowmobile suit. This same blizzard coincided with a Sunday matinee between the Capitals and Penguins, and much-maligned-in-winter Washingtonians redded out all the white and celebrated with happy snowball fights afterward when the Caps erased a 4-1, third period deficit to stun the Pens 5-4 in overtime.
*I was invited to pinch-hit for the Patriot News’ Tim Leone and moderate a panel discussion on Hershey hockey at the Capitals’ first-ever fan convention. When I asked panelists Alex Giroux, Karl Alzner, and Michal Neuvirth for their reflections about the distinctive relationship Hershey’s players have with their fans, Giroux informed the ballroom of instances in which female Bears’ fans left undergarments fastened to his car in the Giant Center parking lot.
*I received email from a Californian identifying himself as a one-time co-chairman of the Save the Caps campaign of the early 1980s. I email back: would you be willing to to be interviewed? Yes, he said. I also received email from John Carlson’s family just days after his gold-medal winning goal at the World Juniors, with celebration images attached.
*I meet the New York Times’ Chuck McGrath up in the Verizon Center press box, recognizing him from his infectiously enthusiastic performance in the documentary ‘Pond Hockey.’ I quickly come to realize that McGrath needs to be ranked with Doc Emerick among the nicest in all of hockey humanity. McGrath spends months researching a sprawling piece on Alexander Ovechkin, and for it he directs questions to Eric McErlain and me at the rink and via email.
*Visiting Hershey for the Bears’ annual outdoor skate, I’m handed a microphone by John Walton and told to interview players and coaches as they exit the ice at the skate’s end. I learned that Mathieu Perreault skated Quebec ponds when it was minus-30, and that Andrew Gordon played shinny in Nova Scotia with Sidney Crosby. Later that day Walton emailed me videos of the interviews for use on OFB. And eventually he used footage of our shoot for in-game material at a Bears’ game in Giant Center.
(20) Listening to Mathieu Perreault acknowledge that he YouTubed, over and over, his game-winning overtime goal in an exhibition game in Chicago, and watching his eyes get wide as he related the exhilaration he felt on the team’s charter home that night. I was hardly surprised that he enjoyed the success he did wearing a Washington sweater in 2009-10.
*A Canadian member of the hockey media emailed me word of her potential ability to land me backstage to meet Rush at a gig of theirs in summer. Whoa Nellie Geddy Lee!
*The C&O Canal froze hard this past winter, and it delivered virtually perfect ice one January Saturday morning for my buddy Eric McErlain’s first-ever shinny skate. I loved sharing that with him.
*It was love at first sight for me with Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines’ latest hockey documentary, ‘Forgotten Miracle.’ I wrote a review of the film and my filmmaker friends linked to it on the film’s web site. I get pretty emotional about the subject of American hockey in general, and having a few of my words associated with that project about American hockey history shook me up pretty good.
(15) Tara Wheeler, bald for St. Baldrick’s, steps out onto Verizon Center’s ice before a Capitals’ preseason game and makes that evening’s national anthem anything but routine.
*Quite impulsively a Washington hockey bloggers’ caravan formed for trips up to postseason Hershey this spring, and the puck banter I enjoyed in the company of the very puck-erudite Ed Frankovic and Ted Starkey came to serve as a much-needed salve for the disappointment of the Capitals’ early playoff exit.
*And speaking of blossoming friendships forged at the rink, two newcomers to the Capitals’ bloggers beat this season, Elisabeth Meinecke of DCist and Michelle Scalise of Comcast Sportsnet, enriched my rink experience greatly. There simply are no friends like friends in hockey.
*I was editing an interview file of Big Joe Finley an hour before a Development Camp skate, all alone in the media workroom at Kettler, my head buried in my laptop, when I was nearly jolted out of my chair by a thunderous slam of fists on the workroom glass that looks out on the rink. I look up, and there’s Big Joe, smiling down at me.
*Pancaking and coffee-ing it at a Hershey Bob Evans one January Sunday morning I was perusing the Patriot News sports section when I encountered Tim Leone’s magnificent four-page feature on Washington’s hockey bloggers, ‘Going deep: Washington Capitals out in front of media revolution‘. Tim nailed it, as you’d expect he would.
(10) Readers email OFB scores of their own stunning images from shinny skates during Washington’s abnormally frosty winter. I publish every one of them that makes me envious and smile.
*I never tire of participating in Federal News Radio’s ‘Saturday Night Caps’ program and its twice-a-season bloggers’ roundtable, hosted by Jonathon Warner. Blizzard no. 1 kept the bloggers out of Jonathon’s Northwest Washington studio, but still we had a great program. Jonathon always brings the bloggers back for a second show every season, and right before the playoffs started we had a Chamber of Commerce Saturday night in spring, another great show, and afterward pitcher after pitcher of patio margaritas amid a soothing breeze, all on the radio host’s dime.
*A producer from Versus contacted us and asked if we’d generate five questions for Mike Green to be asked as part of a bloggers’ interview session with Greener. We had great fun with that. Among our questions: Can we go for a ride in your new Lamborghini?
* I got invited to board Bear Force One and accompany the Hershey Bears to Texas, and help generate new media coverage for games three through five of the Calder Cup finals. It didn’t work out this season, but maybe next. What an honor to be asked, though.
* Video-recording a short-haired Tara Wheeler step out onto the ice at Giant Center before Calder finals Game 6 to sing the national anthem, and catching her give Bears’ players standing on the blueline a big thumbs-up right as she finishes. She’s a good luck charm, I tell you.
(5) Ed Frankovic and I interview Ottawa Senators’ general manager, and former Capitals’ bench boss, Bryan Murray after a Caps-Sens game here. We stroll down Memory Lane with Murray, and he patiently gives us detail-rich accounts of the good old days in the old barn in Landover. Ed and I decide to inaugurate a co-authored project going forward titled ‘Classic Caps,’ in which we’ll try and bring alive Washington’s rich professional hockey legacy.
*Tim Leone’s deft word-smithing, joined by Bruce Boudreau’s endearing self-effacing wit, makes Gabby a great read. We were thrilled and delighted to be able to contribute photographs to the book.
*In this lifetime I will never know the feeling of being associated with a pro hockey title team. But one night last autumn Hershey’s John Walton did his best to make feel as if I had been.
* This didn’t suck: being included among media accorded access to the Giant Center ice sheet as the clock wound down to zero after game 6 of the Calder Cup finals. Images and associations of joy I’ll carry with me the rest of my days. And best of all, I got to share the experience with my D.C. blogger buddies, Frankovic and Starkey.
(1) Mere hours before the arrival of blizzard no. 1 this past winter I carried off a photo shoot with my three favorite Comcast cutiepies, at the Sculpture Gardens Ice Rink, for OFB’s 2009 Christmas card. A fella could do a lot worse than get snowed in with these Hanson sisters.
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I took the picture of Walton and Mikula. Thanks for posting it!