Oct. 5, 2006. Oct. 8, 2010. Those were the dates Mike Green and John Carlson made their NHL opening night debuts on an NHL roster (both with the Capitals). Green played over 17 minutes in his game. Carlson played over 18 minutes in his.
But neither really remember much about it.
“Honestly, I can’t even remember,” Green said of the game, then joked, “I’ve been hit in the head so many times.”
“I think we were in Atlanta, right?” Carlson had to ask of the Capitals’ season opener last year, which was a loss to the Thrashers. But as he continued to talk, the day started coming back: “We kinda sat back too much, and they outplayed us, and we lost a game there.” He did add that he thought a lot of guys signed new contracts, so he recalled a lot of excitement in the room which he said didn’t carry over, however, until the second game.
Forward Jason Chimera remembers his first opening night on an NHL team (it was in 2002), but it wasn’t quite the enthusiastic experience one would assume: he was a healthy scratch that evening.
“They’re like, “Congratulations, you made the team, but bad news: you’re not playing tonight,” Chimera recalled. “Kind of bittersweet.”
He did get to play three games later into the season, however, against the San Jose Sharks.
While most memories of opening nights on an NHL roster seem to disappear into a black hole, the memory that seems to remain vivid is the memory of the actual NHL debut, which, for Carlson and Green, happened the season prior to being a regular on the roster.
Green recalled that, for his first NHL game, there were plane troubles and they got in late.
“I didn’t even have time to be nervous,” Green said. “That first NHL game is … with you for the rest of your life. You can say that you played in the NHL, whether or not you play another game.”
The only feeling Green thinks will top that?
Winning the Stanley Cup.