Caps fans know the team-related basics about defenseman Dennis Wideman: he joined the franchise around last season’s trade deadline, he brings power play skills and general offensive talent to the blueline, he’s a former Florida Panther/Boston Bruin/St. Louis Blues player, and he suffered that hematoma injury late last spring that sidelined him for the remainder of the Capitals’ season. Oh, and he also happens to have a point so far in every game this year.
But do they know who put him on his first pair of skates?
“My mom, I would think?” Wideman said. But he’s not confident he remembers: “That’s a looong time ago. I was probably like four—three or four, I would think.”
Do Caps fans know that he’d be goalie—Wideman had older brothers who also played hockey—when skating around on the rink his family had in the backyard?
“When we were playing around, I always wanted to play goalie,” said Wideman, who added that he never played the position for a team. “I wasn’t very good at it, but I liked it.”
Even when not wearing the mask, Wideman said he had people telling him he wouldn’t make it in the NHL, all the way up until he actually did.
“Through junior and stuff like that, all the media … always said I’d never play,” Wideman said.
What really helped him break into the NHL, he explained, were the rule changes.
“It got away from the really big defensemen, and they kind of started going with guys [that were] more puckmoving, that’s what helped me, and that’s what kind of gave me my opportunity,” Wideman said.
Was it hard coming into the locker room in Washington where most of the guys have basically grown up together in the NHL?
“Sometimes it can be, but here, the guys are really good,” Wideman said. “It’s not like they’re going out for dinner and not inviting you, or anything like that. They’ve been good here. I think it’s a good for the team. It’s good to have a group [that’s] known each other, been through a lot together, know what guys are like – there’s less arguing, or less guys being mad, when you know you’ve been around a guy for four years and you just know he’s just grumpy that day.”
Bonus knowledge: Wideman sat beside fellow former Panther Tomas Vokoun on the plane last year and said he got to know him that way. He also called Vokoun “Voky.” The moral of that story? There’s not a name in the world that a hockey player can’t find a way to add a “y” to.