Patrick to Receive Patrick TrophyPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
The Washington Capitals have been in business for nearly half of the existence of the National Hockey League; for 38 out of the 95 years since the league first set up operations back in 1917. When Adam Oates gets enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame next month in Toronto, he’ll become the sixth former Capitals player to earn the game’s highest individual honor. Like Hall of Fame enshrinement, the Lester Patrick Trophy is also an individual honor. The Patrick Trophy is an award given annually to multiple recipients “for outstanding service in hockey in the United States since 1966.” More than 100 have received the Patrick Trophy over the years, and on Monday night in Dallas, Capitals’ president Dick Patrick will become the first with a Washington connection to join their ranks. For Patrick, the Trophy is even more special. It is named after his grandfather, one of the architects of the game who began leaving his mark on hockey more than a century ago. “It is a very nice, great honor,” says Patrick, “and it probably does mean something special to me because it is named after my grandfather. I believe it stands for contributing to hockey in the United States, which is quite an honor and very important for the U.S. teams – all the NHL really – but for the teams in the U.S. it is quite an honor.” Lester Patrick was a pro hockey player prior to the birth of the NHL, and he and his brother Frank built and operated the first indoor hockey rinks in Western Canada. The Patrick brothers also started the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Lester Patrick had an influence on several rule changes in the game’s early years, most notably the introduction of the center red line. Lester Patrick’s two sons, Lynn and Murray “Muzz” Patrick, were also involved in the game at the NHL level for several decades. Dick’s father Muzz was the general manager of the New York Rangers for nearly a decade during the 1950s and ‘60s, and his uncle Lynn was the GM of the Boston Bruins during the same time span. Dick Patrick grew up living and breathing the game, just as his ancestors had. “It’s just sort of around you,” says Patrick of his relationship with hockey, “and you grow up, and your dad’s running a team, there are coaches around [even in the] summer in the off-season. My Uncle Lynn was running Boston, and he would come down with his family for a weekend. Phil Watson, who coached for both of them, might come out for the day, and they were old teammates from the Rangers. “It wasn’t odd, it was just something that was always around, conversations at the dining room table, and I was exposed to a lot of guys in the game, a lot of NHL managers, coaches, players. As I got to the age where I was going to the games with my dad and my family there were certain rules where if the Rangers won or came from behind to tie, I was allowed to go into the locker room, which was a huge treat for a kid to meet the players. “I always thought that NHL hockey players were the greatest class of athletes in the world, not just for their skills, but for their temperament, their personalities, and how nice they are.” Those of us who are currently involved in the game know that adage holds very true to this day. The Patrick family’s involvement in the game of hockey stretches back more than a century, and Dick Patrick’s involvement in the Capitals spans more than three decades of the team’s existence. “I’ve looked at the Patrick family as being in the bedrock to the NHL,” says Ted Leonsis, the majority owner of Monumental Sports and Entertainment. “ And Dick is an old school, traditional, hockey man. He really is. He authentically celebrates it in everything he does. He got married and the day after his wedding, he and his wife went to a hockey game, and then went on their honeymoon. His wife said to me, ‘So I knew from day one of the marriage where the priorities were, honeymoon or hockey game.’ “I consider Dick a friend, a mentor, he’s my partner, but whenever there’s been anything related to hockey, a decision, I always defer to Dick because his instincts and judgments are sound and rooted in the most basic fundamentals of what the league is all about.” During Patrick’s tenure with the Capitals, he has overseen the franchise’s turnaround from sad-sack expansion punching bag in the early 1980s to a perennial threat for the Stanley Cup over the next decade and a half. He helped oversee the team’s move from suburban Maryland to downtown D.C. in the late ‘90s, and then helped orchestrate and engineer the team’s move to its state-of-the-art practice facility – The Kettler Capitals Iceplex – in Arlington, Va. early in the 21st century. “He’s seen so much,” says Leonsis. “He’s really, really emotionally connected to the health and well-being of the team and the players. He goes out of his way not to show it. But when we lose in the playoffs, he’s in more pain than anybody, and I would say one of the personal drivers that I have in investing and working hard trying to win a Cup is that no one deserves having a Stanley Cup on his résumé more than Dick Patrick. “If I close my eyes, and I know you’re not supposed to jinx it, but I don’t think he would do anything with the Stanley Cup but bring it to bed with him and spoon with the Cup.” Patrick and a legion of Caps fans hope he gets that opportunity to spoon with Lord Stanley's grail very soon. After claiming the Lester Patrick Trophy on Monday, claiming the Cup is all that remains for Patrick to accomplish in the game his ancestors helped to shape.
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Caps president Dick Patrick in advance of his Lester Patrick ceremony in Dallas tonight. One of the subjects we discussed at length was his initial involvement with the Capitals more than three decades ago and the team’s subsequent hiring