A Head For The GamePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Take a look at some of the rosters of the Washington Capitals of a decade or a decade and a half ago. There are still a few of those players – Jeff Halpern, Dainius Zubrus, Andrew Brunette and Sergei Gonchar – whose playing careers are ongoing in the NHL. There are also a great many of them who have stayed in the game at one level or another, many of them in a coaching capacity. Caps head coach Dale Hunter and assistant coach Jim Johnson both played for the Capitals in those days, as did associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig. Here’s a list of some of the others who worked in the game at one time or another or continue to do so: Craig Berube (Philadelphia assistant coach), Craig Billington (Peter Bondra (served as GM for Slovakian national team), Brad Church (former head coach of ECHL Phoenix), Ulf Dahlen (head coach for HV71 in Swedish Elite League), Matt Herr (coach at Kent School in Kent, CT), Corey Hirsch (St. Louis goaltending coach), Phil Housley (coach at high school and USA junior levels), Jamie Huscroft (served as assistant coach with Spokane of WHL), Calle Johansson (hockey analyst on Swedish television), Keith Jones (hockey analyst for Versus), Joé Juneau (heads a hockey program from Inuit youth in Kuujjuaq, Quebec), Kevin Kaminski (head coach for SPHL Louisiana IceGators), Steve Konowalchuk (head coach for Seattle of WHL), Kelly Miller (assistant coach at Michigan State and former NHL assistant coach), Adam Oates (New Jersey assistant coach), Pat Peake (scout for NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau), Steve Poapst (assistant coach with Rockford of AHL). Dave Poulin (former Notre Dame coach, now Toronto’s VP, hockey ops), Bill Ranford (Los Angeles goaltending coach), Joe Reekie (NHLPA union rep), Jaroslav Svejkovsky (coached in the WHL), Joe Sacco (Colorado head coach), Mark Tinordi (served as coach and director or Washington Junior Capitals College Developmental Program), and Rob Zettler (Toronto assistant coach). Maybe there was something in that Piney Orchard water? “Back then,” remembers Kolzig, “at lunch time we’d all go to a place and have wings and a beer together and just talk hockey. I don’t know if guys now take the game way too seriously or if there is too much money to be made, but guys just go their own way after. I know there are still some old school guys in here like Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik. But it’s not the way it was and I don’t know why. Guys are too busy answering emails or texting. It just seems like that social interaction isn’t quite there like it used to be. “I think it’s a great way for the guys to learn more about the game. When you’re hanging out with your teammates and talking about the game, even if it’s on the back of the bus, it’s invaluable. It’s a great way to get the guys closer together and get a better understanding of the game.” There likely won’t be as many of the current Caps who elect to stay in the game 10 or 15 years down the road. “I honestly think it has to do with the group we had,” says Kolzig. ‘The guys loved the game. We’d sit there and talk about the game for hours. And [former Caps coach Ron Wilson] had an influence on that, too. For everything you can say about Wils, for me he was one of the smartest bench bosses we’ve had, very smart about the game. He was cutting edge at the time with the video and all that stuff. It was just a great, veteran group. “It was just a unique team, a great group of guys. It’s funny you brought that up. I never really sat down to think about it. It was a close group of guys that was always talking about the game or was out together having a beer somewhere. It was a fun time. I don’t think it was a coincidence that we went to the Stanley Cup finals that year. We had a great group of smart hockey guys.” When the Caps and Flyers hook up tonight at Verizon Center, each team will have one of those smart guys behind the bench, Hunter for the Capitals and Berube for the Flyers. They’re a long way from the Jan. 9, 1998 night when Hunter assisted on a Berube goal to record his 1,000th career NHL point. It came against the Flyers. Of course.
Thursday’s game in Winnipeg marks Washington’s sixth game this season to played on frozen Canadian water. While the Capitals were a splendid 6-1 in the seven games they played north of the border last season, they’re just 1-4 in Canada in 2011-12. That lone victory came in the Caps’ most recent